Rabies in Pets

Rabies – a six letter word that strikes fear in the heart of every veterinarian – is an invariable death sentence for any animal that becomes infected with this terrible disease.

Rabies is a virus that can affect any warm-blooded animal, including cats, dogs, raccoons, and humans. It is transmitted through a bite from an infected animal. Generally, an animal that has been infected with rabies can show changes in behavior (unusual shyness or nervousness), erratic behavior (biting, chewing at wounds, chewing at cages), disorientation, muscular signs (seizures, paralysis), or excess salivation/frothing. To diagnose rabies, a sample of the animal’s brain is submitted for testing. Unfortunately, there is no cure for rabies, and euthanasia is recommended for any animal infected with it.

Starting in December 2015, rabies was found in more than 10 raccoons in Hamilton, ON which had not seen a case of rabies in over a decade. It is believed that the virus made its way into the area by a raccoon that hitch-hiked on a tractor trailer from the US. Through the efforts of provincial and municipal parties, over 220,000 rabies vaccine baits were distributed by hand, helicopter, and airplane throughout the area to help stop the spread of the disease.

The vaccine baits – blister packs that contain a liquid vaccine – are coated in a sweet flavor to encourage raccoons to munch on them, absorbing the vaccine through the back of their throat as they do. The oral rabies vaccine was discovered at McMaster University in Hamilton, and is being developed and marketed by a company in Guelph, ON.

You can help protect your pet from rabies by keeping their vaccines up-to-date. Call your veterinarian today to help keep your pet safe and healthy!