Rabies - What you need to know!

Photo by: animalsense.com

The word “rabies” is frightening to pet owners everywhere. Luckily, although rabies can be potentially fatal, it is completely preventable. In order to protect your pet it is important to first know the facts about the disease.

Rabies is a serious viral disease that affects the brain and central nervous system of all mammals; including dogs, cats, and humans. Rabies is primarily transmitted by the saliva of a diseased carrier, often being passed to the victim through bite or scratch wounds. The majority of cases reported in the United States concern wild animals, such as raccoons, foxes, skunks, and bats. Therefore, exposure to wild animals increases your pet’s risk of infection. Rabies is also reported in cats more than any other domestic animal. Multiple animals have been confirmed rabies positive in Knox county this year.

Symptoms of rabies can occur as early as 10 days following infection, but can take from two-eight weeks to appear.  There are two types of rabies: paralytic and furious. Symptoms of paralytic rabies include disorientation, loss of coordination, and paralysis.  Symptoms of furious rabies include extreme behavioral changes; especially excessive aggression.  Pets may show a combination of symptoms from both types of rabies as well. Once symptoms begin to occur the prognosis for the disease is very poor as there is no known cure at this time.

Some signs of rabies to watch for include:



-Loss of appetite


-Lack of coordination or paralysis

-Changes in attitude and behavior

-Unusual shyness, aggression, or excitability

-Inability to swallow

-Increased salivation or frothy saliva

-Sudden death


Vaccinating your pet against rabies is the best way to prevent the disease.  Keeping your pets up to date on their rabies vaccine is not only responsible, but it is the law. Vaccinating your pet against rabies protects them from the risk of contracting the virus as well as protecting them if they bite another pet or person.  All pets that bite someone are required to be quarantined for at least 10 days to see if signs develop. If rabies is suspected in an unvaccinated pet or vaccines are not up to date then euthanasia may be mandatory. The only way to accurately diagnose rabies is to test brain tissue on a deceased animal. There is no ante mortem test at this time.

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