It’s time to get your dogs and cats vaccinated against rabies. Doing so could protect both your pets and your family from a disease that is spreading across the region.
There may be little a pet owner can do about a rabid raccoon prowling near their neighborhood, but they can protect their cats and dogs from contracting the disease after meeting up with an infected animal.
The number of confirmed cases of rabies in Northeast Tennessee has increased in recent years. Since 2003, the raccoon-variant strain of rabies has been spreading steadily across the Upstate. Public health officials expect to see more cases this year, meaning that both people and pets will be at an increased risk.
Rabies is most commonly found in raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. The raccoon strain is generally considered to be the most dangerous because raccoons are more likely than other rabies carriers to come into contact with people and their pets.
The rabies virus can be transmitted through the nervous system of any mammal. Without early treatment, death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.
Vaccination of pets has helped to curb the tide of rabies in the United States. Before 1960, a majority of rabies cases involved dogs and cats. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 90 percent of rabies cases reported today come from wildlife.
That’s why vaccinating domestic animals is more than just a good idea, it’s the law. Tennessee requires that all pets older than 12 weeks be vaccinated against rabies every year.