What is rabies?

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus. The virus is found in the saliva of a rabid animal and is transmitted by a bite, or possibly by saliva contamination of an open cut or the eyes. Left untreated, rabies attacks the nervous system and causes death.

How long does the rabies virus live?

Outside of the animal’s body, the rabies virus doesn’t live very long. Sunlight rapidly destroys the virus. Inside of a dead animal’s body, the rabies virus may live longer, depending on how far decomposed the animal’s body is. Decomposition takes longer in cold weather.

What animals get rabies?

Only mammals, including people, can get rabies. Rabies occurs most often in wildlife, particularly raccoons, bats, skunks, groundhogs, and foxes. Cats account for the vast majority of domestic animal rabies cases. Farm animals, dogs, and other domestic pets can also become infected. Rabid animals are usually either vicious or aggressive, or may appear to be drunk and have trouble walking. Some animals may be rabid even though they appear to be normal. People should stay away from all wild and stray animals which are aggressive or appear to be sick.

Do birds, snakes or insects get rabies?

No. Birds, fish, turtles, lizards and insects do not get rabies

What are the symptoms of rabies in an animal?

Symptoms of rabies may vary widely from animal to animal. In any animal, the first sign of rabies is usually a change in behavior. The animal becomes either unnaturally withdrawn or unnaturally approachable.

In the “furious” form, the animal is excited, aggressive, irritable, and may snap at anything in its path. It loses all caution and fear of natural enemies. If the animal has the “dumb” form of the disease, it may appear unusually tame, affectionate, and friendly. Staggering, paralysis, and frothing at the mouth are sometimes noticed. Many animals have a change in the sound of their voice.

How can I protect my pets?

Vaccination and animal control programs have helped to prevent rabies in most pets. It is important to keep your dog or cat up-to-date on rabies vaccinations. Cats and dogs that spend time outdoors may have more risk of coming into contact with a rabid wild animal, but it is important to also vaccinate pets that stay indoors.

What type of veterinary vaccines available for pet vaccination?

Several vaccine types can de distinguished among the second-generation veterinary vaccines, depending whether they are live or inactivated, according to the strain of rabies virus used and the characteristics of the cell substrate chosen for viral replication.

Considerable progress has been made in the production of rabies vaccines whether live or inactivated for animal use during the past two decades with the increasing use of continuous cell lines as a substrate and adoption of the fermentor technology for antigen production. These vaccines are produced for administration to domestic animals or wild species by parenteral or oral routes according to vaccine characteristics.

Highly immunogenic inactivated cell culture vaccines for immunization of dogs via the parenteral route are now widely available on the international market at a cost affordable to more and more dog owners in the developing world. In addition the trend towards transfer or acquisition of modern cell culture technology for parenteral veterinary vaccine production is increasing in developing countries particularly in Asia.

More recently a third generation of live veterinary rabies vaccine has been developed using recombinant technology. Depending upon the expression system these vaccines are used either parenterally or orally. Oral rabies vaccines are widely used in foxes in Europe and in racoons in the USA. Trials are under way for the oral immunization of dogs in developing countries.

What should I do if my pet has bitten someone?
  • Urge the victim to seek medical care immediately.
  • Check with your veterinarian to see if your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date.
  • Report the bite to your local health department.
  • Report any unusual illness or behavior from your pet to the local health department and Veterinarian.
  • Don’t let your pet free-roam and don’t give your pet away. The animal must be available for observation.
  • After the recommended observation period, have your pet vaccinated for rabies if it is overdue.
What should I do if my pet has been bitten by a potentially rabid animal?
  • Call your veterinarian immediately.
  • Even if your pet is currently vaccinated against rabies, it will need to be vaccinated again.
How can rabies be prevented?
  • Vaccinate your pets against rabies and keep vaccinations up-to-date.
  • Avoid contact with strays or pets other than your own.
  • Report all animal bites immediately to your local veterinarian department.
What is the earliest age I can begin to have my dog or cat vaccinated against rabies?

Three months of age. Twelve months later, a shot must be given to complete the primary vaccination series.

How long are rabies shots (vaccinations) for my dog or cat good?

For dogs or cats the first shot is only good for one year. The next (second) shot is effective for one or three years, depending on the vaccine used. Your veterinarian will provide a certificate that should give the expiration date of your dog’s or cat’s shot. However, it is strongly recommended to give one shot of vaccine annually in endemic countries.

What other animals can be vaccinated against rabies?

Horses, cows, buffaloes, sheep, goats and other domestic animals can be vaccinated with rabies.

What should I do if my dog, cat or farm animal has been exposed to a wild animal that I think may have rabies?

You should be careful not to get bitten or exposed to the wild animal. Assistance may be available through your local municipal authorities.

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