Rabies: Stay Healthy, Stay Legal

September 13, 2017
Rabies: Stay Healthy, Stay Legal

Rabies is a horrible viral disease that can affect pets and people. While human cases of rabies in the U.S. are rare (thanks to legal requirements), it’s important to vaccinate your pets and act quickly if you suspect an infection.

What is rabies?

Rabies is a severe, incurable viral infection in pets that affects their brains and central nervous systems. Rabies, a type of lyssavirus, attacks the grey matter of mammal brains, causing a variety of strange symptoms, including seizures, manic excitement, a fear of water (hydrophobia), confusion, excessive saliva (foaming mouth), paralyzed or limp parts of the body, and loss of consciousness. Almost every person or pet who shows symptoms of rabies will die from it. Due to the awful consequences of this disease, rabies vaccinations are a must.

Are all pets at risk for rabies?

Dogs and cats can get rabies from being bitten, licked or scratched by infected animals, including foxes, raccoons, skunks and bats (humans can also contract the disease from infected animals). In other countries, where more dogs carry the disease, rabies is most often spread to humans by dog bites. In the U.S., rabies is more commonly spread by bat bites.

Do I have to get my pets vaccinated for rabies?

You must get your pets vaccinated for rabies – not just because it’s important for their health, but because it’s required by law. And one vaccine isn’t enough – legally, you must vaccinate your pets every year. The South Carolina law states that rabies vaccinations must be given “at a frequency to provide continuous protection of the pet from rabies using a vaccine approved by the South Carolina Dept. of Health & Environmental Control and licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture” (find other states’ laws here). The veterinarian who administers the vaccine must then give the pet owner a certificate of vaccination that should be kept for at least three years. Additionally, pets must wear a metal tag on their collars confirming that their vaccination is current.

Do I need to see a vet for rabies?

You must see a licensed veterinarian to receive the rabies vaccine. You’ll also need to bring your pets back every year to get rabies shots for the entire lives of the pets (with the exception of pets with other health issues, which your vet will determine). Kittens and puppies should be first vaccinated for rabies at 15 weeks old.

If your pet is bitten by or comes in contact with a wild animal, contact the Animal Clinic of Woodruff immediately. If your pet is in a fight with another animal, or receives bites or scratches from an animal, visit the clinic immediately.

If you have questions about rabies or any other vaccines, or if you’re concerned about your dog’s health, please schedule an appointment with our veterinarians in Woodruff today.

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