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Rabies and Your Pets

April 4, 2022

Information

Rabies and Your Pets

What is rabies?

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. The virus is secreted in saliva and is usually transmitted to people and animals by a bite from an infected animal. Once the outward signs of the disease appear, rabies is nearly always fatal.

What animals can get rabies?

Only mammals can get rabies; birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians do not. In the United States, most cases of rabies occur in wild animals—mainly skunks, raccoons, bats, coyotes, and foxes. In recent years, cats have become the most common domestic animal infected with rabies. This is because many cat owners do not vaccinate their cats and cats can be exposed to rabid wildlife, either outdoors or when bats get into the house. Rabies also occurs in dogs and cattle in significant numbers.

All mammals are susceptible to rabies.

What are the signs of rabies in animals?

Once the rabies virus enters the body, it travels along the nerves to the brain. Animals with rabies may show a variety of signs, including fearfulness, aggression, excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, staggering, paralysis and seizures. Aggressive behavior is common, but rabid animals may also be uncharacteristically affectionate. Horses and livestock with rabies also may exhibit depression, self mutilation, or increased sensitivity to light. Rabid wild animals may lose their natural fear of humans, and display unusual behavior; for example, an animal that is usually only seen at night may be seen wandering in the daytime.

Although the most common signs of rabies are behavioral changes and unexplained paralysis, rabies should be considered in all cases of unexplained neurological disease. There is no treatment once the clinical signs of rabies appear.

Rabies infection of an animal can only be confirmed after death, through microscopic examination of the animal’s brain.

How you can protect your pets:

Vaccination programs and control of stray animals have been effective in preventing rabies in most pets. Approved rabies vaccines are available for cats, dogs, ferrets, horses, cattle and sheep.

On April 10, 2022, The LA/SPCA, Southeast Louisiana Veterinary Association, and the City of New Orleans Fire Department will be hosting a rabies drive from 1 – 5 PM at the following locations: 

The rabies vaccination is $15 (CASH ONLY), and will include the vaccination, tag, and license good for one year. 

Pets from all parishes are welcome, but only Orleans Parish pets will be issued a rabies tag, while all other parishes will receive the vaccine for a discounted $10 (CASH ONLY) and must get the tag from their parish shelter. Dogs must be on leashes and cats in carriers or on leashes.