Devoted to More Wags and Purrs.
Rabies- Still a Very Important Vaccine

The recent rabies positive kitten in Land of Lakes, the rabies positive fox at USF, and the "kennel cough" outbreak at local greyhound tracks have reminded us all of how important vaccinations are for our pets. These diseases, as well as many other deadly viruses still very prevalent in our area are very easy to prevent, yet very difficult, if not impossible, to cure. Vaccines work by stimulating an animal's immune system, so that the dog or cat is fully prepared and "armed" with antibodies against diseases. Without proper vaccination, a pet's immune system is often unable to resist the virus or bacteria until it is too late. These antibodies disappear with time, which is why most vaccines must be regularly boosted every 6 to 36 months (depending on the vaccine)

Rabies is a virus that can be carried by any mammal and is spread by saliva or blood through bites and scratches. Raccoons, foxes and bats are typical hosts in our area, although any mammal, including dogs, cats, horses, cows and ferrets can be infected. An infected animal (including cats and dogs) and be contagious for months without showing clinical signs of any kind. When signs do appear, they are often not the furious rage and foaming at the mouth with which most people are so familiar. A "dumb" form leads to depression and stupor. There is typically not a fear of water like there is in human rabies patients. The truly frightening part of the rabies virus is its effect on humans. While rabies treatment shots can fight the disease if given early, they are ineffective once a person shows clinical signs of the disease. Humans who show any signs of rabies are untreatable, and have nearly a 100% mortality rate.

Legally, rabies is a scary prospect as well. Any unvaccinated animal that bites a person should be tested for rabies. This test involves taking a large sample of brain tissue, so it cannot be done on a living animal. Unfortunately for pets, this law holds true even if the bite occurred in self-defense. A burglar who is bitten by an unvaccinated guard dog can legally demand the dog be euthanized and tested. A current and valid rabies tag is vital to protecting your pet from both the virus and the legal system.

Rabies is just one of the potentially fatal organisms that you prevent by getting your dog or cat regularly vaccinated. Parvovirus, canine and feline distemper, feline leukemia and Bordetella (a component of "kennel cough") are exceptionally prevalent in our county, and are all highly infectious. While some of these diseases can only be spread by direct animal-to-animal contact, others can be brought home on an owner's shoes or hands. A regular vaccine schedule is vital to maintaining the health of your pet. Prevention is always much easier, safer, and more effective then treatment of these terrible diseases.

Michael J. Rumore, D.V.M.