Rabies: What You Don't Know Can Hurt Your Pet

Perhaps you grew up watching movies, such as Old Yeller, of dogs foaming at the mouth and becoming extremely aggressive due to having rabies. Even if you haven’t seen this movie, you have probably heard frightening tales of both people and animals with the disease. As a pet owner, it’s important to have accurate information so you don’t unknowingly place your companion animal in a risky situation. Although this disease is frightening and ultimately fatal, it is also avoidable.



Myths People Continue to Believe About Rabies

The virus that causes rabies is spread when an infected animal, which is usually a wild animal such as a bat or raccoon, bites or scratches your pet. A lot of people believe that their pet doesn’t actually have rabies until the virus reaches the brain. Sadly, this is not true. Your pet has the disease from the moment of contact with another infected animal. In as little as 10 days and as much as two months, the infection travels to his brain and central nervous system. The incubation period of rabies depends on the area of the body where the infected animal made contact with your pet and the depth of the scratch or bite.

Another misconception about rabies is that companion animals can only acquire it when they are bitten by a wild animal. As mentioned above, the disease can be spread with a simple scratch when the claws of the infected animal contain saliva. Additionally, unvaccinated companion animals can spread the disease amongst each other.


Foaming at the mouth and aggressive behavior only occurs at the latest stages of rabies. Since many people associate these conditions with the disease, they miss its earlier signs. These include:

  • Sudden behavior changes
  • Seizures, especially with no previous history of them
  • Paralysis of the hind legs
  • Refusal to eat
  • Confused and disoriented behavior

We encourage all pet owners to schedule an emergency appointment with Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo if you notice any of these symptoms. As other illnesses may have similar symptoms, we need to evaluate your pet in order to provide an accurate diagnosis.

Commit to Prevention

Thanks to effective rabies vaccinations, the disease is nowhere near as prevalent as it once was. If you have recently adopted a puppy or kitten, or if your pet has not seen us in the past year, please schedule a preventive care examination at Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo. We will recommend vaccines for your pet based on many factors. AAHA (the American Animal Hospital Association) includes the rabies vaccination in their core vaccination guidelines.

A rabies vaccination is the single most important thing you can do to prevent this deadly disease. Additionally, it may be the law where you live. By city ordinance, all dogs in Lake Elmo over the age of four months must be licensed by the city and vaccinated for rabies.

Image credit: designer491 | Getty Images

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