By Dr. Brandy Middleton Boykin
Rabies virus is almost always fatal to any mammal that contracts it. Rabies virus attacks the nervous system in the body and eventually invades the brain, thus causing death of the infected mammal. This is a terrible disease to contract and is preventable. The most concerning thing is that people can be infected with the rabies virus by a bite or scratch from a rabid animal.
In the USA, raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, wolves, bats and domestic dogs and cats can carry the rabies virus. Once an animal becomes infected with rabies, there is a variable amount of time before they show clinical signs. Signs are behavioral changes- particularly aggression, anorexia, nervousness, ataxia-abnormal walking, and the animal often loses fear of people. If you suspect that an animal has rabies, do NOT touch it! Call the local health department and report it.
As previously stated, rabies virus is preventable with vaccination of domestic animals. Only a licensed veterinarian or person specifically licensed by the State Board of Animal Health can administer the rabies vaccine. Because this disease can infect and kill humans, it is very important that we do all we can to prevent our pets and us from contracting the rabies virus. Just this week, a report of three dogs attacking a woman in Jackson, MS occurred. It has not been confirmed but stated that one of the dogs tested positive for rabies and the lady that was bitten is planning to undergo treatment. “JPD Officer kills pit bull with 3 shotgun blasts” 16WAPT News. ABC. WAPT. Jackson, MS. November 13, 2013. Another important fact from the Mississippi Animal Rabies Laws is that it is statute that “every person in the state of Mississippi who owns, or has in his or her possession, any dog or cat of the age of three months or over shall have said dog or cat inoculated- vaccinated- against rabies…”
In conclusion, rabies virus is a deadly disease. It usually causes neurologic problems in infected mammals and ultimately results in death. If rabies is suspected, call the local health department. Vaccination of your pet for rabies will help ensure that we are one step closer to controlling rabies in the USA. Rabies is not commonly discussed in the media because it is not as prevalent today as it was in the past. The reason it is not as prevalent is due to vaccination.
If the number of people who vaccinate their pets for rabies were to decrease then it is likely that the prevalence of rabies could increase. If you have questions about rabies virus or vaccine, call your local veterinarian.
Editor’s note: Dr. Brandy Middleton Boykin is a veterinarian with Brandy’s Animal Care Center in Eupora.