All Creatures Veterinary Hospital
4549 HW 62 West
Mountain Home, AR 72653
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. The virus is usually transmitted by a bite
from a rabid animal. Prompt and appropriate treatment after being bitten and before disease develops can stop the infection
and prevent disease in humans. Only mammals get rabies. Birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians do not. Most cases of rabies
occur in wild animals, mainly skunks, raccoons, bats, and foxes. In recent years, cats have become the most common domestic
animal infected with rabies, because many cats are not vaccinated and are exposed to rabid wildlife while outside. Rabies
also occurs in dogs and cattle in significant numbers and has been found in horses, goats, sheep, swine, and ferrets.
Rabies can be prevented in domestic animals by yearly vaccination. There has never been a case of a domestic animal current on vaccinations that has contracted rabies. Approved rabies vaccines are available for cats, dogs, ferrets, horses, and sheep. Rabies vaccination and animal control programs, along with better treatment for people who have been bitten, have dramatically reduced the number of human cases in this country. Most of the relatively few, recent human cases acquired in this country have resulted from exposure to bats. Not all of the cases have reported being bitten by a bat. Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is always fatal. Dogs are still a significant source of rabies in other countries. Travelers should be aware of this when traveling outside of the United States.
What can you do to help control rabies?
(1) Have your veterinarian vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses. Arkansas law requires all dogs and cats to have current rabies vaccination given by a veterinarian.
(2) Reduce the possibility of exposure to rabies by not letting your pets roam free.
(3) Don't leave exposed garbage or pet food outside as it may attract wild or stray animals.
(4) Wild animals should never be kept as pets. Not only may this be illegal, but will also be a potential rabies threat to caretakers and to others.
(5) Observe all wild animals from a distance, even if they appear to be friendly. An animal may appear tame, but don't go near it. Not all rabid animals foam at the mouth and appear mad. Some wild animals with rabies even act tame before getting ill.
(6) If you see an animal acting strangely, report it to the city or county animal control department.
What if your pet has bitten someone?
(1) Urge the victim to see a physician immediately and to follow the physician's recommendations.
(2) Check with your veterinarian to determine whether your pet's vaccinations are current.
(3) Report the bite to the local health department and animal control authorities. In the case of a dog, cat, or ferret, the officials may order confinement of the animal with close observation for 10 days.
(4) Immediately report any illness or unusual behavior by your pet to the local health department and the veterinarian.
(5) Don't let your pet stray and don't give your pet away. The animal must be available for observation by public health authorities or a veterinarian.
(6) After the recommended observation period, have your pet vaccinated for rabies, and keep proof of this vaccination easily accessible.
What if your pet has been bitten by a potentially rabid animal?
(1) Consult your veterinarian immediately and report the bite to local animal control.
(2) Dogs, cats, and ferrets that are currently vaccinated, should be revaccinated immediately by a veterinarian, and observed for a period specified by state law ordinance (usually 45 days or more.) Animals with expired vaccinations will require evaluation on a case-by-case basis.
(3) Unvaccinated dogs, cats, and ferrets exposed to a rabid animal may need to be euthanized immediately. Alternatively, the animal should be checked, placed in strict isolation for four months, and vaccinated one month before being released.
(4) Animals other than dogs, cats, and ferrets that are bitten by a rabid animal should be euthanized immediately.
What if you have been bitten?
(1) Don't panic, but don't ignore the bite either. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and lots of water. Call your physician immediately and follow the doctor's advice.
(2) Capture the animal under a large box or other container if that can be done safely. Once captured don't try to pick the animal up. Call animal control authorities to collect the animal.
(3) If it is a wild animal, only try to capture it if you can do so without being bitten. If the animal cannot be contained and must be killed to prevent its escape, do so without destroying the head. The brain will be needed to test for rabies.
(4) Report the bite to the local health department.