Rabies

Written by Dr. Bob Baker Dr. Baker

Rabies is a viral infection that targets the central nervous system of warm blooded animals. Rabies is worldwide in distribution and causes about 55,000 human deaths each year. Tragically, most of these deaths could be prevented if domestic animal vaccination programs were in place. We are fortunate in the United States in that we see very little rabies in our pets, and subsequently in humans because we have very effective vaccines that are readily available. Rabies does exist in the United States, primarily in wildlife. Exposure risks become evident when wildlife interacts with humans or our pets. In our area, the most common vector or carrier of rabies is the bat. Skunks, skunk_710_600x450racoons, and foxes are also vectors in out area. Unfortunately we cannot be with our pets 24-7 and sometimes then find dead things to play with or eat, or in some situations may predate on bats and this is a risk for exposure. There are documented events of rabid bats getting into peoples homes as well.
What can we do to protect our pets and families? First of all, there are extremely effective vaccines against rabies for dogs and cats. ALL dogs and cats should be vaccinated against rabies. Even indoor cats that do not go outside have the potential for rabies exposure should a rabid bat gain entry to the home. Dogs are vaccinated as puppies as young as 12 weeks of age. They need another vaccination at a year of age, and then every three years after that. Cats follow the same protocol, except that there are two different vaccines used to booster the older cat, one is labeled for every year and another is labeled for every three years.DSC_0854 Your veterinarian can help you decide which product is right for your pet. Rabies vaccinations are also required by Nevada law. NAC 441A.435
If you or a family member do come across a sick or dead bat, or for that matter any animal, do not approach or handle them. If the animal is a potential rabies vector, and there is any human or animal exposure you should contact Washoe County Vector Control to have the animal tested for rabies.