Don’t ignore reminders; contact a licensed veterinary professional
Looking in your mailbox, you see a cheerful postcard from your veterinarian’s office: “Make an appointment for your pet’s rabies vaccination today!” It’s easy to toss the card aside to the recycling, but this simple reminder is easier to appreciate—and act upon—when you remember that a rabies vaccine doesn’t just help protect pets, but humans as well.
Rabies is a fatal but preventable viral neurological disease, with references stretching back thousands of years in history. This communicable virus spreads through direct contact—primarily bites—between mammals: from animal to animal, and animal to human. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus’ incubation period can last weeks to months, dependent upon the site of the bite, the type of rabies virus, and any immunity in the animal or person exposed. Symptoms of rabies can appear somewhat similar in both animals and humans, including lethargy, abnormal behavior, agitation, aggression, and fear of water.
Rabies has been largely eliminated in the United States thanks to decades of ongoing vaccination and animal-control campaigns, which have been hailed as major modern-day public and animal health successes. However, even with this outstanding progress, the CDC notes hundreds of thousands of U.S. animals need to be placed under observation or be tested for rabies every year, and between 30,000 to 60,000 people need to receive rabies postexposure treatment annually. In addition, the disease still kills more than 50,000 people worldwide each year: a number that is considered a major undercount.
The CDC outlines four major steps for rabies prevention:
- Visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations current for all cats and dogs.
- Maintain control of your pets by keeping cats indoors and keeping dogs under direct supervision.
- Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly.
- Call animal control to remove all stray animals from your neighborhood since these animals may be unvaccinated or ill.
Licensed California veterinarians and registered veterinary technicians are experts in animal health whose vital work also impacts humans’ health and well-being. Find out more about these professionals from the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Veterinary Medical Board, and check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.