The Importance of Rabies Vaccinations

All states in the United States require pets to be vaccinated against the rabies virus and ours is no exception. But besides being the law, there are other important reasons to vaccinate your pets.

The symptoms of rabies are visible in one or several stages. With most animals, the virus will spread through the nerves of the bitten animal toward the brain. The virus is relatively slow moving and the average time of incubation from exposure to brain involvement is between 3 to 8 weeks in dogs, 2 to 6 weeks in cats, and 3 to 6 weeks in people. However, incubation periods as long as 6 months in dogs and 12 months in people have been reported. After the virus reaches the brain it then will move to the salivary glands where it can be spread through a bite. After the virus reaches the brain the animal will show one, two, or all of the three different phases.

ShotThe first is the prodromal phase and usually lasts for 2-3 days in dogs. Apprehension, nervousness, anxiety, solitude, and a fever may be noted. Friendly animals may become shy or irritable and may snap, whereas, aggressive animals may become affectionate and docile. Most animals will constantly lick the site of the bite. In cats, the prodromal phase lasts for only 1-2 days and they usually develop more fever spikes and erratic behavior than dogs.

From the prodromal phase, animals may enter the furious stage; cats are particularly prone to developing this phase. The furious stage of the disease in dogs usually lasts for 1 to 7 days. Animals become restless and irritable and are hyperresponsive to auditory and visual stimuli. As they become more restless, they begin to roam and become more irritable and vicious. When caged, dogs may bite and attack their enclosures. Animals progress to become disoriented and then have seizures and eventually die.

Animals may develop the paralytic phase either after the prodromal or furious stage. The paralytic phase usually develops within 2 to 4 days after the first signs are noted. Nerves affecting the head and throat are the first to be involved and animals may begin to salivate as a result of their inability to swallow. Deep labored breathing and a dropped jaw may result as the diaphragm and facial muscles become increasingly paralyzed. Animals may make a choking sound and many owners think that there is something lodged in the dog’s throat. The animal will get weaker and eventually go into respiratory failure and die.

There is no treatment. Once the disease develops in humans, death is almost certain. Only a handful of people have survived rabies after extremely intensive medical care. There have been several reported cases of dogs surviving the infection, but they are very rare.

Vaccination is the best way to prevent infection and properly vaccinated animals stand very little chance of contracting the disease. While rabies vaccination for dogs is mandatory for all states, it is estimated that up to half of all dogs are not vaccinated. Some communities are also requiring cats to be vaccinated, which is very important because there are currently more cases of cat rabies than dog rabies. Some people estimate that less than ten percent of the cat population is vaccinated thus leading to the high incidence of rabies in cats. The standard vaccination protocol is to vaccinate cats and dogs at three or four months and then again at one year of age. A year later, a three-year rabies vaccination is recommended. The three-year vaccine has been tested and shown to be very effective.

All of our animals are vaccinated against Rabies. Please donate here to help us continue.

Julia Black

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