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9 Ways to Protect Your Pets and Family from Rabies

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Overview

Published: 9/24/2021

As Old Yeller and Cujo will tell you, rabies is no joke. Once common amongst domestic dogs, the main reservoir for rabies now is wild animals like bats, skunks, and raccoons. While rabies isn't anywhere near as common as it once was in the US, it's still important to protect your family and fur-babies from this lethal virus. Here are 9 ways to protect your pets and family from rabies.


#1. Get your pets vaccinated

The easiest way to protect your feline friends and canine compadres from rabies is to get them vaccinated. Large-scale vaccination is one of the main reasons rabies isn't common amongst domestic pets in the US anymore. It's against the law not to vaccinate your pet against rabies in most states.

Talk to your vet about getting your pet the rabies vaccine. Initial core vaccinations are usually administered at around 3 months old for dogs and between 8 to 14 weeks for cats.

Related:

Understanding Dog Vaccines and Vaccination Schedules

Can Dogs Get Rabies if They're Vaccinated?


#2. Get your pets neutered

While not as important as vaccinations, neutering also goes a long way toward reducing the spread of rabies. Unneutered pets, especially outdoor cats and dogs, are more likely to mate with other pets and strays, creating lots of unwanted kittens and puppies. Unwanted pets are less likely to be vaccinated or cared for properly, increasing the chance of spreading rabies.


#3. Protect your small pets

While you may think of cats and dogs as being at risk of rabies, what about small pets like rabbits and guinea pigs? Luckily, rabbits and most small rodents seldom contract rabies and don't need to be vaccinated against rabies. 

That said, small pets are at risk of being attacked by rabid predatory animals, like foxes. Ensure you keep any small pets inside your house or in sturdy covered hutches outside to keep them safe.

Related: Can Dogs Get Rabies from Rats and Mice?


#4. Report strays to your local authorities

If you see any stray dogs or cats in your neighborhood, report them to the local authorities. Stray dogs are more likely to carry rabies, and reporting them to the local authorities gets them off the street and keeps your family and fur-babies safe. Plus, you might help a cat or dog find a new home or even reunite a lost pet with their worried parents.


#5. Supervise your pets

Dogs and cats who spend most of their time outdoors unsupervised are far more likely to come into contact with a rabid wild animal. Keeping your pets under your watchful eye will help keep them safe. 

If you have an outdoor dog, consider bringing them inside, especially at night. It's not so easy to bring cats inside once they're used to going out. Consider building a cat porch so Smudge is more likely to stay close to home.


#6. Visit the vet regularly

Rabies has a long incubation period where symptoms won't show up for anywhere from 10 days to a year. So, if your pet gets tagged by a bat or bitten by a raccoon and you don't notice, they could have rabies, and you'd be none the wiser. 

Regular visits to the vet ensure your dog gets properly examined for bites and possible symptoms of rabies. Your vet will also ensure your pet's rabies vaccinations are up to date.


#7. Train your pets to avoid wild animals

Cats and dogs have strong hunting instincts, which can lead them to run off after a squirrel or fox. Training your pet to avoid and not attack wild animals ensures they don't accidentally come into contact with a rabid animal. 

You'll also want to be wary of animals that show no fear towards you or your pet — this is unusual and could be a sign of heightened aggression brought on by rabies.


#8. Keep wildlife away from your home

Making your home wildlife-proof will help keep potentially rabid animals away from your door. As bats are one of the main carriers of rabies in the US, you'll want to seal off any cracks or openings to your home where bats could enter. Bat-proofing is best done during the fall and winter when they're hibernating. 

Raccoons are also carriers of rabies and can be attracted to your home by open trash cans and left-out food. Secure your trash cans to stop raccoons from dumpster diving, and consider fencing in your yard.


#9. Don't adopt wild animals

While injured or infant raccoons and foxes can be adorable, you should never take them home and adopt them as your own. It's not always clear if a wild animal has rabies, and bringing them into your home puts your pets and family at risk. Wild animals are also undomesticated, meaning they won't be happy living in a home environment.

Got questions about how to protect your pet from rabies? Chat with a vet now for prompt answers!

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