In a Dog-Eat-Dog World, All You Need to Know About Rabies and its Immunization
Author: Slava Fuzayloff
Anyone who has spent any time around dogs has heard the word rabies. Growing up, moms, dads, teachers or camp counselors would sound the alarm whenever a stray dog meandered into the area. Even though dogs get so much bad press regarding rabies they are no more likely to be infected as rule and to infect you by a bite than any other animal—humans included! No, rabies is not exclusive to dogs. Yet for anyone spending time in the woodlands—or who is around stray or wild animals (dogs included)—it makes good sense to receive a rabies immunization along with the other more common sense precautions one would also take in similar situations.
Let’s start at the beginning and discuss what rabies is exactly, and why a immunization is a good idea for anyone in a high risk group for becoming infected. Rabies is an acute viral infection typically passed around by a scratch or bite of an infected animal. Because there are more dogs in society in general, more than say…monkeys, they are responsible for the most infections. Although a dog itself is no more likely to be a carrier than the above-mentioned monkey.
The rabies virus is very dangerous. Without proper medical attention, almost all cases will lead to the death of the infected individual, animal or pet. Although, symptoms of a rabies infection can take over a year to begin, they commonly show up around thirty to fifty days after the bite or scratch from the infected animal (or person!). These symptoms can include a fever, sore throat, muscle cramps, and throat spasms. A rabies immunization is the best way to avoid getting sick in the first place.
After the initial symptoms, paralysis commonly sets in beginning down at the feet and progressing quickly upwards until the person, pet or wild animal succumbs to cardiac arrest leading to death. It is relatively quick relative to other viruses and sicknesses—and painful. The immunization— which can be given before or after the bite or scratch—is a series of five injections given on a strict schedule over the course of approximately a month.
Many people have a fear of receiving a immunization no matter what it is for and it is the same for rabies. Rabies, however, has only one outcome if the immunization is avoided and that outcome is death. Weighed against this, it is obvious that rabies vaccination makes the most sense when and if infected.
What are the risks associated with a rabies immunization, if any? Like most vaccines, the risks are small. Infection or swelling and redness around the injection site is sometimes reported, but little more than this is usual. Travel shots can be administered only by a board-certified travel doctor.
What happens if your pet becomes infected with rabies? Is there a immunization for my dog? Unfortunately not. Pets that become infected with this dangerous disease are humanely put to sleep to protect not only their owners but other animals as well. Rabies is a potentially deadly disease that should be taken as seriously as any other illness of its magnitude.