Rabies is a fatal disease of the nervous system. It is caused by a virus that can infect all warm-blooded animals, including humans. The virus attacks the brain and spinal cord, causing severe nervous system dysfunction and eventually death. While instances of rabies infection are lower than ever, the disease remains a continuing problem. Vaccinating your pet against rabies is a key prevention method.
The most common way to contract rabies is through a bite from an infected animal. When a rabid animal bites, the rabies virus in its saliva passes through the broken skin of the victim. Rabid cats can also transmit rabies through their scratches if they have saliva on their paws.
Skunks, bats, coyotes, foxes, and raccoons are very susceptible to rabies. Cats, dogs, cattle and horses usually contract rabies through encounters with rabid wildlife.
The symptoms of rabies can be quite varied. In general, the disease shows three stages that occur in succession. (NOTE: not every animal will display these signs, so any animal behaving abnormally should be regarded with suspicion.)
- Stage 1 – Attitude Change: The animal may show nervousness, shyness, aggression or other changes in its normal personality. May show a lack of fear of humans.
- Stage 2 – Furious or Excitable Phase: Animals may become extremely agitated, or behave erratically. Animals may bite and snap at anything. Wild animals may wander into unaccustomed areas and attack livestock, people or pets. The tone of an animal’s voice may change as its vocal cords become paralyzed. Seizures may occur.
- Stage 3 – Paralysis: Victims become progressively paralyzed. Animals may be unable to move their hind limbs and unable to swallow, resulting in choking and frothing at the mouth. This phase ends in death, usually from paralysis of the respiratory muscles.
Rabies cannot be diagnosed with certainty based on symptoms alone. The suspicion of rabies can only be confirmed by testing samples of an animal’s brain tissue.
Vaccination is an inexpensive, effective means of protecting your animals from rabies. If your pet is not vaccinated against Rabies, please call our hospital to set up an appointment. If you would like additional information, please contact us at 828-253-3393 or stop by our hospital. We are located just off Merrimon Ave at 1 Beaverdam Road, Asheville, NC 28804. Vaccinating your pet not only protects your pet and you against the disease, it is also the law.
The Staff at Animal Hospital of North Asheville