Rabies: Fast Facts to Keep You and your Pets Safe

Rabies is something that many people associate with bats, and assume that as long as their pet has been vaccinated at some point in the past, that they’re okay. A lot of people think opossums are the main carriers of the disease, and even more people think that seeing a raccoon during the daytime means it’s definitely rabid, but there’s a lot more to rabies than just that.

First and foremost, your pet is only protected if their vaccination is current. That means they’ve been vaccinated in the past 1 year (if they have only had one prior vaccination) or within the past 3 years (if they have been vaccinated more than once). So before you even take the time to read this list, take a moment and make sure your petis protected today!

And now, for some fast facts on rabies that will help keep you and your pets safe.

  • Rabies is one of the most serious contagious diseases that is  transferrable between species, a process also known as “zoonosis” and tops the list of zoonotic diseases as it is nearly always fatal.
  • The rabies vaccination is one of the most effective and affordable vaccines available for your pets. Keeping your pet current can save their (and your) life!
  • Opossum are often mistakenly suspected to have rabies, however they are not as common of a carrier due to a lower core body temperature that the disease does not do well with. Raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats are the most likely to contract rabies. Rats, groundhogs, squirrels, and opossums are less likely – but ALL mammals are susceptible.
  • While dogs are required to have rabies vaccinations to be licensed in most cities and towns, cats are actually more likely to contract rabies than dogs – so make sure your cat is current on their vaccinations as well!
  • In October of 2014 alone, there have been several reported rabies cases in Sussex County, NJ that included a raccoon that attacked a dog, and beef cattle. Results on another 3 raccoons that were put down in Hopatcong are pending, and also believed to be rabies.
  • Did you know that a pet without proof of a current rabies vaccination that comesinto contact with wildlife that is suspected to be rabid, can be confiscated or forced into quarantine for safety reasons? Why not keep your pet protected, rather than run the risk of losing your cat or dog forever?
  • Rabies is actually a viral, not a bacterial infection, which is why that once it is contracted, it is so highly fatal – it will not respond to antibiotics.
  • There is no supportive care for rabies in domestic pets, and no diagnostic test that can be done when the animal is alive. That means an animal that is suspected of rabies that shows rabid symptoms and has not met the vaccination guidelines, can only be tested AFTER it is euthanized.
  • Old Yeller, the classic Disney film released on Christmas of 1957, loses their main character, Old Yeller himself, to rabies. He was not vaccinated, as the rabies vaccine was not common, nor easily accessible at that time. It is now.
  • The history of rabies in New Jersey is a long one, however only one human death has occurred from rabies contracted in NJ since 1997 (one other death occurred form someone bit by a dog outside of the state, that happened in 2011).

    Now that you know all of this, there really is no reason for your pet to not be vaccinated for rabies. It’s an affordable, easy vaccine that requires very little follow up. Most cats and dogs after an initial one year booster, qualify for the 3-year vaccine thereafter. With such a simple means of protection, it’s scary to know that there are still rabies cases in our area, and still pets out there that aren’t protected.

    So what are you waiting for? Book your appointment today!


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    Our Certifications

    AAHA: The Animal Hospital of Sussex County is a certified hospital in the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). To achieve this distinction, our hospital has passed regular comprehensive inspections of our facilities, medical equipment, veterinary practice methods and management. If you are traveling or relocating anywhere, finding an AAHA hospital will ensure the best medical care for your pet. The AAHA is recognized as the world’s leading association of small animal practitioners.

    AAFP: We are also a cat friendly practice, certified by the American Association of Feline Practitioners. This means that the Animal Hospital of Sussex County is specifically set up to decrease stress and provide a more calming environment for your cat. Our staff has also been trained in feline-friendly handling and understanding cat behavior in order to increase the quality of care for your cat.

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