Rabies is a deadly virus for both humans and animals that attacks the central nervous system of mammals. In humans the virus is most commonly spread through bites and scratches from a rabid animal. Routine rabies vaccination can keep you and your pet safe by providing immunity to the disease.
September 28th is World Rabies Day; a global campaign advocating the education and awareness of rabies risk prevention. This date also commemorates the death of the first rabies vaccine creator, Louis Pasteur who also laid the foundations of rabies prevention.
Recently, the Halton Region Health Department confirmed cases of rabid bats found locally in both Oakville and Burlington. The most common mammals to transmit the disease are:
Rabies is controlled in Ontario wildlife with vaccine bait drops for both urban and rural areas. These vaccine baits will not harm nor immunize your pet if they come into contact.
Bats on the other hand, cannot be immunized using bait droppings and although rare, their small needle-like teeth bite can often go undetected.
A rabid bat is not easily identifiable but may display symptoms such as:
- losing the ability to fly
- active during daylight hours
- not afraid of noises
- appear to be lazy
Do not touch or capture a bat if found in your home, instead notify your local animal control.
Burlington, Burlington Animal Shelter, 905-335-3030
Oakville and Milton, The Oakville & District Humane Society, 905-845-1551
Symptoms of Rabies
When thinking of rabies many of us think of the “Cujo” or “Old Yeller” stories, demonstrating the symptoms of aggression. However, not all rabid animals show signs of aggression. Once an animal shows symptoms of rabies it is usually fatal within days.
Some signs of rabies could be:
- more quiet or depressed
- unusually friendly when normally timid
- more aggressive toward people, animals, objects, even its own body
- loss of appetite or difficulty eating or drinking
- barking or meowing differently
- drooling excessively
- biting the site of the wound where the animal was exposed to rabies
- overreacting to touch, sound or light
- staggering or falling
- becoming partially or completely paralyzed (unable to move)
Signs of Rabies in Humans
Initial symptoms are often flu-like and usually fatal once signs of the disease appear.
- slight or partial paralysis
- difficulty swallowing
- fear of water
If bitten or scratched by an unknown animal it is very important to get as much information as possible, get the owner information if a cat or dog and to take these initial steps in case of exposure:
- Wash wound thoroughly with soap and running water for at least 15 minutes.
- Seek urgent medical care and exposure assessment.
Prompt and appropriate PEP (a course of injections post-rabies exposure) after being bitten and before the disease develops can stop rabies infection and prevent the disease.
The best way to avoid rabies transmission is to vaccinate your pet and to avoid contact with strays or wildlife. In Ontario, even if your pet is only ever indoors, it is the law to vaccinate all cats and dogs starting as early as 3 months of age. A rabies booster is given 1 year from their initial vaccine and then repeated every 3 years throughout the pets’ life. An up to date rabies vaccine certificate is needed if ever travelling with your pet across the U.S. border.
Wildlife control programs along with vaccinating your pet are the key to preventing rabies in humans and stopping the disease at its source. If you have any concerns over your pet you can contact your veterinarian.