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Rabies is a 100% fatal viral infection that is transferred when a pet or person comes into contact with an infected host. Most often, exposure occurs through contact with affected wildlife, namely bats, coyotes, foxes, or skunks. A rabid animal could bite another or make contact with an existing wound, resulting in an infection; transmission can also occur when an animal makes contact with infected saliva through the eyes or mouth. The rabies virus is zoonotic, which means that it is transmissible from animals to people.
A rabies vaccination is currently required by law in every state, however exemptions do exist in 15 states. Texas has no allowance for exemptions, and requires all pets to have rabies vaccinations every 1-3 years.
Symptoms that a pet has rabies
There are several different phases during which a rabid animal will exhibit symptoms of rabies: the prodromal phase, the furious phase, and the paralytic phase. Not all animals that are infected will show obvious symptoms of these 3 stages, and it can take up to eight weeks for noticeable symptoms to appear. Usually by the time an animal is showing symptoms of rabies, the virus will prove fatal within about 10 days.
• Bouts of irritability.
• Aggression and biting.
• Increased sensitivity to sound and light.
• Possible viciousness.
• Eventual respiratory failure.
• Facial paralysis.
• Inability to swallow.
• Increased salivation.
• Labored breathing.
What do I do if my pet is exposed to rabies?
Rabies is impossible to positively diagnose in a living animal or human. In order to definitively determine whether a pet has the virus, the brain tissue must be examined; therefore, tests are not conducted until a pet has passed on.
If you suspect that your pet has been exposed to a rabid animal, call the veterinarian immediately. Also, be sure to report the incident to your local health department and animal control center, and listen to their recommendations. If you must handle your pet, be sure to do so cautiously, as the virus can live on a pet’s skin for a few hours. Preventative measures, including wearing gloves and protective clothing, are the best way to prevent exposure to the virus.
The State of Texas has very specific laws about what must be done following a potential rabies exposure, so please contact your veterinarian or local animal control if you think that you or your pet has been exposed to rabies. Any bite or deep, penetrating scratch must be treated as a potential rabies exposure. This law is for human safety, as the virus is 100% fatal if swift medical intervention is not sought.
If you have any questions about rabies or preventative measures you can take for your pet, please contact our office.