All About Rabies: Mythbuster Edition

A raccoon on a trash can

The rabies virus affects the central nervous system that specifically affects mammals. Although rabies is a preventable disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates it kills 59,000 people each year worldwide. The most common cause of transmission? Dogs.

In honor of World Rabies Day, September 28, the team at Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital wants to make sure our readers understand the risk of rabies and how simple it can be to prevent this deadly disease.

Top 5 Rabies Myths

  1. We don’t have to worry about rabies in the United States – The incidents of rabies in the U.S. is fairly low thanks to our vaccination laws, but the disease can still be transmitted to humans via wildlife (raccoons, foxes, bats, and skunks to name a few). Never approach a live or dead wild animal, and alert authorities if you see a wild animal acting sick (paralyzed, stumbling, biting at things, etc.).
  2. My indoor-only pet does not need to be vaccinated against rabies – Besides the fact that vaccinating your pet against rabies is the law in all 50 states, protection is critical even if a pet is never outside. Not only can indoor pets accidentally escape, it isn’t unheard of for bats and other wildlife to enter a home.
  3. Rabies can only be transmitted via the bite of an infected animal – Because rabies is transmitted through saliva, a bite is the most common pathway to infection. However, it’s possible for scratches, abrasions, or other wounds can come into contact with an infected animal’s saliva. For this reason, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention if you wake up to find that a bat has entered your home, or find a bat near a child or person with a disability.
  4. Dogs and cats are the only pets that need the rabies vaccination – Pet ferrets should also receive the rabies vaccine. Baby ferrets should receive their first dose at 4 months old and a booster each year afterward, even if they never go outdoors.
  5. Once you’ve been exposed, there’s nothing you can do about it – If you or someone you know has been bitten or scratched by a wild animal, time is of the essence. Immediately wash the wound with soap and water for 15 minutes, then proceed to the nearest emergency room. You will likely need a series of vaccines, called Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) designed to reduce the risk of contracting the virus and lessen symptoms.

Staying Safe

Besides making sure your pets’ rabies vaccination is kept up-to-date, there are further steps you can take to reduce exposure to the virus:

  • Keep your pets leashed at all times, and don’t allow them to stray off the trail
  • Keep cats indoors
  • Don’t allow your pet to investigate wildlife, alive or dead
  • Utilize fencing to animal-proof your yard. Keep trash bins covered and eliminate piles of wood or debris where animals could nest.
  • Feed pets indoors, and securely cover any outdoor food bins
  • Report all stray animals to local animal control

As always, don’t hesitate to give our staff a call with any questions or concerns you have about your pet. We are here for you!