The word “rabies” creates dread in most of us and it should. Rabies is a devastating and deadly viral disease that affects mammals; including dogs, cats, and humans. It’s called a zoonotic disease which means it can be transferred from animals to humans. Rabies is widespread and found in every US state except Hawaii.

Rabies mainly occurs in wild animals like skunks, raccoons, bats, fox, and coyotes. Cats are the most common domestic animal infected with this disease. That’s because many cat owners let their cats out to hunt and don’t vaccinate them. Unfortunately, there is no cure for rabies. This disease is almost always fatal and once signs of the disease are present the animal usually dies within days.

Most states have mandatory laws requiring rabies vaccinations for both dogs and cats. Most kittens and pups receive their first vaccination at 12 weeks of age and then every year after that (there is also a vaccination that lasts 3 years). Most areas have free or low-cost rabies clinics sponsored by local animal control, shelters, or the humane society.

There is only one way to keep your animals healthy – vaccinate them. If you don’t and your dog bites someone, depending on the laws in your area, it could mean quarantine or euthanasia for your pet. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal call your veterinarian immediately. Get the wound cleaned and let your vet decide if your pet needs a rabies booster.

If you come in contact with or get bitten by an unvaccinated animal (wild or domestic), you may need to go through rabies vaccinations. Don’t panic, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and lots of water (wash for a good 10 minutes). Call your doctor or go to an emergency room and explain what happened. Report your bite to animal control as soon as possible and your local health department. Rabies vaccinations for a bite are not as bad as they use to be but still require a series of shots based on your weight over a few weeks.

These vaccinations are very expensive, usually covered by insurance, but not always. So, protect yourself ahead of time. Here is an excellent article about rabies facts and more importantly – prevention tips.

Keep your family and best friends safe, vaccinate for rabies!

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