The image many people have of rabies is that of a previously calm animal turning rabid and foaming at the mouth. It’s really no surprise that many people fear the disease because of this image and misinformation that continues to circulate about it. While you don’t want to subject your pet to needless risk, it’s also important to know what is true about rabies and what is a myth.
 
Myths You Might Have Heard About Rabies
Some people believe that an animal doesn’t truly have rabies until the disease affects the brain. However, your pet would have rabies from the first moment that an infected bat, racoon, or another type of wild animal bit him. You wouldn’t know it right away because it can take 10 days to two months for the rabies infection to travel to his nervous system. This is called the incubation period. The more severe the bite, the shorter the time until the infection starts to cause extensive damage.
 
Another common misconception is that a pet won’t contract rabies unless she receives a direct bite from an infected animal. Sadly, it only requires contact with the saliva of the animal with rabies for your pet to acquire it too. An example of how this can happen is when a rabies-positive animal scratches your pet with claws covered in its own saliva.
 
The foaming at the mouth that many people associate with rabies doesn’t happen until the late stages of the disease. Some of the earlier indications that your pet may have been infected with rabies include:

  • Refusal to eat
  • Paralysis of the hind legs
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Unexplained seizures
  • Extreme changes in behavior
It's essential to contact Battletown Animal Clinic right away if your pet displays any of these symptoms. It doesn’t always mean that your pet has been infected with rabies, but we need to perform an examination to rule out or confirm the diagnosis. No cure currently exists for rabies in the advanced stages. The best course of action at this point is to euthanize the pet to prevent suffering since the disease will eventually become fatal.
 
The first stage of rabies, known as the prodromal phase, lasts only a few days. Infected animals may already display changes in their behavior. The next stage, called the furious phase, lasts for approximately one week. Dogs and cats in the furious phase will show unusual irritability and restlessness. The paralytic phase is the final stage of rabies. It affects the animal’s nerves and eventually causes her to die from respiratory failure.
 
How to Prevent Rabies in Companion Animals
A vaccine is the easiest way to prevent rabies and is also required by law. We give rabies vaccinations as part of your pet’s preventive care exam at Battletown Animal Hospital. After receiving the initial vaccination as a puppy or kitten, your pet should get a rabies booster every three years. Not allowing your pet to roam free is another important form of rabies prevention. This is especially important if you live close to a wooded area or know there are wild animals in your area. 
While rabies is frightening and tragic, committing to a routine vaccine schedule and following some basic precautions will keep your pet from getting it. Please contact us today if your pet needs a rabies vaccination.
 
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