Rabies and Rabies Vaccination

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The word "rabies" comes from a Latin word that means "to rage." Rabies got its name because animals with rabies sometimes act as if they are angry. Rabies attacks the brain and spinal cord.  Rabies kills if it is not prevented. Once signs of the disease appear in an animal or a human, they usually die within 10 days.  Rabies is a disease that affects wild animals, domestic animals (like pets and livestock), and humans. It is caused by a virus. The rabies virus is spread through saliva.  Only mammals (warm-blooded animals with fur) can get rabies. Animals that can spread rabies include bats, dogs, cats, ferrets, skunks, raccoons, foxes, and wolves.    



It is recommended that all unvaccinated individuals with animal bites receive immediate treatment with human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) injected into and around the wound followed by rabies vaccination. Two types of rabies vaccine are now available. The original human diploid cell vaccine (HDCV) and a new purified chick embryo culture vaccine (PCEC). After exposure, five doses of either rabies vaccine must be given into a muscle (intramuscularly) over a one month period. Another source says six shots given over 30 days.  Either way, not a joy ride. 


Symptoms of Rabies in Animals  

There are two common types of rabies. One type is "furious" rabies. Animals with this type are hostile, may bite at objects, and have an increase in saliva. In the movies and in books, rabid animals foam at the mouth. In real life, rabid animals look like they have foam in their mouth because they have more saliva.  

The second and more common form is known as paralytic or "dumb" rabies. An animal with "dumb" rabies is timid and shy. It often rejects food and has paralysis of the lower jaw and muscles. 


Signs of rabies in animals include:  

·         changes in an animal’s behavior  

·         general sickness  

·         problems swallowing  

·         an increase in drool or saliva  

·         wild animals that appear abnormally tame or sick  

·         animals that may bite at everything if excited  

·         difficulty moving or paralysis  

·         death  



Symptoms of Rabies in Humans 

Early symptoms of rabies include fever, headache, sore throat, and feeling tired. As the virus gets to the brain, the person may act nervous, confused, and upset.  

Other symptoms of rabies in humans include:  

·         pain or tingling at the site of the bite  

·         hallucinations (for example, seeing things that are not really there)  

·         hydrophobia ("fear of water" due to spasms in the throat)  

·         paralysis (unable to move parts of the body)  

As the disease advances, the person enters into a coma and dies.  


The vaccine for Rabies 

There are several things you can do to protect your pet from rabies. First, visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets, and dogs. Second, maintain control of your pets by keeping cats and ferrets indoors and keeping dogs under direct supervision. Third, spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly. Lastly, call animal control to remove all stray animals from your neighborhood since these animals may be unvaccinated or ill. 


The vaccination for rabies can be an annual shot, or a 3 year shot, and it is administered in the muscle.   


Possible adverse side effects include, but are not limited to: 

·    Aggression, destructive behaviors, separation anxiety and odd    obsessive behaviors (like tail chasing and paw licking)  

·    Autoimmune diseases, including organ disease, allergies and skin problems  

·    Chronic digestive problems  

·    Fibrocarcinomas at the injection site (particularly in cats)  

·    Muscle weakness  

·    Seizures and epilepsy  


Additional Notes:   

There are many groups that are opposed to vaccinating.  The holistic community offers options, and there are groups trying to legislate changes in vaccination laws.  Here's a site that gives that perspective..http://www.dogs4dogs.com/



This is by no means a comprehensive or diagnostic article on Rabies.  If you have questions about Rabies, or have educational information to add, please email Suzy@CompanionPetRescue.com