Preventive care can help you protect your pets against a variety of preventable yet deadly diseases such as rabies. Here, our Nashville vets talk about rabies in cats and how pet vaccinations can help protect your feline friend.
Rabies in Cats: Why You Should Be Concerned
Rabies is a virus that has a primary effect on the brain and nervous system of the infected animal. The disease spreads through bites from infected animals and travels from the site of the bite along the nerves until it reaches the spinal cord, and works its way from there to the brain. Once the infection reaches the brain, the symptoms will begin to appear and the animal will die shortly afterward, typically within a week.
The Transmission of Rabies Among Animals
In the U.S. wildlife, such as raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks are the ones most responsible for spreading rabies— but this condition can be found in any mammal. The most commonly infected animals are the unvaccinated feral cat and dog populations.
Rabies spreads through the saliva of infected mammals and is most often transmitted through bites from infected animals. Rabies can also spread if the saliva of an infected animal comes in contact with an open wound or mucous membranes, such as the gums. The more contact your cat has with wild animals, the higher the risk is of becoming infected.
If your cat does happen to have the rabies virus it can spread it to you and the other humans and animals living in your home. People can get rabies when the saliva of an infected animal such as your cat comes into contact with broken skin or mucus membrane. It is possible to get infected with rabies by being scratched but it is very rare and unlikely. If you suspect that you have been in contact with the rabies virus it's critical that you call your doctor immediately so they can provide you with rabies dog and cat vaccinations to keep the disease from advancing.
Is rabies a common disease among domestic cats?
Thankfully today rabies isn't common among cats largely thanks to the pet vaccinations specific to rabies, which is mandatory for household pets in most states to help prevent the spread of this deadly illness. However, this virus is now more common in cats than it is in dogs with 241 recorded cases of rabies in cats in 2018. Most often cats get rabies after being bitten by a wild animal, even if you have an indoor cat they are still at risk for rabies because infected animals such as mice can enter your home and spread the condition to your cat. if you believe your kitty has been bitten by another animal we recommend calling your vet to make sure your feline friend hasn't been exposed to the rabies virus, even if they have received their cat vaccinations.
The Signs & Stages of Rabies in Cats
the three main stages of rabies in cats and the accompanying symptoms are as follows:
Prodromal stage - In this stage, a rabid cat will typically exhibit changes in their behavior that differs from their usual personality, if your kitty is usually shy, they could become more outgoing, and vice versa. If you see any behavioral abnormalities in your cat after they have obtained an unknown bite, keep them away from any other pets and family members, and call your vet immediately.
Furious stage - This stage is the most dangerous because it makes your pet nervous and even vicious. They might cry out excessively and experience seizures and stop eating. The virus has gotten to the stage where it has begun attacking the nervous system, and it prevents your cat from being able to swallow, leading to the classic symptom of excessive drooling, known as "foaming at the mouth."
Paralytic stage - This is the final stage in which a rabid cat will go into a coma, and won't be able to breathe. Unfortunately, this is the stage where pets usually pass away. This often takes place about seven days after symptoms first appear, with death usually happening after about 3 days.
Does it take long for rabies symptoms to appear in cats?
Initially, your cat will not show any signs of contact with the rabies virus. The usual incubation period is approximately three to eight weeks, but, can also vary from 10 days and up to a year.
The infection site will be the main factor in the length of time it takes for the symptoms to appear. A bite that is closer to the spine or brain will develop much faster than others and it also depends on the severity of the bite.
What are the treatment options for rabies in cats?
Once the symptoms of rabies appear in your cat, there will be no possible treatment. Rabies has no cure and your cat's health will decline very quickly over the next few days.
If your pet has had the kitten shots that protect them from rabies, including all required boosters, provide proof of your cat's vaccinations to your veterinarian. If you or anyone you know has had direct contact with the saliva of your cat then you must seek treatment immediately. Unfortunately, rabies is always fatal for unvaccinated animals after only a few days of symptoms.
All cats that have been diagnosed with rabies must be reported to the nearest health department. If you have an unvaccinated pet that has come into direct contact with an infected animal, it must be quarantined for the minimum required period of time according to your local regulations. A vaccinated animal that has bitten or scratched a human, conversely, should be quarantined and monitored for 10 days.
If your cat is showing the signs of rabies and has been properly diagnosed then the next step will likely be euthanization in order to prevent them from suffering as well as to prevent the other pets and humans in your home.
The best protection against rabies in cats is to provide them with the appropriate pet vaccinations that help prevent the disease. Speak with your vet about scheduling the necessary puppy or kitten shots as well as other cat or dog vaccinations that your pet may need.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.