Sunday, March 16, 2014

Should I Worry About My Cat Getting Rabies?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

Rabies should be a concern for every pet owner, whether the pet goes outside or not, since it is always fatal if they are not vaccinated.  Here in Southern Arizona, we are lucky to have a low incidence of the disease compared to other parts of the United States.  However, no matter where you live, rabid bats or other infected animals can potentially get into your house and expose your pets and family to the disease.  According to the CDC's 2010 data of rabies cases, cats have the most reported cases of rabies, 4 times more cases than in dogs. 

Rabies virus is mostly transmitted via saliva through direct bite wounds.   Rarely, the virus can be spread through other routes of contact with saliva, such as inhalation, or through the placenta during pregnancy.  Depending on how much virus is injected into the bite wound and where the bite wound is located on the body, it can take weeks to months for any symptoms to be observed.  By the time symptoms are present, the animal can transmit the infection to others.  Within 10 days of the start of the disease, death occurs.

Symptoms can include:
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Hypersensitivity to light and noises
  • Dilated or constricted pupils
  • Aggression
  • Decreased appetite
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Abnormal walking or weakness
  • Tremors or seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Coma
  • Death

Rabies can only be a suspected diagnosis in a live animal.  Confirmation requires examination of the brain after euthanasia or death.

Please vaccinate your cat for rabies on the schedule required by your local laws and as advised by your veterinarian. 

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