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Protect Your Pets and Your Family with Rabies Vaccinations

Most people have heard of rabies and many of us who saw the Stephen King movie, “Cujo”, hope never to have firsthand experience with this fatal viral disease. As dramatic as that horror movie was, rabies is not very often that obvious.

Recently in Canada, seven individuals began receiving the costly series of rabies injections to prevent infection with the virus after being exposed to a litter of puppies at Pets R Us in Chesley. The puppies were being sold at a flea market on January 13th. One proud new owner of a Border Collie puppy set off the alert when they took their new puppy to the Toronto Humane Society because it was acting ill. The puppy bit an employee and died soon after being taken to the Humane Society. A positive test for rabies began the search for any individuals who might have been exposed to this fatal disease.

Rabies is not a common disease in pets. However, it can enter the pet population when an unvaccinated pet has contact with a rabid wild animal. Animals that are the usual carriers of rabies in the wild vary by geography. Skunks, foxes, raccoons and bats are the most likely animals to be infected in the wild.

In the Canadian outbreak, the puppy’s mother fought with a skunk and died without being diagnosed. The mother passed the virus to her puppies, which then exposed the other pets and humans that came into contact with them.

Rabies can remain dormant in humans for some time, which can make it difficult to identify the exposure point. In 2007, the first known human survivor of rabies infection spoke about her experience. Worldwide, approximately 55,000 people die each year from rabies infection, usually infected through contact with rabid wild dogs. These individuals reside primarily in Africa and Asia.

Rabies vaccinations are required in cats and dogs and horses in Canada. In the US, pet dogs and cats are required to be vaccinated against rabies. The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recently added rabies to its recommended program of core vaccines for horses.

Do your part to prevent this deadly disease from entering the pet population by keeping your pets immunizations up-to-date.

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Veterinary Technical Services Department

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