World Rabies Day is September 28, 2015, and Rabies Awareness Week is September 28 – October 3. This is a good time to remind everyone how important it is to keep your pet’s rabies vaccination up to date.

Rabies is a deadly virus that attacks the nervous system of almost all mammals. It does not infect birds, reptiles or amphibians. It is spread by contact with an infected animal’s saliva through a bite wound or a break in the skin. Common carriers of the virus include skunks, raccoons, foxes, and bats. A rabid animal can be infectious with the virus up to 20 days, potentially infecting other animals and spreading the virus.

Symptoms in infected animals usually appear within 2-24 weeks. There are three different forms of the disease that rabid animals will take. One form is that the animal becomes nervous, anxious and has a fever. Another form is when the animal becomes depressed and hides, often called the “dumb” form. The most common form, the “furious” form, is when the animal displays aggression, seizures, frenzied behavior, and foaming at the mouth. Death usually occurs within 2-7 days after symptoms appear.

There is no cure for rabies. The test that verifies the presence of the virus is done postmortem by testing brain tissue. The best protection for you and your pets is to make sure all of your pets, including cats, are kept current on their rabies vaccinations.

If you have any questions or concerns about a possible rabid animal, please contact your local animal control office or your veterinarian. Report any human bite wounds to your local health department and animal control authorities. They will inform you what you should do for yourself and your pet. Please keep all of your pets current on their rabies vaccinations!

Sophia P. Decker is a Licensed Veterinary Technician