Symptoms of the Rabies Disease

The rabies epidmic is spreading quickly. This means that the threat of rabies could be as close as your own backyard.

Rabies can infect any mammal including humans, but wild raccoons, foxes, skunks, and bats are the most common carriers of rabies and the most likely animals to expose your pets to this deadly disease.

Rabies is a virus that effects the brain and spinal cord. It is transmitted when body fluids (especially saliva) of an infected animal touch the broken skin or mucus membranes, mouth, nose or eyes of other animals or people. Once infected, animals can carry the virus for six months before showing any symptoms. See below for a list of symptoms.

Remember, there is NO CURE for rabies once an animal or human shows symptoms. Because of the seriousness of this disease, it is important for people to learn everything they can do to minimize their chances and their pets of becoming infected.

Firstly, all contact with wild animals, especially bats, skunks, foxes and racoons should be avoided by you and your pets. People should not handle baby or injured wild animals and pets should not be allowed to roam at will or hunt. Scrupulous attention should be paid to vaccination expiration dates. An animal whose vaccination has expired has no more protection against rabies than an animal who has not been vaccinated at all! Dogs and cats should be vaccinated against rabies beginning at twelve to sixteen weeks followed by a booster 9 months to one year later. Boosters are then given every 1-3 years (depending on the vaccine and local laws). Dogs and cats are required by law to be vaccinated for rabies. In the face of an all out epidemic other domestic and farm animals can be vaccinated also.

If you are bitten or scratched by an animal who seems ill, seek immediate medical attention. If your pets come home with injuries suggestive of a fight with another animal call your vet as soon as possible.

Provided by Dr. Christine Welch, Damariscotta Vet Clinic, Maine

What to Look Out For

  1. Vague changes in temperment.
  2. May hide and shun company.
  3. May be unusually attentive and affectionate.
    ** Animal must be well known to observe these symptoms
  4. Restlesness.
  5. Nervousness.
  6. Developing viciousness. First towards strangers and then towards anyone (they do not recognize family members/owners).
  7. May wander far, snapping at anything in its path.
  8. If restrained, will chew visciously to free itself.
  9. May bite itself.
  10. May break its teeth.
  11. Froths at the mouth or drools excessively. Saliva may be tinged with blood.
  12. Oblivious to pain.
  13. Paralysis of vocal chords causes strange utterances and hoarse howls. ** At this time one may mistakenly think the dog or cat has something caught in its throat and infect themselves while attempting to look in the animal's mouth.

If you see an animal exhibiting any of these symptoms, please do not try to approach it.
Call one of the following authorities for assistance:


Post-exposure Treatment for Dogs and Cats
Exposed to a Potentially Rabid Animal Note: the following applies to the State of Massachusetts, but may be applicable elsewhere

It is required by Massachusetts State Law that all dogs and cats (even house cats) be vaccinated against the rabies disease and that these vaccines remain current each year.

Unvaccinated dogs and cats bitten or exposed to a potentially rabid animal should be euthanized immediately (humanely put to death). If the owner is unwilling to have this done, the unvaccinated animal must be quarantined fully (kept completely isolated from all humans and animals) for a period of no less than six months and vaccinated one month prior to release. If, during the quarintine, the animal exhibits any symptoms of the disease, it must be euthanized immediately.

Dogs and cats with current vaccination status must be re-vaccinated immediately and quarantined fully for a period of no less than ten days and then watched closely for another ninety days. If the animal shows any symptoms of the rabies disease, it must be euthanized immediately.

Never, ever approach any animal that seems to be acting in a strange or sick way,
especially wildlife. Do not risk your own life for the sake of compassion.
Call for help and stay away!

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