Rabies: Then and Now


Pets are most often exposed through contact with wild animals. Skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and bats are the most common forms of wildlife infected with rabies. Contact with another infected domestic animal can also be responsible for exposure. Cats, dogs, horses, cattle, pigs, and sheep are all susceptible to rabies infection.


Rabies is a particular threat because it poses a public health threat. That is, rabies is contagious to people as well as to animals. And rabies is just as fatal to people as it is to animals. As a result, most communities have developed regulations requiring the vaccination of pets at risk for rabies. In most areas, that includes both dogs and cats and sometimes ferrets. Most communities require rabies vaccination for pets in an effort to help protect the public from this deadly disease.


If Old Yeller were to be exposed to that same rabid wolf today, would the ending be the same? That would depend on Old Yeller’s rabies vaccination status. Assuming that Old Yeller’s family had him vaccinated against rabies, he would not need to be destroyed in the 21st century. However, if the family had neglected to vaccinate their pet, quarantine would be necessary following the exposure to rabies (e.g., after Old Yeller was bitten by the wolf) and euthanasia would be the only recourse once the symptoms of the disease became evident  — as they did in the film.


Don't let rabies happen to your pets. Consult your veterinarian about the rabies vaccine.



Image: Galego by Jose Roberto V Moraes / via Flickr