Rabies is an often fatal viral infection that is transferred when a pet comes into contact with an infected host. Most often, exposure occurs through contact with affected wildlife, namely bats, coyotes, foxes, or skunks. A rabid animal could bite another or make contact with an existing wound, resulting in an infection; transmission can also occur when an animal makes contact with infected saliva through the eyes or mouth. Being that the virus is zoonotic, humans are capable of contracting rabies from their pets.

A rabies vaccination is currently required by law in Ohio and must be administered by a licensed veterinarian to all dogs.  Rabies vaccines are also strongly recommended for cats and horses annually.


Symptoms that a pet has rabies

There are several different phases during which a rabid pet will exhibit symptoms of rabies: the prodromal phase, the furious phase, and the paralytic phase. The furious phase most commonly occurs among cats, and the paralytic phase can occur either after the prodromal or furious phase. I

Prodromal phase: 

  • Bouts of irritability. 
  • Fever. 
  • Nervousness. 
  • Shyness. 
  • Solitude.

Furious phase: 

  • Biting. 
  • Disorientation. 
  • Increased sensitivity to sound and light. 
  • Irritability.
  • Possible viciousness. 
  • Restlessness. 
  • Seizures.

Paralytic phase: 

  • Eventual respiratory failure.
  • Facial paralysis. 
  • Inability to swallow. 
  • Increased salivation. 
  • Labored breathing.

What do I do if my pet is exposed to rabies?

Rabies is impossible to positively diagnose in a living animal or human. In order to definitively determine whether a pet has the virus, the brain tissue must be examined; therefore, tests are not conducted until a pet has passed on.

If you suspect that your pet has been exposed to a rabid animal, call the veterinarian immediately. Also, be sure to report the incident to your local health department and animal control center, and listen to their recommendations. If you must handle your pet, be sure to do so cautiously, as the virus can live on a pet’s skin for a few hours. Preventative measures, including wearing gloves and protective clothing, are the best way to prevent self-exposure to the virus.

If you have any questions about rabies or preventative measures you can take for your pet, please contact our office.

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