The vet’s office: Why all cats should be vaccinated for rabies
By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
I am often asked, “Why should I vaccinate my cat? It never leaves my house.” I like to view a vaccination as an insurance policy. Though your pet may never need it, if that accident — or in this case a disease exposure — happens, it is there to protect and decrease the severity of the illness and owner liability.
Pet owners living within the city of Marshfield are required to have their dogs and cats licensed yearly. To comply, proof of current rabies vaccination is required. Rabies, being a “one strike and you are out” disease of pets and people, is the only vaccine mandated by state law for all dogs and by local law for cats as well.
If a nonvaccinated or overdue cat would bite a visitor to your home, accidentally or otherwise, a sequence of serious medical — and possibly legal — events begins. Law enforcement is often involved when these people seek medical treatment for the bite wound. Not to be taken lightly, cat bites in general have a very high potential for serious bacterial infection.
The officer often interviews the bite victim and, along with a physician consultation, decides if the pet is to be immediately euthanized and tested or if it can remain isolated for 10 days at home. Under rabies quarantine the cat is required to be examined by a veterinarian three times over the next 10 days at the owner’s expense. Cats with up-to-date rabies vaccinations tend to be allowed to be quarantined at home and are rarely euthanized for testing.
Since rabies virus is transmitted by exposure to an infected animal, the totally indoor pet has very low risk. However, we often get calls from people concerned because a bat has made it into the house and has exposed their cat, or the cat snuck outside and returned with battle scars from who knows what animal. A rabies vaccination takes a low risk and makes it very close to a no-risk situation.
Wisconsin is a “rabies endemic area.” The virus is out there. Raccoons, foxes, skunks, and bats are the most common “reservoirs” of the rabies virus. These animals can live for months without symptoms while the virus sheds to other animals through contact with their saliva or through bite wounds.
It is estimated that over 40,000 people a year die from rabies worldwide. All dogs and cats, therefore, should be kept current on their rabies vaccinations to keep themselves and owners protected.
Ask your veterinarian if your pet is up to date. Remember that a rabies vaccination is only legally recognized if given by a licensed veterinarian or supervised certified veterinary technician. It is not available over the counter or through a pet health magazine.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.