Have you ever wondered why your local government requires a yearly Rabies vaccine? This is because Rabies remains a major concern worldwide; killing more than 55,000 people every year. Did you know in 2018 there were a total of 103 reported Rabies cases in Florida alone? Nine cases were found in Hillsborough county and two in Pasco county. Our Tampa Bay veterinarian wants to educate owners on why a simple vaccination is a vital importance to not only your pet’s health but yourself and the community.
Rabies is a deadly viral disease affecting the nervous system and it is transmitted via saliva through a bite or scratch. This disease is zoonotic, meaning it can be transferred from animal to human. Many owners ask, “My dog or cat is mostly in the house and they only go in my yard. How are they exposed?” Wildlife and stray animals are the biggest threats to our household pets. In our direct community, meeting a wild or stray animal is highly likely due to the population. Amongst our pets, humans are also encountering potential rabid animals in their own backyards. Recently a story was reported of a person on a routine walk encountering a coyote. A wild animal will normally run once approached by a human. However, this coyote attacked the man, causing injury and possibly infecting him. Last year a woman was attacked by a feral cat while taking out her garbage, this cat was tested and positive for Rabies.
An infected animal will exhibit symptoms including fever, seizures, changes in gate or walking patterns, excessive drooling or foaming, and unusual shyness or aggression. If any of these symptoms occur in your pet, regardless to possible exposure, please seek immediate veterinary attention. Although Rabies is a frightening disease the prevention is as easy as protecting our canine and feline companions with a single vaccination. This vaccine is given in two durations period, one or three years. However, when it comes to a wild or stray animal report any abnormal behavior to your local Animal Control, do not approach the animal and remain at a safe distance.
What happens if your unvaccinated pet bites another animal or person? First the bite is reported to the Florida Department of Health and the local county’s Animal Services Department. Animal Services will contact the owner and the bitten victim. A mandatory 10-day isolation and observation period will be conducted. This process may be completed within the home, only by the approval of the Health Department and the Animal Services officer involved. If this is not approved isolation must be performed at either the Animal Services facility or by an approved licensed veterinary hospital at the owner’s expense. They will be observed for symptoms of Rabies and if cleared returned to you. Animal Services will issue a citation and fine you for not having your pet’s vaccination current. However, if your pet’s quality of life requires euthanasia the process is extremely traumatic to the owner and veterinary staff involved. The only way to test for Rabies is through brain matter. This requires the veterinary staff to remove the animal’s head and send it to the state laboratory for testing. Unfortunately, the body or head are not able to be returned to the owner due to the possibility of infection. In either scenario the victim bitten or exposed are left holding their breath until results return. Ultimately the decision on what happens to the animal is at the discretion of the Health Department and Animal Services.
How do we prevent Rabies and the unfortunate events that may occur if a pet is not vaccinated? Simple, we keep our furry companions vaccinated, remember this is the law. Call our office today to check on your pet’s Rabies status or to schedule an appointment to become updated. Let’s take a stand against this deadly virus and make our 2019 Rabies cases drop!