Rabies: Risks and Remedies

Jul 14, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

“Why does my inside cat need a rabies vaccine?”  I hear this question many times a week at my practice, and certainly the chance that Fluffy will break out of the house and get into a bloody battle with a rabid raccoon or fox is pretty slim.  Then why do our pampered house cats need to get these vaccines?

One reason we want all pets protected against rabies is that if they become infected, they can spread that disease to people.  This is why most states mandate through law that pets must be vaccinated against rabies, and also that pets will be quarantined if they are unvaccinated and either bite someone or are exposed to a rabies suspect.

Most of us are familiar with rabies.  It is a terrible, horrible disease that is uniformly fatal unless treatment is started immediately.  It is transmitted from an infected animal through a bite wound—more specifically, through that infected animal’s saliva.  The rabies virus infects the brain and nervous system, and the classic image of a person or animal convulsing and in a “rage” state is what happens once that virus follows its deadly path.

Clearly, even though rabies is relatively uncommon, it is not something any of us wants to experience, and also not anything we’d want our cats to get exposed to. But because complications can occur with any medical procedure, including giving a vaccine, we might hesitate if we believe that the likelihood of an infection or exposure to rabies is rare.  We know that there can be a risk of an adverse reaction with common, everyday immunizations.  Even if we adjust that cost/benefit scale because rabies is so lethal, is the potential risk associated with vaccination worth the protection?

I vaccinate my three indoor cats against rabies.  I do this to protect them, but also to protect my family.  Why is this important?  For me, it is really not that I believe the cats are going to get out of the house, but that I know something is more likely to get in…

Bats are the biggest carrier of rabies in North America, and I can’t tell you the number of times bats have been swooping around inside my house, and inside many of my client’s homes.  All of our cats react the same way:  party time!  A bat is the ultimate animated cat toy.  And sometimes that “cat toy” is carrying a dangerous and lethal virus.  All it takes is one bite.  Rabies vaccines are really, really effective, and dying from rabies is not at all pleasant.

And sometimes wacky things do happen.  Last week one of my clients told me that he walked into his kitchen to get some coffee and found his cat sharing her food bowl with a raccoon!  Evidently this raccoon had come into the house through the pet door, and decided things looked good enough to hang around.  Happily, Sheba was vaccinated and didn’t need to spend 6 months quarantined (yet another reason to keep your cat protected!)

So, please protect your cats!  There are intelligent reasons to do so, and the safe and effective vaccines available today make that decision much simpler.

Dr Cathy Lund

Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI’s own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the “purr-fect” pet, the cat!

City Kitty
18 Imperial Pl # 1B
Providence, RI 02903-4642

Phone: (401) 831-6369
Email: email@city-kitty.com

Website: http://www.city-kitty.com/
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