The Mysteries of Rabies Revealed

Rabies is a virus that may affect the brain and spinal cord of all mammals, including dogs, cats and humans. Which is why there is good reason that the word “rabies” evokes fear in people.

Rabies is categorized as a zoonotic disease, meaning that it is a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans, or from humans to animals.

In fact, according to the World Health Organization, 55,000 people die of rabies every year. And when left un-vaccinated, our pets can suffer, too.

Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.

How Would My Dog Get Rabies?

Since animals who have rabies secrete large amounts of virus in their saliva, the disease is primarily passed to dogs through a bite from an infected animal. It can also be transmitted through a scratch or when infected saliva makes contact with mucous membranes or an open, fresh wound. The risk runs highest if your dog-or any pet-is exposed to wild animals.

What Are the General Symptoms of Rabies?

Initially, a dog who’s become infected may show extreme behavioral changes such as restlessness or apprehension, both of which may be compounded by aggression. Friendly dogs may become irritable, while normally excitable animals may become more docile. 

A dog may bite or snap at any form of stimulus, attacking other animals, humans and even inanimate objects. They may constantly lick, bite and chew at the site where they were bitten. A fever may also be present at this stage.

As the virus progresses, an infected dog may become hypersensitive to touch, light and sound. They may eat unusual things and hide in dark places. Paralysis of the throat and jaw muscles may follow, resulting in the well-known symptom of foaming at the mouth. 

Disorientation, in-coordination and staggering may occur, caused by paralysis of the hind legs. Other classic signs of rabies include loss of appetite, weakness, seizures and sudden death.

The Following Is A List Of SYMPTOMS:

How Long After Infection Do Signs of Rabies Show?

The virus usually incubates from two to eight weeks before signs are noticed. However, transmission of the virus through saliva can happen as early as ten days before symptoms appear.

How Is Rabies Treated?

There is no treatment or cure for rabies once symptoms appear. Since rabies presents a serious public health threat, dogs who are suspected of having the virus are most often euthanized.

Clinical Conditions AFTER Vaccination

Rabies Vaccines Every Year? Seriously?

Here’s a question Vets often get: Why do pets have to be vaccinated every year for rabies? Is there really a medical reason for this, or is this regulatory overreaching at the expense of our pets?

After all, humans are often vaccinated only once for certain "bugs" and remain immune to the particular disease they cause for life. Why is it not the same for animals?

The main reason people ask this is because they’ve heard or read of negative reactions to rabies vaccines in some pets. They assume this product is less safe than they’re led to believe by veterinarians and regulatory agencies, and they’re worried for their pets––particularly those who might suffer from chronic conditions or at very low risk of actually coming across a rabies infected animal.

Any Differences Between The One Year And Three Year Rabies Shot?

Here’s a shocker for you: the actual 3-year Rabies shot contains the same drug and is given in the same amount as the 1-year Rabies shot.

The only difference is the label on the bottle indicating 1-year vs. 3-year.

It’s done that way purely to satisfy state laws. Some of the bureaucrats just haven’t caught on that research has shown one single Rabies vaccination can provide protection for a number of years. Current research is being done to verify a dog’s protection from Rabies over periods as long as 5 to 7 years.

As of March 2009 Alabama is the one last remaining state requiring an annual Rabies shot. However, there is a proposed rewrite of their law in process now to remove the 1-year requirement there as well. All other states require the 3-year Rabies vaccination instead.

Truth be told, rabies vaccines are considered very safe. Nonetheless, the reality is uncomfortable.

More pets actually die of the consequences of being vaccinated than come down with the virus.

Having said that, you might wonder how it’s possible for any veterinarian, to defend the use of this vaccine. But if you think about it, this scary-sounding reality is likely the case with all successful vaccines. After all, the goal of a vaccine is to render a disease so rare that very few animals are ever even exposed to it.

The side-effects of polio vaccination in humans are far more common than the disease itself. And yet we’d never advocate the elimination of the vaccine from our medical repertoire. That’s because the vaccine has managed to keep polio out of our population so successfully. Vaccination is therefore considered an "acceptable risk" to the individual, given the population’s overall protection.

Similarly, it remains the consensus of the human and veterinary medical communities alike that the benefits rabies vaccine confers to both human and animal populations outweigh the individual risk of vaccination.

On the plus side, yearly vaccination is no longer considered a medical necessity. Every three years is now considered sufficient. And this less stringent recommendation may well relax even more in years to come.

Consider, also, that while our government may require rabies vaccines every three years for the protection of public health, individual veterinarians may exempt some pets––temporarily, at least––on the basis of their compromised health.

It's also the case that testing for the presence of rabies antibodies with a simple blood test called a "rabies titer" is one approach to achieving exemption from additional, potentially unnecessary doses of vaccines in other countries. The U.S. does not yet recognize this test when it comes to replacing the requirement for vaccination.

That’s because the duration of immunity of rabies vaccination has not been completely and irrefutably established by the veterinary community.

It’s also because measuring antibody levels through blood testing does not necessarily mean the animal is 100 percent immune to rabies. (Something called "cell immunity" is arguably as or more important than the number of antibodies the immune system brings to bear.)

Yes, it’s true that if your pet has already received a round or two of rabies vaccines, he or she is likely to be protected by antibodies against rabies for his or her entire lifetime.

Make sure your pet is healthy when vaccinated and only receives his or her rabies shot when administered by a trusted veterinarian whose selection, storage, and handling of the vaccine is likely to adhere to the highest standards of vaccine quality and safety.

I'm posting this article in memory of my beloved cat Trinka, who at three years old died from a rabies vaccination. If your dog or cat is an "indoor" only pet, then in my opinion, foregoing rabies shots after their first and second baby shot, is sufficient.