The Importance of the Rabies Vaccine

Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals that affects the central nervous system causing encephalopathy leading to death. The virus is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. There are two forms of rabies:

  1. Dumb rabies, in which an animal acts sick, does not eat and is lethargic, and
  2. Furious rabies, in which an animal shows aggressive and vicious behavior.

Bats, fox, racoons and skunks are common carriers of the rabies virus. Bats have a tendency to be symptomless carriers. In Minnesota, the skunk and bat strains of the virus are the most common.

If a pet animal bites someone, it must be confined and observed for 10 days. A domestic animal cannot transmit the rabies virus to humans or other animals until the virus is present in the saliva, which occurs at the end of the incubation period. Once the disease has progressed to this stage in domestic animals, the animal will show clinical signs of rabies infection within the 10 day observation period. If the animal shows these signs it is euthanized and sent out for a confirmation test, that includes looking at its brain matter for disease.

Because it is a public health issue, it is Minnesota State Law that every domesticated small animal be vaccinated for Rabies.  According to the state, a licensed veterinarian needs to give the rabies vaccine.

Note: Even indoor only cats need to have a current rabies vaccine (ex: bat bites are tiny and hard to detect, especially through fur)

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