A dog getting ready for a vaccination

The Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center do our best to make the best recommendations and preventative care plans for your furry family every day. One recommendation we make for every pet we see is a rabies vaccination; and for very good reasons!

Read on to learn why the rabies vaccination for your pet is so very important.

Rabies and You

Rabies is a very serious disease that is caused by a virus. The Rabies virus can affect any mammal, humans included. While the virus itself doesn’t survive well outside the body, it is very easily spread – especially when it comes into contact with the mucous membranes (typically through a bite wound).

Rabies infection is rampant in some parts of the world, and while it is not as prevalent in the United States as it once was, it is still a risk. Each year thousands of animals including a few domestic species, as well as a handful of humans, are diagnosed with rabies in this country. 

When a mammal is exposed to the rabies virus, it enters the tissues and attaches to the muscle cells in the area. It remains there for several days before entering the nerves and then making its way up to the brain over the course of several weeks, although the process can take up to a year. 

There are three stages of the disease, including:

  • Prodromal stage (personality changes, bothering the original site of infection)
  • Excitative stage (hallucinations, aggression)
  • Paralytic stage (Weakness, inability to swallow, paralysis of breathing muscles)

Once the virus reaches the brain, it is not possible to treat it. Infection of the brain by the rabies virus nearly always results in death. 

The Importance of Rabies Vaccination 

When it comes to pet vaccinations, there are a lot of factors that go into deciding which vaccines we recommend for whom and when. Rabies vaccination is nearly always recommended because it is such an important disease to prevent.

Rabies is nearly always fatal and because it is zoonotic (transmissible to humans), there is a public health aspect. The virus is absolutely present in Illinois, and because the primary wildlife reservoir in the Midwest is the bat, even indoor pets can be exposed. 

You definitely don’t want to tangle with rabies, but thankfully there is a lot you can do to protect yourself and your pets. 

  • Keep your pets up to date on rabies vaccinations (call us if you are unsure if your pet is due)
  • Avoid animals that are acting strangely
  • Do not handle or try to care for wildlife that is ill
  • Report sick or otherwise abnormal wildlife to Animal Control
  • Seek medical care immediately if you or a pet has been potentially exposed (this includes finding a bat in your home)

If exposure occurs, a series of vaccines can help stop infection in humans. Even pets who have been previously vaccinated should receive a booster vaccine- the risk is not worth taking. 

Rabies vaccination is also required by the state of Illinois, with exposed non-vaccinated pets being subject to quarantine or even euthanasia. Protecting your pet against rabies is an important part of pet ownership.

We have come so far in decreasing rabies in this country, and you can do your part to continue that trend by following our vaccination recommendations for your pets.