Why is it important to vaccinate my dog or cat for Rabies?

Rabies is a very serious disease caused by a virus and is transmitted by infected saliva, usually through a bite wound.  It is a zoonotic disease, which means that it can be passed from animals to humans.  Rabies is almost always fatal in un-vaccinated people and pets who are infected and develop signs of the disease.  More than 55 000 people die of Rabies every year, mostly in Africa and Asia (information courtesy of the World Health Organization).

In Ontario, wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats can carry Rabies and potentially infect cats, dogs and people. There are Rabies vaccination programs in place for raccoons, skunks and foxes where they are vaccinated through bait, and this has greatly reduced the number of cases since the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Unfortunately since bats in Ontario are small and insect-eating, the Rabies vaccination program does not affect them (information courtesy of the Ministry of Natural Resources).

Dogs and cats can become infected with Rabies if they are bitten by a wild animal.  Bat bites can be very small so if your cat or dog is found in the same room as a bat, this is considered a Rabies exposure.  It is the LAW in Ontario that all cats and dogs be vaccinated for Rabies.  All potential Rabies exposures must be reported to the CFIA if a cat or dog is involved and to the Medical Officer or Health if a person is involved.

We usually update your pet’s Rabies vaccination at the time of the yearly health examination.  In addition to protecting your pet against this very serious disease, we also have the opportunity to discuss any other health concerns that you may have or that we may have found during the examination.  We would be happy to answer any questions you have about the Rabies vaccination at that time!

Here are a few resources:

Ministry of Natural Resources

World Health Organization