Throughout the world on September 28th, veterinarians, doctors, public health officials and advocates will be celebrating World Rabies Day. World Rabies day was first introduced in 2007 by the Global Alliance of Rabies Control. This day was created to raise awareness of the risk of rabies transmission and to educate the public about the importance of rabies vaccinations and rabies control. As the 2016 World Rabies day approaches, it is important to understand that our pets have the potential to be exposed to rabies through their everyday lives. In fact, rabies has been reported in cats more than any other domestic animal species in the United States. Rabies outbreaks among wildlife have also been on the rise this year in Ontario. In July of 2016, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency identified 28 cases of raccoons, skunks and bats that tested positive for rabies. This increase in the amount of rabid wildlife,greatly increase our pets’ risk of contracting rabies. Just recently, a rabies positive cat was brought into a Caledonia veterinary clinic. Most likely this cat was exposed to wildlife that also tested positive for rabies. Guelph Veterinarians would like you to know these important facts about rabies and how we can help prevent rabies in our pet cats.
Rabies Disease in Cats
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system of mammals. The rabies virus is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal through either a direct bite wound or through contact with an open wound. Rabies is considered a zoonotic disease, which means that the virus has the potential to also be transmitted to not only wildlife,
domestic animals, or livestock, but also humans. Rabies is almost always fatal once the clinical signs of rabies appear. Cats and other animals that are infected with the rabies virus and are displaying clinical signs typically die within a few days. Most cats will begin to show signs of rabies within 2 weeks
of being exposed, but other times, it may take many months before any clinical signs begin to appear. However, an infected cat can transmit the rabies virus to other mammals and even humans up to 10 days before any clinical signs of the virus appear. As a result, if you suspect that your cat has been exposed to rabies, or if you have been bitten by a cat that may have been exposed to rabies, it is important to contact your local Public Health Unit, and Guelph Veterinarian.
Clinical Signs of Rabies in Cats
In the event that the rabies virus has been transmitted to your cat, the following clinical signs may be observed:
1) Dramatic behaviour changes such as becoming more depressed or quiet, becoming unusually friendly or becoming more aggressive towards people, animals, or objects.
2) Loss of appetite.
3) Difficulty eating or drinking.
4) Meowing differently.
5) Excessive drooling.
6) Biting at the wound that caused the transmission of the rabies virus.
7) Sensitivity to touch, sound or light.
8) Staggering or falling over.
9) Partial or complete paralysis.
Again, it is imperative to contact your Guelph Veterinarian if you suspect that your cat has been exposed to the rabies virus and is exhibiting clinical signs.
Preventing Rabies in Cats
The most effective and easiest way to prevent the transmission of rabies to our pets is to ensure they are properly vaccinated against rabies. In fact, in most parts of Ontario, including Wellington County, it is legally required that your cat be vaccinated for rabies as a kitten and kept up to date throughout his or her entire life. It is even important for indoor-only cats to have up to date yearly rabies vaccinations. The transmission of rabies can also be prevented by ensuring that our feline friends do not roam freely outdoors, especially at night when bats, foxes, raccoons and skunks are the most active. These animals are the primary carriers of the rabies virus in Canada. If your unvaccinated cat does come into contact with one of these suspected carriers, he or she will need to be quarantined for at least 3-6 months without any contact with other animals or humans.
Therefore, the best rabies prevention for your cat starts with you! Ensure that your cat regularly visits their Guelph Veterinarian and is vaccinated yearly for rabies prevention!