Dog and cat bites can be serious business. And not just in the physical injury department either; in your wallet! It can be emotionally costly too. Any time there is an animal bite that breaks the skin, there is a rabies protocol that goes hand-in-hand. But do you know what it is? What happens when your dog or cat (or any other mammalian pet you may have) bites another animal or a human? Even if it’s “just a little nick” it still needs to be reported.
Generally, we do not see a lot of cases of rabies in dogs and cats here in the US because of protocols such as these. But in 2010, there were 69 reported cases of rabies in dogs and 303 reported cases in cats in the US. Just one encounter with an infected raccoon, bat, opossum, or any other wild mammal can mean a death sentence. According to the CDC, rabies has one of the highest case-fatality ratios of any infectious disease. That is scary enough to me to get me to vaccinate! I see a lot of easily preventable costs, headaches and very sad unfortunate events at the animal hospital where I work. People let their dogs rabies vaccine expire, it bites someone or another dog and then the real costs begin. So a day at the dog park with a dog who is not current on rabies vaccine can turn into a nightmare quickly. Having a dog stay at our hospital for a ten-day observation is no fun for the dog, owner and the care-takers. The dogs cannot even go out for a walk. That is so terrible for their mental well-being and it breaks my heart.
As I mentioned, some of the details are different from state to state but generally are the same so please check with your local county and veterinarian about laws pertaining to where you live. Also, there are specific laws if you are traveling out of state or out of the country and each airline has specific requirements (for all vaccines and methods of prevention) so please do a little research before traveling.
I know that vaccinating your dog can be a touchy subject with some but please keep in mind some of the ramifications if you choose not to do so. There are also instances where vaccines are not advised, such as an animal that is ill or has a history of severe reactions. We don’t see a lot of reactions to rabies vaccines specifically where I work but they do exist. Please talk to your veterinarian about options and if you have questions about any vaccines.
And for Cook County residents, the Animal & Rabies Control Hearings Division