Rabies is a virus that spreads easily and puts people, pets, and other mammals at risk of serious health problems. Our vets Bedford are here to educate you on the signs of rabies and stress the importance of vaccinating your cat to prevent this deadly disease.
The Deadly Rabies Virus
Rabies is a virus that affects the central nervous system of mammals such as cats, dogs, humans, and others. The virus typically enters the body through an infected animal's bite.
Once inside, the virus travels along the nerves from the bite site to the spinal cord, then to the brain. Once in the brain, symptoms emerge, and the infected animal usually dies within a week.
Which animals have rabies?
Wild animals, including raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks, typically transmit rabies. However, any mammal can contract and spread the disease. Rabies is commonly found in areas where there are large populations of unvaccinated stray cats and dogs.
The virus is spread through the saliva of infected mammals and is often transmitted through bites.
It can also be contracted if infected saliva comes into contact with an open wound or mucous membranes, such as the gums. If your cat frequently interacts with wild animals, their risk of contracting rabies is higher.
If your cat contracts the rabies virus, it can then be easily spread to you and the other people or pets living in your home. People can get rabies when the saliva of an infected animal, such as your cat, comes into contact with broken skin or mucus membranes. It is possible to get infected with rabies by being scratched, but it is very rare and unlikely.
If you suspect that you have been in contact with the rabies virus, it's crucial that you call your doctor right away so they can provide you with a rabies vaccine to keep the disease from advancing.
Rates of Rabies Cases in Cats
It is mandatory in most states for cats and dogs over the age of 6 months to receive regularly scheduled rabies vaccines. Thanks largely to the success of this vaccine program, cases of rabies in cats are relatively rare.
It is important to note that the rabies virus is more prevalent in cats than in dogs, as there were 241 reported cases of rabies in cats in 2018. Although indoor cats may seem safe, they can still be at risk of contracting rabies from infected animals like mice that may enter your home.
Often, cats contract rabies after a wild animal bite. If you suspect that your cat has been bitten by another animal, it is advisable to contact your veterinarian to ensure that your feline friend has not been exposed to the rabies virus, even if they have been vaccinated.
Signs That Your Cat May Have Rabies
When a cat is infected with rabies, it goes through three progressive stages that are characterized by various signs and symptoms.
Prodromal stage - In this stage, a rabid cat will typically exhibit behaviors that are unusual compared to their usual personality. For example, if your kitty is usually shy, they could become more outgoing, and vice versa. If you see any behavioral abnormalities in your cat after they have obtained an unknown bite, keep them away from any other pets and family members, and call your vet immediately.
Furious stage - This stage is the most dangerous because it makes your pet nervous and even vicious. Cat rabies symptoms at this stage include crying out excessively, seizures, and loss of appetite. The virus has gotten to the stage where it has begun attacking the nervous system, and it prevents your cat from being able to swallow, leading to the classic symptom of excessive drooling, known as "foaming at the mouth."
Paralytic stage - This is the final stage in which a rabid cat will go into a coma and won't be able to breathe. Unfortunately, this is the stage where pets usually pass away. This often takes place about seven days after symptoms first appear, with death usually happening after about 3 days.
Length of Time From Infection to Start of Symptoms
If your cat has come into contact with the rabies virus, it may not exhibit any visible signs or symptoms right away. Typically, it takes about three to eight weeks for symptoms to appear, but it can range from 10 days to a year.
The speed at which symptoms manifest varies depending on the location of the infection. If the bite is closer to the spine or brain, symptoms may develop more quickly. Additionally, the severity of the bite can also contribute to the speed at which symptoms appear.
Treatment for Rabies In Cats
Sadly, if your cat contracts rabies, there is nothing you or your vet can do to help them. There is no known cure for rabies; after symptoms start appearing, their health will deteriorate within a few days.
If your pet has received all the necessary kitten shots to protect against rabies, make sure to provide proof of vaccination to your veterinarian. In the event that someone comes into contact with your pet's saliva or is bitten by them (including yourself), it's important to advise them to seek medical treatment immediately. Sadly, without vaccination, rabies is always fatal for animals and typically results in death within 7 to 10 days from the onset of symptoms.
If your cat is diagnosed with rabies, you will have to report the case to your local health department. An unvaccinated pet that is bitten or exposed to a known rabid animal must be quarantined for up to six months or according to local and state regulations. A vaccinated animal that has bitten or scratched a human, conversely, should be quarantined and monitored for 10 days.
Your pet should be humanely euthanized to ease their suffering and to protect the other people and pets in your home. If your cat dies suddenly of what you suspect to be rabies, your vet may recommend having a sample from the cat's brain examined. Direct testing of the brain is the only way to diagnose rabies for sure.
The best protection against rabies in cats is to provide them with the appropriate vaccinations that help prevent the disease. Talk to your vet about scheduling an appointment to make sure your pet is up to date with their rabies shots and other vaccinations.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.