We are often asked how important is vaccination against rabies, or if vaccination is required or still necessary. Rabies is an infectious disease of viral origin, which is usually transmitted when the saliva of an infected animal comes into contact with blood, following a bite or a scratch. The virus can also come into contact with a mucous membrane (eye, mouth, nose) or skin wound by licking.
Rabies is a fatal and incurable disease to both animals and humans, in 100% of cases. The virus attacks the central nervous system of mammals, causing two presentations:
–Paralytic or dumb: pets often go hide and are more lethargic, while wild animals become less fearful and will approach humans. In both cases, they will eventually be affected by paralysis and die.
–Furious: Affected animals will be extremely agitated, excited, or aggressive. They can bite and attack objects or other animals indiscriminately.
As rabies is an incurable disease, the only effective prevention is vaccination. The vaccine is safe and effective when used according to manufacturers’ recommendations. Thus, a vaccinated pet won’t have a risk of infecting family members if attacked by a potentially rabid animal.
Some precautions can also reduce the risk.
-Limit your contacts with unidentified wild and domestic animals.
-Keep your dogs close to you when walking outside or in high-risk areas.
-If you see an animal acting strangely, report it here.
If bitten, clean the wound with soap and water and quickly contact a doctor. Rabies is a reportable disease: this means that any suspicious bite or animal must be reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada. In humans, treatment is possible if care is undertaken very quickly and before symptoms appear. Otherwise, survival is very unlikely.
As you can see, vaccination is an essential tool in the prevention of this deadly disease. Through the vaccination of domestic and wild animals, we can effectively reduce the incidence of infections.
Marie-Christine Hamelin, Animal Health Technician