September 28 is World Rabies Day, which reminds us it is a great time to teach pet owners how to prevent infection and what to do if you or your pet comes into contact, or bitten, by a wild animal. Rabies can quickly become deadly to humans and pets.
Bats are the #1 carriers of the Rabies virus, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Any direct contact between a person and a bat should be reported immediately to your local health department. Raccoons, skunks and foxes also commonly carry Rabies.
If a wild animal bites you or your pet, gently rinse the wound with soap and water. If it’s safe, confine the wild animal so it doesn’t infect others. Call animal control immediately. Call your veterinarian if any wounds on your pet need to be treated, and likewise, contact a physician if a person needs help.
In cats, it could take up to 10 days before they show signs of infection. Watch for changes in behavior such as tiredness, aggression, restlessness, increased meowing, and seizures. For dogs, foaming at the mouth is usually immediate. Also watch for loss of appetite, weakness, paralysis of the hind legs, and seizures.
Rabies kills, but it can be prevented. It is crucial to keep your pets up-to-date on their vaccines. Most cities, including Cape Girardeau, require Rabies shots for pets, as a matter of public safety. All dogs and cats should receive Rabies shots yearly, even if they primarily live indoors.
Do your best to bat-proof your home and garage, such as sealing any open spaces where wild animals could enter: attics, crawl spaces, chimneys and under porches. Keep trash sealed, as it can attract wild animals. Keep your distance from wild animals and teach children not to pet them. They are not like the animals they might have seen at the zoo.
When in doubt, never hesitate to call your veterinarian if you believe your pet has come into contact with a wild animal that might have Rabies. We are here to help.