Great news! According to the center for disease control, as of the end of 2007, canine rabies has been totally eradicated in the United States. Now the bad news, rabies is still a major health threat to Americans and their pets. The source of the disease in the U.S. is wildlife such as skunks, raccoons, bats, coyotes and foxes.
Rabies is a preventable viral disease that attacks the nervous system. People and pets are typically infected from bite wounds. The virus is shed in the saliva making it possible for it to gain access into the body through cuts in the skin or contact with mucous membranes such as the nose or mouth.
Rabies can be found in all 50 states. Certain regions are experiencing a sharp rise in the number of cases. Rabid animals will often become aggressive and unexpectedly attack. Even if the animal seems friendly, don't go near it. The only way to definitively diagnose rabies is to find specific lesions in the brain. This makes it crucially important for your safety to always observe wildlife at a distance.
Cats have become one of the most frequently infected domesticated animals for several reasons. Most municipalities do not require that cats be routinely vaccinated for rabies. No vaccine, no protection. To a cat, a bat looks like a mouse with wings. When a bat is rabid, it does not behave normally. This rather reclusive nocturnal animal may be found flying around erratically during the day, making it easy prey for the feline hunter.
- Besides vaccinating your cat, dog, and ferret, there are several ways in which you can help to control rabies.
- Don’t let your pet roam freely.
- Keep your pets indoors whenever possible.
- Neuter your pet. This tends to diminish their wanderlust.
- Secure your garbage cans and don't leave food outside for your pets.This attracts wildlife to your home.
- Never keep wildlife as pets.
- Report wild animals that are acting unusually to animal control officers. Do not attempt to handle them yourself. Teach children never to approach, or closely interact with unfamiliar animals.
- Bat proof your home and out buildings.
If you are bitten by a wild animal or an unfamiliar pet, wash the area thoroughly and call animal control. Rabies is 100% fatal if not treated early and aggressively. If your pet is attacked, see your veterinarian as well as contact animal control.