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The word “rabies” creates concern in most of us and it should. Who can forget Stephen King’s raging killer dog Cujo? Rabies is an infectious viral disease that is almost always fatal following the onset of clinical symptoms. It’s called a zoonotic disease which means it can be transferred from animals to humans. As humans, and Run and Play clients, here a few things you should know.

1) Rabies is the deadliest virus for human beings.

While most of us may think of AIDs, malaria, and influenza, most of these are treatable once symptoms occur. Rabies, however, is generally fatal once an individual becomes symptomatic, so immediate treatment is necessary. Fortunately, in the United States, there are laws to prevent exposure and far more awareness than in other areas of the world. Most human cases of rabies are found in poor and vulnerable populations who live in remote rural locations in Asia and Africa.

Rabies is the deadliest virus for human beings.Most states have mandatory laws requiring rabies vaccinations for both dogs and cats. Most kittens and pups receive their first vaccination at 12 weeks of age and then every year after that (there is also a vaccination that lasts 3 years). Most areas have free or low-cost rabies clinics such as the Humane Rescue Alliance which provides vaccines including rabies for $15 or less.

2) Dogs are the main source of human rabies deaths worldwide,

contributing up to 99% of all rabies transmissions to humans per the World Health Organization (WHO). Forty percent (40%) of people bitten by suspect rabid animals are children under 15 years of age. Thus WHO, along with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) came together in 2015 to adopt a common strategy to achieve “Zero human Rabies deaths by 2030” and formed the United Against Rabies collaboration.  In the states, feral animals such as raccoons, bats, and rodents are the most common carriers.

3) Your dog/cat could be put down if it is not up to date on its rabies vaccine.

That is because if your dog bites a human, other dog or mammal, and his/her rabies shot is expired, the only way to confirm if the unvaccinated recipient (there is a pre-exposure vaccine) of that bite may be at risk for rabies is to take a brain sample from the deliverier – i.e., your pet!!! You may overlook that medical reminder for a few weeks, or forget if you last had the 1 or 3 year vaccine, but it’s important not to delay.

4) Never try to pry a dead or perceived to be dead animal from your pet’s mouth.

We all can be guilty of prying crap, bones, an undetermined specimen, or dead animal from our pet’s mouths. Know that not only possum’s play dead but rodents also do this. Some rodents can be clinched in a dog/cats mouth and still be alive yet stunned. If your dog is vaccinated, have no fear and avoid trying to free that animal.

Rabies treatments are still expensive5) Rabies treatments are still expensive!

As I recently learned from our dear editor, rabies treatments have come a long way. Historically, they required a long (10-12) series of expensive and very painful shots directly to your abdomen. Today treatment is done by post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). This is usually done by an initial shot close to the wound site, followed by shots at days 3/7/14 on quadriceps or deltoids. While this treatment is far less costly than the previous, typically they are only made at hospitals and subject to hospital markups.  Given they have a short shelf life,  most primary care doctors don’t carry them. Insurance will generally cover them, but the hospital cost run anywhere from $3,000 – $7,000 vs. the prior $10,000 – $20,000.

Given the above information, we kindly request you help us keep you and your dog/cat safe by reviewing or updating your dog’s rabies info under your pet’s profile. Sadly, while we can obtain that info and manually input it, the system currently will not remind us. We have requested the ability for alerts for rabies and other vaccines be generated.

Keep your family and best friends safe, vaccinate for rabies!