As a pet owner, or a prospective pet owner, one topic you'll hear about is having your pets vaccinated for rabies. While most people know that rabies is something that makes pets "mad" and that if someone is bitten by a rabid animal that the process to treat the bite is both expensive and painful, most people don't have an understanding of what rabies is or even what animals can get, and therefore transmit, rabies.
What Exactly Is Rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease that eventually causes a condition called encephalitis. This condition will cause severe damage to the central nervous system, brain damage and eventually death. Humans who get rabies are infected by animals who bite them, thereby transferring the rabies virus to a human. Worldwide, some 55,000 human deaths will be caused by rabies every year. Although most of these cases are located in Asia or Africa, there are cases reported in virtually every country. Fortunately, human treatment for rabies infections are highly effective, if done in time.
What Treatments Are There For Rabies Infections In Humans?
If a human is bitten by a rabid animal, the treatment consists of thoroughly cleaning the wound with soap and water for at least five minutes then treating the wound with an iodine solution or isopropyl alcohol to sterilize the wound and kill as much of the virus as possible. Once this is done, having a doctor inject one dose of human rabies immunoglobulin (HRIG) and four doses of rabies rabies vaccines over a fourteen day period. Medical treatment is most efficacious if started within ten days of infection to stay ahead of the rabies virus incubation cycle. While cases of humans surviving rabies without this type of treatment are rare, with induced comas and a specific treatment cycle called the "Milwaukee Protocol", a small handful of people have survived.
Which Animals Can Carry Rabies?
Unfortunately, any warm blooded animal can carry rabies and therefore infect a human via a bite. Not only does this include domestic animals such as dogs or cats, but any animal with warm blood. This includes animals such as raccoons, bats, wolves, bears, mongooses, ferrets and even rabbits. While rabid animals in the US are rare, and have been virtually eliminated in countries like Australia and Japan, rabies is still a threat to your pets and, therefore, to you.
How Can Rabies Be Prevented?
For animals, a rabies vaccination every year will prevent them from getting rabies, even if they are bitten by an infected animal. This virtually eliminates the chance that you can get rabies from your pets. This means if you own, or are planning to own a pet in the future that one aspect of their health care will be a yearly rabies vaccination. All warm blooded pets from dogs and cats to rabbits and ferrets need to have this yearly vaccination. Also, pay attention to stray animals in your area and report any animals that behave strangely to your local authorities.
Rabies is a deadly disease for both animals and humans. However, with proper vaccinations for pets and proper treatment for humans, rabies doesn't have to be a real threat to your life. Paying attention to your pets, animals in your area and properly treating an animal bite can keep you and your pets safe and healthy.