Fortunately, with the development and availablity of good rabies vaccines combined with the fairly loud social message that all dogs and cats should be vaccinated, rabies infections in domestic pets has dropped off dramatically. Even so, there are not infrequent stories on the news about rabid dogs and cats, and in some cases human exposure. Several years ago, a dog owner in New Sewickley, PA was bitten by his own rabid dog. Which is really an unfortunate situation.
The original news report stated that the dog was unvaccinated, and that it had been in contact with a skunk four months previously. The dog suddenly turned aggressive and the owner was bitten. The dog was put down and tested for rabies, and the test was positive. The owner received post-exposure shots (ouch). The dog had also been in contact with three other resident dogs- one who was current on vaccines will be quarantined for 90 days, one who had an expired rabies vaccine will be quarantined for 180 days, and a 3-month-old unvaccinated puppy was euthanized. So much grief all the way around which could have been largely prevented.
There is so much question about vaccines these days, and the questioning of their necessity and the dialogue about what is appropriate for my dog is extremely important. There is an increase in people who are giving minimal vaccines out of fear of side-effects (realistic or not), but I think also in people who have written off all vaccines as either bad or unnecessary. In addition there is the population of people who do not vaccinate due to cost or the effort required to have it done. Yes, vaccines are necessary. Not all of them and potentially not as frequently as they are sometimes recommended, but these diseases are still out there and they are still killing animals. With rabies, the potential is there for much worse.
We don’t see much rabies anymore in domestic animals in this country, but it does happen. And even if your dog never leaves the yard, there is still risk. Dogs can come in contact with all sorts of wildlife even in an urban backyard. All it takes is one scuffle and a bite to infect your unprotected dog. I remember a story told to me by an elderly gentleman a couple years ago whose equally elderly spaniel was accosted by a raccoon while the two of them were just hanging out on their porch. It was the middle of the day, the coon came right up on the porch when it very much did not have to. The dog sustained minor injuries, thankfully the owner none. The raccoon disappeared and was never tested, but that man was thanking his lucky stars that his dog had been vaccinated because while it could have been distemper or something else, it very well could have been rabies.
Ever have a bat get into your house? I have heard any number of stories that involved invading bats and very excited and acrobetic cats. The possibility that the bat could be rabid combined with an unvaccinated cat could lead to disaster.
Please please protect your pets from rabies with a simple vaccine. And this includes cats as well, whether they are strictly indoors or strictly outdoors. One vaccine, followed by a booster a year later, and then boosters every three years after that as long as they are done on time. That’s all it takes for some peace of mind in regards to your pets’ health and that of your family and children.
The CDC tracks cases of diagnosed rabies all over the country. The map from 2010 is the most recent that I could find, and it shows a heavy helping of rabies in cats and dogs, especially in our area. Most of the cases were in cats, and yes probably largely barn cats and feral cats, but all it takes is one of those cats in the wrong place at the wrong time to cause a nightmare and potentially some heartbreak. It’s not worth it to play with fire that can actually kill you or your loved ones.
Not sure if your pets are up to date? Give us a call at 665-2338 and we can certainly check our records for you.