First, the good news. Most dogs and cats in Texas (and the U.S.) are vaccinated for rabies. It is unlikely that a domestic pet, such as a dog or a cat, will transmit the rabies virus. Livestock, such as cows, horses and goats, can also transmit rabies. Whenever an animal is not vaccinated and attacks when unprovoked, or if the animal was bitten by a wild animal, then a rabies test and most likely inoculation are necessary.
What is rabies?
Rabies, a virus which attacks the central nervous system, has been around for centuries. The Romans wrote about it and called it “hydrophobia,” or fear of water. It was called this because rabies paralyses the throat and those who contract it cannot swallow. Rabies is 100% fatal if not treated.
Is the rabies vaccine six shots to the stomach?
Thankfully, no. The rabies vaccine is a quick shot in the upper arm (deltoid). Children can get the shot in the upper leg. Typically a person will need three to four shots spaced a few days apart. These shots are not particularly painful, have very few side effects for most people and are are easily administered. So, if you are bitten by a potentially rabid animal (such as a bat, skunk, coyote, fox or raccoon) it is best to call your doctor and arrange for your shot immediately. If possible and safe to do so, kill or contain the animal that bit you. You will want to prevent others from being bitten and the animal need to be examined. Rabies is almost 100% curable if the shots are administered within 72 hours after the bite.
How common is rabies in dogs and cats in Texas?
Which animal is most likely to carry rabies?
The most common carrier of rabies in Texas is the bat. A bat has tiny teeth, so you may not even know you were bitten. It is not uncommon for animals that are infected to behave strangely, such as a bat that is out during the day or that attacks humans or other animals. This is why any time you or a family member wakes up with a bat in the room, you need to get the bat tested and/or get the rabies vaccine. Other common carriers of rabies in Texas are skunks and raccoons. It is important to note that you do not need to be bitten to contract rabies. If the virus comes in contact with your mucus membrane, such as your eyes, you can also contract it. In some cases, the rabies vaccine is warranted if you get scratched by a potentially or known to be rabid animal.