Rabies is a disease that is feared by the public, but not well understood by many pet owners. All most people know is that their pet needs the vaccine to go into kennels and cross the border into the USA.
In honor of World Rabies Day (September 28, 2011), here is some information about rabies.
Rabies is a virus that is most commonly transmitted by contact with infected saliva. It affects the central nervous system and causes brain disease and eventually death. There are two forms of rabies – furious and dumb.
Furious rabies is the more common variety. A dog with furious rabies becomes dangerously aggressive, followed later by paralysis of the jaws. It will drool and the vocal cords become paralyzed, which leads to a change in the tone of the dog’s bark.
Dumb rabies is less common, and is characterized mainly by paralysis. The paralytic features start with the muscles of head and back regions. Quite often the pet has difficulty in the swallowing, prompting the owner to try and help feed it, potentially exposing themselves to the disease.
Cats mostly exhibit the furious form of rabies. For instance, the cat may strike in air as if trying to catch mice.
In Alberta, bats are the biggest rabies carrier. The bat doesn’t have to bite; it can scratch someone with its nails and pass rabies that way. Wild animals with rabies quite often lose their fear of people making it very important that you not handle a wild animal!
In Canada this year there have already been 44 reported cases of rabies, mostly in wild animals (foxes, bats, and skunks). 3 of those cases were in household pets – 2 cats and 1 dog.
Preventing rabies is as easy as keeping vaccines up to date. There is no test for rabies that can be done on a live pet, so prevention is key.