Rabies. Just the word alone evokes a sense of fear and unease, and for good reason. Rabies is a viral disease that affects the brain and spinal cord of mammals-including humans. Typically transmitted through a bite from saliva entering the bloodstream, the virus travels from the bite site up through the nervous system to the spinal cord and eventually to the brain, where it causes severe swelling. The virus then travels to the salivary glands, filling the newly infected host with viral saliva. Symptoms of rabies can vary greatly - from passive and lethargic to violent and out of control. The prognosis for people and animals infected with rabies is death.
In 2019, Minnesota had 32 confirmed cases of rabies. The majority of infected animals were bats, followed by skunks, and one dog and one cat. Statistically speaking, these numbers are low and thanks to the wide acceptance of rabies vaccinations in pets. However slim the chances, there is still a possibility that your unvaccinated cat could contract rabies. Last September, a group of coworkers found a bat at Marquette and Sixth Street in downtown Minneapolis. The bat was taken to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, where it was tested and found to be rabid. Rabies is not an exotic virus; it is something that can be festering right in your own backyard.
While an indoor cat’s environment is certainly a lot safer than a cat who regularly prowls outdoors, it is still imperative that our indoor cats be vaccinated for infectious diseases like rabies. A quick slip into the outside world could prove fatal for an unvaccinated cat and cause health concerns for your other family members as well. Another common factor is the wildlife that accidentally ends up in your home. Bats, which are the largest carrier of the rabies virus in Minnesota, have an uncanny ability to wiggle their way into attics, basements, crawl spaces, and even down your chimney. Just one instance of contact with a bat could be a death sentence for our feline friends. The Center for Disease Control recommends immediate euthanasia for unvaccinated pets that come into contact with rabies.
So what would happen if your cat is exposed to the rabies virus? If they are up to date on their rabies vaccination, a booster would be administered, and your cat would return home to you with strict quarantine instructions. You would monitor your cat’s health and behavior for a period of about 45 days while giving regular updates to the Minnesota Department of Health. Most likely, your cat will be absolutely fine. If your cat has records of rabies vaccinations in the past but is currently out of date, a vaccine would be administered immediately. The cat would most likely need to be held at a veterinary facility or other secure location at the expense of the owner while they are closely monitored. Any signs or symptoms of rabies would warrant the state to decide that euthanasia is the best course of action. The euthanized cat would then be submitted for rabies testing. An unvaccinated cat that comes into contact with rabies is typically euthanized immediately.
At TLC, we understand that you want the best for your cat because we do too! Through careful consideration, research, and years of caring for cats, we are proud to carry Purevax vaccines from Boehringer Ingelheim. Give us a call today to discuss how we can help protect your cat and your family with a tailored vaccine plan fit for your feline friend!