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Rabies is a virus that is typically spread via a bite (saliva) from an infected mammal to a pet or a person. Virus travels from infected saliva at site of bite to the brain and spinal cord via nerves. It can take a few weeks to a few months (or even longer). No clinical signs develop until the virus reaches the brain, multiplies, and is then present in saliva and bodily secretions. Rabies is now transmissible. Once a mammal shows signs of rabies- it typically dies within 7-10 days.
Clinical signs of rabies: may lick/chew at bite site, may become quieter/friendlier initially, this is then typically followed by a more aggressive phase (will try to attack/bite), and finally animals will become weak or paralyzed. Since muscles are not working well- there may be “foaming from the mouth”. Death occurs when the muscles that aid in breathing are paralyzed.
Rabies can infect most species of mammals (including cats, dogs, and humans). Since death occurs without treatment- it is critical to keep pets protected. Per Pennsylvania law 16.41 “A person living in this Commonwealth owning or keeping a dog or cat over 3 months of age shall have the dog or cat vaccinated against rabies under the act and this chapter.” Per Pennsylvania law 16.42 “ A rabies vaccine shall be administered only by or under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian.”
Pennsylvania rabies cases in 2017: animals tested positive after submission due to bite/exposure
Due to the seriousness of rabies and the risk of exposure/infection to the doctors, technicians, and support staff- we require that all pets in our practice be vaccinated and current on the rabies vaccination (given by a veterinarian as the law requires). In addition, if a member of our staff is bitten by a pet unvaccinated for rabies- they may have to go through rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. This is a series of 4-5 vaccinations to prevent rabies from developing. It is EXTREMELY costly and painful. Depending on the circumstances, the pet may also have to be quarantined for a certain length of time as well.