Tri-Lakes Humane Society

Saving Little Lives and Speaking for Those Who Cannot since 1942.


Rabies & What You Should Know

Posted by tlhsny on April 21, 2009 at 5:48 PM

Rabies is a deadly disease, and continues to be a problem in many parts of the United States. Rabies virus attacks the nervous system of mammals (warmblooded animals who nurse their young). This means pets, livestock, wildlife and humans are at risk. Rabies is spread mainly through bites from infected animals, but can also be passed by scratches from an infected animal, or if saliva or brain tissue comes in contact with open wounds, skin breaks, or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth, etc). Rabies is fatal once the virus reaches the brain.


Domestic animals, such as dogs, cats, ferrets and farm animals can pick up rabies from wild or stray animals. The most commonly affected wild animals include raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes and bats. Stray dogs, cats and ferrets can also pose a problem, as they could have come in contact with wildlife, and may have possibly been exposed to rabies.


How to protect yourself and your family:

1. Avoid contact with ALL wild animalsNEVER attempt to feed or handle any wild animal. Do not "adopt" wild animals as pets.


2.Stay away from stray animals. They may not have been properly vaccinated. If you notice a stray, report it to your local Animal Control or Dog Control Officer.


3. Keep wild animals out of your home. Secure your doors and windows, cap off your chimney with a screen, and close off any other openings in your porch, basement or attic. If you find a wild animal in your house, call your local police to report it.


4. Secure your trash, and any other food items that are stored outdoors. This will keep animals from frequently trying to hang around your home.


How to keep your pets safe:

1. Make sure your pets are always vaccinated against rabies. Dogs, cats, ferrets and select livestock can receive rabies vaccinations and boosters. Contact your local animal shelter to ask about free, or low-cost rabies clinics in your area. Otherwise, consult with your veterinarian about making sure your pet is up-to-date on their vaccinations.


2. Keep your pets safe by keeping them on your property. Pets that are allowed to roam are more likely to be at risk of contracting rabies from other animals.


3. Do not feed your pets outdoors. Any leftover food, or scraps, may attract stray animals and wildlife.


Symptoms of Rabies Virus:

A change in behavior is the most consistent sign of an animal that has been exposed to rabies. Signs of rabies include:

- Abnormal daytime activity in animals that are active at night (bats, raccoons, skunks, etc).

- Staggering (appears to act "drunk").

- Weakness and paralysis.

- A change in the sound of the animal's "voice".

- Inability to eat or drink.

- Drooling.

- Convulsions and frothing at the mouth.

The two most common forms of rabies:

Dumb Rabies, in which the animal may hide, become shy, or become unusually approachable. These behaviors may be followed by sluggishness, confusion and depression.

Furious Rabies, is when the exposed animal becomes irritable, excitable and aggressive. At times, these animals seem confused and calm, and then suddenly attack when approached. These animals may also lose all fear and caution for natural enemies.

With each form of rabies, the animal will eventually suffer from paralysis, coma and death.


What should you do if you believe your pet has been bitten or attacked by another animal?

1. Contact your local or state health department right away to report the bite.

2. Contact your local Animal Control or Dog Control Officer to report any information you can about the animal that attacked your pet. If the animal is still at large, the officer will need to capture it for a quarantine period.

3. If the animal is wild, you may need to contact the Department of Environmental Conservation to handle wildlife.

3. Contact your veterinarian to make sure your pet is up-to-date on its rabies vaccination.


What should you do if you, or a family member, has been bitten or attacked by an animal?

1. Wash the wound thoroughly with warm, soapy water.

2. If the animal that attacked you is wild, only attempt to confine it if it is safe to do so. Call Animal Control IMMEDIATELY. If you must kill the animal, do it as a last resort and try not to damage the skull of the animal (the animal's brain tissue may need to be tested for rabies).

3. If the animal is someone's pet, get the owner's information and ask for proof of a current rabies vaccination.

4. Contact your family physician or Emergency Room, to determine if you will need rabies shots.

5. Report the bite to your local or state Health Department.

6. Report the bite to your local ACO or DCO. Dogs, cats or ferrets that have bitten someone must be confined for observation. In New York State, there is a 10day rabies quarantine period for animals that have bitten a human. If the animal is not current on its rabies vaccination, this quarantine must be done at a veterinary clinic or animal shelter.

7. If the animal is wild, you may need to contact the Department of Environmental Conservation to handle wildlife.


For more information about rabies, contact your local veterinarian, animal shelter, department of environmental conservation, or local/state health departments.







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