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Author: Frank Ross
With the advent of spring, a lot of wild animals will become more active, and the opportunities for your pets to become involved in a fracas with a wild animal are increasing. The incidence of rabies has increased in recent months, especially in the state of Texas, where inordinate numbers of animals have reportedly been infected with this deadly disease.
The saddest aspect of this disease, which is 100% fatal in unvaccinated animals, is that it can be easily prevented. All states require dogs and cats to be vaccinated for rabies on an annual basis. Dogs and cats are required by law to be vaccinated against rabies beginning at twelve to sixteen weeks followed by a booster 9 months to 1 year later. Boosters are then given every 1-3 years depending upon the vaccine and local laws. If you haven't done so, there is no time like NOW! Don't put it off! Once an animal is infected it can carry the disease for as long as 6 months before exhibiting symptoms. You don't have to be bitten or scratched to get rabies. Transmission can be achieved when an infected animal licks a break or open cut in your skin.
Animals have the advantage of a vaccination that prevents the disease before contact. Humans don't share that protection normally. People that are exposed through their work or travel to highly infected areas can receive immunization. However, this immunization for rabies is not the norm for people. The best thing you can do is, avoid all contact with wild animals. Never handle baby or injured wild animals, and don't let your pets roam at will or hunt unsupervised. If you are scratched or bitten by an animal, which appears to be ill, seek immediate medical attention. If your pets come home with injuries that suggest a fight with another animal, call your vet as soon as possible.
According to Dr. David A. Weiderspon, D.V.M., of the White Bluffs Veterinary Clinic, Hollywood has misled the public by the way rabies has been portrayed in movies and on television. "Animals don't always froth at the mouth," he warned. "Sometimes their symptoms may be lethargy, or avoiding contact," he notes. If your animal is behaving in any manner that you consider abnormal, consult your vet. "The first signs are an attitudinal change, and only 30% will be aggressive. About 70% will exhibit the dumb form or stupor." When the disease is advanced, the first severe sign will be paralysis of the back legs. Hydrophobia effects the longest nerve fibers first, and this will result in immobility of the hind quarter, according to Dr. Weiderspon.
The following symptoms are all "possible" signs of rabies. While symptoms are not conclusive, if your animal exhibits any of these characteristics, it would be wise to have it examined by your veterinarian.
1. Subtle changes in temperament
2. Nervousness or restlessness
3. Unusually attentive or affectionate
4. Hiding or avoiding contact
5. Abnormally vicious, first towards strangers, then towards anyone
6. Wandering off or hiding
7. It may bite itself and if restrained, will chew viscously to gain freedom
8. Oblivious to pain
9. Animal may froth at the mouth or drool excessively. Drool may be tinged with blood.
10. Paralysis of vocal chords may cause strange utterances and hoarse howls. One may mistakenly think that the pet has something caught in its throat. It is important to note that you may become infected while attempting to look in the animal's mouth.
Compassion for animals is a natural emotion, but please, don't endanger your health unnecessarily. If you witness any animal exhibiting any of these symptoms, do not approach it. Call the experts for assistance. Contact a local veterinarians' office, emergency clinic, your local health board, or an animal control officer. Failing help from one of these options, dial 911. Rabies is serious, deadly serious. Protect your pets by vaccinations and your family by making wise decisions and your only contact with hydrophobia will be this article or the silver screen.
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