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Rabies is a serious disease that is fatal to virtually every animal or person who contracts the disease. It is a virus that is carried in the saliva of a rabid animal.  It is transmitted by a bite that breaks the skin, or by getting saliva in the eye or mouth.  Once the virus is in the body, it travels through the nervous system to the brain.  Abnormal behavior, staggering, foaming/drooling, vocalizing, and fear of water are all symptoms of an animal or human with rabies.  Rabies is endemic in Arizona, which means that there are many cases reported every year, and the virus is carried by wild animals in our state (bats, coyotes, bobcats, javelinas, etc.).  Because of this fact, veterinarians are required by law to report to Pima County all wild animal bites that we see in pets.  Infection with Rabies is preventable with a vaccine.  If a pet is vaccinated with the Rabies vaccine, then it is unlikely to develop the infection, even if it is bitten by a rabid wild animal.  The reason the Rabies vaccine is so important is that if a pet is bitten by a wild animal and we cannot prove that the wild animal didn’t have Rabies, then we have to assume that the wild animal DID have rabies and take the necessary precautions.  If a pet is vaccinated, then we booster the vaccine and monitor the pet for 14 days.  If the pet does not have a current rabies vaccine, and is bitten by or exposed to a wild animal, the animal must be quarantined for 6 months, or euthanized.   Also, if a person is bitten by a pet and requires medical attention, the doctor is required to report the bite to Pima County.  If the pet is not vaccinated for Rabies, then it may have to be euthanized and tested for Rabies.  The Rabies vaccine is crucial to preventing all of these horrible scenarios.  We recommend keeping the Rabies vaccination current on all cats and dogs, regardless of lifestyle.  Bats can get into your house through a tiny crack around a window or door, and we have seen cases of coyotes and bobcats coming into the house to attack a cat or small dog.  The fact that your pet never goes outside does not mean that it could never be exposed to rabies.  We regularly have to help pet owners face some very difficult decisions that could have been avoided with a simple vaccine.

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