Rabies is one of those diseases that many people have heard of but often don't think about as being a significant threat to themselves or their pets and livestock here in Canada. It is true that we don't have several cases of Rabies in animals or people being reported in the news daily, but particularly in our wildlife populations there are still positive cases in our province, including in Regina! Unfortunately the low level of confirmed cases (meaning the # of animals that have actually been submitted for testing and confirmed positive), has resulted in a certain nonchalance about the Rabies virus. This has resulted in some owners either forgetting about or not bothering to have their pets properly vaccinated against this deadly disease. The scary part about this situation is that there is no specific treatment for Rabies; once an animal or human is infected and showing clinical signs, the result is almost always fatal! Rabies is a virus that affects the central nervous system and as the virus replicates and spreads, it causes fatal inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.
Approximately 70,000 human deaths occur annually world-wide due to Rabies infection. In the countries with high infection rates, 99% of human contracted Rabies cases are a direct result of being bitten by an infected dog. An estimated 40% of those deaths are children under the age of 14! In Canada, the main transmitters of Rabies disease are bats, skunks, foxes, and raccoons. The key take home message our veterinarians want to share with the public is that Rabies is a vaccine-preventable disease! Proper vaccination of dogs in particular is one of the most effective methods of reducing Rabies not only in the canine population but likewise in humans around the world.
So far in our province in 2018 there have been 2 confirmed cases of Rabies in dogs, 6 in skunks, and 2 in bats (www.svma.sk.ca) . If you have been following the news lately, there recently was a woman in the U.S. who tried to rescue a baby raccoon and ended up exposing 21 other people to Rabies - such a dangerous disaster! A few summers ago in Saskatchewan, there were also several cases of human exposure. In one of these cases, multiple exposures occurred when an injured skunk was rescued for treatment and rehabilitation and later died of Rabies. In another, a rabid bat was found indoors with young children and had the potential for multiple exposures. And in a third case, several children had handled a sick bat, again resulting in potential multiple exposures . Therefore even for indoor cats, Rabies exposure is still possible should an infected bat or dog get into the household, or if your cat accidentally escapes outside, Bites from bats result in very small puncture wounds that can easily go unnoticed and hence many owners aren't even aware their dog or cat may have been bitten.
When dealing with an almost 100% fatal disease that can be prevented through vaccination, why put your pets and family members at risk? Check with one of our team members today to see if your pet is currently up to date on their vaccinations and if not, schedule a wellness exam to have them updated with one of our veterinarians as soon as possible to keep your family (both two-legged and four) protected!