Rabies and your Pets



Did you know that only 40 minutes away from Mississauga there has been a grand total of 25 confirmed Rabies cases found in Raccoon’s sine early December. With the recent cases of Rabies found in Hamilton on the rise, here at River Grove Animal Hospital we felt it only fitting for this week’s BLOG post to be discussing this Fatal disease.

What Causes Rabies?

Rabies virus is in the Rhabdoviridae family. The virus cannot live outside its host’s body for more than a couple of seconds, but a live virus has been found in animals that have been dead for as long as 48 hours.

Rabies Transmission

Rabies usually is transmitted through infected saliva as a result of a bite from an infected animal. Rarely, it is transmitted by viral contamination of a fresh wound, through a scratch, or through contamination of a mucous membrane (i.e., eyes, nose, mouth). There have been reports of rabies being transmitted through the air in bat-infested caves.

Signs and Symptoms of Rabies

Once rabies infection occurs, the virus grows in muscle tissue and may go undetected for several days or months. During this incubation (or latent) period, the animal appears healthy and shows no sign of infection.

Usually, within 1 to 3 months, the virus migrates to the nerves near the site of the infection and spreads to the spinal cord and brain (i.e., the central nervous system). It usually takes from 12 to 180 days to spread through the peripheral nerves to the central nervous system. At this point, the disease progresses rapidly, and the animal begins to show the classic behavioral signs of rabies. The virus spreads to the saliva, tears, breast milk, and urine. The animal usually dies in 4 or 5 days.

Rabies causes typical symptoms. The infection progresses in a predictable manner, from the initial prodormal phase to the excitative, or furious, phase to the final paralytic phase.

The first sign usually is a change in behavior. Pet owners should be aware that behavioral changes can occur as a result of many conditions, from digestive disorders to poisoning.

Rabid animals usually stop eating and drinking and may appear to want to be left alone. After the initial onset of symptoms, the animal may become vicious or begin to show signs of paralysis. Some rabid animals bite at the slightest provocation and others may be somnolent and difficult to arouse. Once the animal shows signs of paralysis, the disease progresses very quickly.

They may show the following signs:
Rabbies and Our Pets

  • Craving to eat anything, including inedible objects
  • Constant growling and barking
  • Dilated pupils
  • Disorientation
  • Erratic behavior
  • Episodes of aggression
  • Facial expression showing anxiety and hyperalertness
  • Irritability
  • No fear of natural enemies (e.g., wild animals may not be afraid of people)
  • Restlessness
  • Roaming
  • Seizures
  • Trembling and muscle incoordination

Prevention of Rabies

veterinarian near me

The most effective way to prevent rabies in pets is through vaccination. Safe, effective vaccines are available for dogs, cats, horses, cattle, and sheep. All dogs and cats should be vaccinated after 12 weeks of age, then every year.

Vaccinated cats and dogs should wear rabies tags, and their owners should keep their rabies certificates. Rabies shots should be administered by a licensed veterinarian.

Pet owners living where rabies is epidemic among raccoons, should be especially diligent in vaccinating all cats and dogs. Any unvaccinated pet that comes into contact with a rabid animal is at risk for rabies.

To learn more about rabies in Ontario from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), follow the link below:


Prevention is the best way to protect our faithful companions from this deadly disease. Call River Grove Animal Hospital today, servicing Mississauga, Milton, Oakville, Brampton, and surrounding areas, to book an appointment with one of our amazing Veterinarians today!


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