Rabies, a deadly disease that is caused by a virus of the central nervous system, can affect your pets. This disease is widespread throughout Pennsylvania. So widespread that it is a law that pet owners MUST vaccinate their animals for rabies. Let’s take a look at some signs and symptoms of rabies, and what you can do to protect your beloved pets from this fatal disease.

How Does Rabies Spread?

Rabies is a virus that is secreted in the saliva of mammals. It is most commonly spread through an infected animal biting another. It can also be spread by the saliva of an infected animal coming into contact with an open cut or wound on the skin. And, can be spread through a permeable membrane of the body such as the eyes, nose or mouth of an animal or person. Rabies does not spread to animals that are not mammals such as fish, birds or reptiles.

Most people associate rabies with wild animals, which is true. Rabies is most commonly carried by wild animals. The most common rabies carriers are bats, raccoons, skunks, coyotes and foxes. It is important to note that rabies can and does affect domestic animals as well. 

Signs and Symptoms of Rabies

Animals infected with rabies can have a wide variety of symptoms. The symptoms of rabies are grouped into two forms. They are furious and paralytic. The furious symptoms include aggression, loss of fear, daytime activity by a nocturnal species, attraction to noise and human activity, excessive vocalization, dilated pupils, difficulty swallowing, loss of appetite, restlessness, biting at objects or other animals, and drooling. The paralytic symptoms include decreased activity, poor coordination, hind limb weakness, acting “dull”, cats may meow excessively, and eventually as the disease progresses an animal affected by paralytic rabies may drop its lower jaw, drool, become unable to swallow, become paralyzed and eventually death.

Remember, an animal may show signs of only one type of rabies, progress from one form of rabies to the other, or show no signs at all other than death. Therefore it is imperative that pet owners are in tune with what is normal and abnormal behavior for their pet. And, that they contact their Veterinarian anytime their pet has come into contact with a wild animal, whether this animal was showing signs and symptoms of rabies or not.

Preventing Rabies in Your Pets

The key to protecting your pets from rabies is prevention. It’s a terrible tragedy to lose a pet to rabies, and a frustrating loss as well since this disease is one hundred percent preventable. Here are some things you can do to prevent rabies in your pets:

  • VACCINATE! This is the most important and first step in preventing rabies since rabies is completely preventable through vaccination. So have your Veterinarian vaccinate your dogs, cats, horses, ferrets, and other livestock at the proper frequency and dose required for your pet.
  • Keep your pets safe and close by. If you keep cats or ferrets as pets, keep them indoors to minimize their exposure to rabid animals. Ensure you do not let your dogs roam free; dogs should be kept on a leash if possible and supervised when outside off their leash.
  • Do what you can to prevent wild animals from encroaching on your yard. This includes things such as properly disposing of garbage, not leaving pet food outside, and keeping other attractants away from your house and yard as an attempt to not attract wild animals into your pet’s space.

It’s The Law

Pennsylvania law requires all dogs and cats to be vaccinated for rabies at twelve weeks old. Rabies is fatal for pets, but it is dangerous for humans as well, leading to death in many cases. Unvaccinated pets are a threat to public safety. Vaccinating your animals for rabies not only protects them from this dangerous disease. It also prevents them from incidentally transferring this dangerous disease to other animals and humans in their community.

Animals are inherently territorial and it is impossible to keep all wild animals from ever entering your yard. The safest and surest way to keep your animals safe from rabies is to properly vaccinate them under the care of a qualified Veterinarian. Your Veterinarian can advise you on the required doses and timelines for proper vaccination specific to your pet.