Pet Care

How to Protect Your Pets from Rabies

It’s a scenario that happens all too often as urban sprawl encounters rural ranch land and wooded areas. Looking out your window, you see your beloved dog in an all-out battle with a raccoon, or even worse, a skunk! After breaking up the fight, your mind races as you check your dog for wounds and wonder about the chance of rabies.

Every year in North America, the Centers for Disease Control monitor the prevalence of rabies. Thousands of wild animals test positive every year and, despite mandatory vaccines for pets, hundreds of cats, dogs, horses and other domestic animals contract this killer as well. The good news is that rabies cases in people and domestic animals have decreased throughout the 20th century.

The Rabies Vaccine

Laws may vary slightly, but all states require dogs to be vaccinated against rabies. Many also require cats and pet ferrets to be vaccinated as well. For most pets, an initial vaccine after 12 weeks of age starts the series and this vaccine is “boosted” when the pet is a year old. At The PARC, after your pet receives its first “one-year” vaccine, we will follow up the next year with a “three-year” vaccine. 

There is also an on-going study that is attempting to determine how long these vaccines provide immunity for our pets. The Rabies Challenge Fund was established in 2005 with a goal of determining how well vaccinated dogs are protected against rabies after five and seven years.

Thankfully, until this and other research is complete, you do have good guidelines to follow when it comes to protecting your pets. 

How to Protect Your Pets from Rabies

  • First and foremost, follow recommendations outlined by local rabies ordinances. These laws are in place to help place a level of protection between potentially rabid wildlife and your family. These vaccinations can also be a life-saver if your pet does come into contact with a wild animal. 
  • Never assume that your “indoor only” pet is safe from rabies, either. Bats, the largest reservoir of rabies in North America, can find their way into homes very easily. Attracted to their fluttering flight or a dying bat on the floor, our pets, especially cats, risk exposure. 
  • Finally, always contact an animal control officer or wildlife expert if you see a wild animal acting strangely. Because of the deadly nature of this disease, you should never attempt to capture a wild animal on your own.

Although we rarely see human rabies deaths in the U.S., more than 55,000 people die from rabies annually in Asia and Africa. That’s one person every 10 minutes! For those of us in North America, these deaths may seem remote, but we should never lose sight that this killer still lurks in our own backyard!