Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy



or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

Rabies: Then and Now

Did They Really Have to Kill Old Yeller?  

 

 

By Lorie Huston, DVM

 

If you’re like me, you have probably read the book Old Yeller, authored by Fred Gipson, or have seen the Walt Disney Productions film of the same name. I remember reading the book and watching the movie as a child and not totally understanding why the dog, Old Yeller, had to die. Of course, that was before I attended veterinary school and learned about rabies and how it affects our families and our pets.

 

For those of you who are not familiar with the story, it is set in post-Civil war Texas. Old Yeller is a dog that is adopted by a poor family when the family’s father sets off on a cattle drive, leaving his wife alone with their two sons. A deep bond forms between the dog and the two sons.

 

After a series of adventures, Old Yeller is forced to defend the family against a rabid wolf. During the fight, Old Yeller is bitten and injured by the wolf. Because of Old Yeller’s exposure to rabies and the fact that he is now a threat to the family as a result, the older son is forced to shoot and kill Old Yeller.

 

The Tragedy of Rabies

 

Was it really necessary to kill Old Yeller? Yes, though it made a truly sad ending to the story, it was necessary to kill him given the series of events that occurred. In the mid-1800s, when this story is set, rabies was a fatal disease and an animal exposed to the disease not only would likely die an unpleasant death but would also pose a threat to people and other animals.

 

Have things changed today? Yes and no. Things have not changed significantly in the fact that rabies is still a fatal disease. For animals, with very few exceptions, once infected with rabies, death is the final outcome. However, today we have the ability to protect animals from becoming infected with rabies through vaccinations that were not available in the mid-1800s. Currently, we can prevent our pets from the threat of rabies; an option not available to Old Yeller’s family.

 

What is Rabies?

 

What exactly is rabies and how do pets become infected with the disease? Rabies is caused by a virus that affects the nervous system of infected animals. The most common means of transmission is a bite wound from another infected animal, although it can more rarely be spread by contact of contaminated body fluids with the mucous membranes (such as the gums and eyes) as well.

 

 

Comments  1

Leave Comment
  • Rabies
    09/28/2012 04:51pm

    Rabies is still a terrible disease. CANINE STRAIN RABIES has been eliminated from the United States since the 70's. Go to the CDC website and their annual rabies report to confirm that statement.

    Now there is still other strains of rabies, along the eastern seaboard there is a lot of raccoon strain rabies. Other than that, there really isn't much anywhere else. Maybe bats, but we don't have much contact with bats.


  • Lifetime Credits:
  • Today's Credits:
Hurry Before All Seats are Taken!
Enroll
Be an A++ Pet Parent! Take fun & free courses to earn badges & certifications. Choose a course»

PETMD POLL

What do you use to prevent ticks from feeding on your pet?

Around the Web

MORE FROM PETMD.COM