Today’s guest writer is Stacy Mantle. She is writing about World Rabies Day. 

September 28 was officially World Rabies Day. A day set aside to remind us of the importance of vaccinating our pets against one of the more deadly diseases of the world.

This month, I’m reminded of the power of rabies vaccinations as my dogs happened upon an injured bat in our backyard. Fortunately, we were home and saw them come upon it in the yard, so we were able to remove them from the area immediately. Also, they were up to date on their vaccinations and we had proof of this for the officers who came out to assist. Had these two things not happened, we may have been facing a potential exposure to a deadly virus, which meant all of us could have been in danger and our dogs facing a lengthy quarantine or worse.  

While the US has largely seen rabies eradicated in domestic animals, it’s important to remember that the disease is still endemic to wildlife (skunks, raccoons, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, bats, and more). This is just one more reason it’s so critical to keep your dogs up to date on their rabies vaccines – especially if you take them hiking or camping.   

What happens if my dog has been vaccinated and has contact with a rabid animal?

You should contact your veterinarian and your physician. In most cases, you have nothing to worry about if your pets are up to date on their vaccinations. Your veterinarian will request that your dogs stay under home quarantine for approximately 10 days (in some states, they request a 45-day quarantine).

What happens if my dog has contact with a rabid animal, and is late on his booster shots?

Thoroughly wash the area with soap and water. Gather as much information as possible about the animal your dog came into contact with. You should immediately call your physician and veterinarian.

According to the CDC, “Dogs, cats, and ferrets that are overdue for a booster vaccination and that have appropriate documentation of having received a USDA-licensed rabies vaccine at least once previously can be revaccinated, kept under the owner’s control, and observed for 45 days.”

What if my dog has never been vaccinated and has contact with a rabid animal?

In this case, it is recommended that the animal be euthanized and tested for rabies. If the owners are unwilling to have their pet euthanized, the CDC requires, “… the animal should be placed in strict quarantine for 4 months (dogs and cats) or 6 months (ferrets). A rabies vaccine should be administered at the time of entry into quarantine. Every effort should be made to vaccinate the animal within 96 hours of exposure.”

If you haven’t vaccinated your dogs against rabies due to a personal belief, or an unfounded belief that dogs don’t need vaccines, please reconsider. Vaccinating your dog for rabies is not only the law, it’s the right thing to do as a responsible pet owner.  

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