September 28, 2016 is World Rabies Day. Rabies is a viral disease in mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Once bitten, symptoms of rabies can include paralysis of the throat, jaw muscles, and hind legs, as well as foaming at the mouth, disorientation, and incoordination. It is important to take action immediately if you suspect your pet was bitten and is exhibiting any of these symptoms, as the disease will continue to attack the central nervous system, and if left untreated, can lead to sudden death.
Bats, raccoons, and foxes are among the most common wild animals to transmit this disease. Rabies is a zoonotic disease, meaning that can be transmitted to humans from animals as well. In the United States, reports of Rabies cases in humans remain low, with 34 total reported cases since 2003. Ten of these cases were attributed to travel outside of the U.S. Conversely, from a global standpoint Rabies is still a common disease in certain parts of the world. Travelers who are heading to Central and South America, Indonesia and Africa should beware of coming in contact with stray dogs and wild animals in these regions.
How Do I Ensure Lifelong Protection for My Pet?
Veterinarians suggest to begin vaccinating your dog or cat as early as four to six months of age. They should continue to receive a booster on a yearly basis throughout the rest of their lives. As an alternative, many states have now moved to requiring a rabies vaccination once every three years instead of the traditional annual shot. Although pets still require an annual exam for their optimum health, offering this type of vaccination is helpful for animal rescue groups who facilitate catch-and-release programs for feral cats to be spayed or neutered and vaccinated.
Simple Tips to Avoid Contact with Rabid Animals
If you notice any stray animals in your neighborhood, contact your local animal control officer immediately. Stray dogs and cats run a higher risk of contracting this disease from wild animals.
Remember to feed your pets inside the home, and secure all garbage can lids. Leaving any food out is one of the easiest ways to attract both stray animals and wildlife.
If you encounter an injured or dead animal, do not touch or go near it. Always refer to your local animal control team to come and assess the situation, they have the tools and expertise to handle all wildlife in the safest and most effective manner possible.