We love our pets and want to keep them safe. That’s why rabies causes pet owners so much concern.
Unfortunately, even with widespread vaccinations and new treatments, rabies still exists in the United States. This sad fact makes many pet owners wonder, “How is rabies transmitted in animals?”
This guide answers questions like “can rabies be transmitted without bites?” and “what is the most common way for a dog to get rabies?” It also explains the cause of rabies and what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Rabies may be scary, but it is very easy to protect against if you know what to do.
What Is Rabies in Animals?
Rabies is a virus that affects the central nervous system. It spreads through saliva contact, mainly through biting. If you’re asking, “How is rabies transmitted in animals?” consider that sick, diseased wild animals carry rabies, coming in two different forms.
“Furious” animals with rabies appear angry and agitated, biting at both real and imaginary objects. They may also drool profusely. “Dumb” rabies isn’t as apparent, with carrier animals acting calm and friendly.
Common symptoms of rabies include fever, headache, vomiting, nausea, hyperactivity, and excessive salivation. In severe, advanced cases, hallucinations, insomnia, and partial paralysis may occur.
How Does Rabies Spread?
Suppose you’re wondering, “What animal spreads rabies the most?” The answer to that question includes bats, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and skunks.
Many of these animals are nocturnal but come out during the day while rabid. Contrary to popular belief, encountering a rabid dog is extremely rare in the United States.
The animals that carry rabies vary depending on geography. These trends include:
- Bats: Bats live all over the United States, with no geographic concentration. They roost in attics and crawl spaces.
- Coyotes: Coyotes are common in the Southwestern United States, specifically in Southern Texas. Rabid coyotes have become rarer in recent years.
- Raccoons: Rabid raccoons are most common in the eastern U.S. They frequently congregate around trash sources.
- Foxes: While foxes inhabit places around the U.S., populations in western Alaska, the eastern U.S., and parts of Arizona and Texas are more susceptible.
While these are the most common culprits behind the spread of rabies, other animals may spread the virus. Pets and farm animals, such as cats, dogs, ferrets, goats, horses, and cows, and wild animals, such as beavers, monkeys, and woodchucks, may carry the virus.
How Easily Transmissible Is Rabies?
So how is rabies transmitted in animals and how easily is it to contract? Rabies travels via saliva but cannot break through unbroken skin. It usually spreads via a bite from a rabid animal. Other forms of contact, such as touching a rabid animal, or its blood or waste, are not enough for infection.
Other modes of transmission are incredibly uncommon. For example, organ transplants have a history of transmitting rabies, but there are only two known cases of this occurring in the last 15 years. In addition, rabies does not spread through the air except in specific laboratory conditions where scientists have aerosolized it for research purposes.
You might be wondering, “What is the most common way for a dog to get rabies?” or “can I get rabies if my dog licks me?” Dogs mainly acquire rabies after being bitten by a wild animal carrying the virus. If your pet isn’t vaccinated, the chance of it contracting the disease will be much higher.
If your dog has rabies and licks you, then there’s no chance of you getting sick unless it licks an open wound. Even then, the chances are extremely slim.
How Can I Tell if My Pet Has Rabies?
Looking at your pet won’t tell you whether they have rabies. However, looking for an animal bite is the easiest way to determine if your furry friend has a likelihood of contracting the disease. They might have also been exposed to the virus if they’ve spent time around wild animals.
If your pet acts skittish and withdrawn, behaves hyper-aggressively or sleeps in a room with a bat, you could assume that they have rabies and act accordingly. Under these circumstances, you should accept your pet has rabies until proven otherwise to keep yourself safe.
If you believe your pet has rabies, contact a local veterinarian immediately. If another animal has bitten them, scrub the wound with soap and water, repeatedly flushing the wound. Antiseptic soaps such as betadine work best, but regular soap works as well.
The number one thing to do if you believe your pet has rabies is to stay calm. Prompt treatment after a bite or other exposure works exceptionally well. Work with your local vet, and your pet should be okay.
Rabies Prevention Tips
Rabies infection is incredibly rare in modern America. Despite this, you can take certain steps to protect your pet from contracting the virus. Here are some rabies prevention tips:
- Avoid interacting with wild animals: Do not approach or engage with wild animals, and prevent your pet from doing so.
- Vaccinate your pets: The best solution is prevention. Both cats and dogs should receive rabies shots regularly.
- Report sick wild animals: If you see a wild animal that appears ill, contact your local animal control or veterinarian.
- Supervise your pets: Keep your pets indoors, and supervise them when they are outside.
Keep bats out of your property: Inspect your home for cracks, gaps, and crevices that bats can use as entrance points. If you see bats inside your home, contact your local professionals to remove them.
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When asking, “How is rabies transmitted in animals?” Remember that keeping your pet happy and healthy goes beyond watching out for rabies. There are many other things to consider when taking care of your pet. Prioritizing your pet’s health also means taking them to a top-notch vet.