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  • Dr Sandy Jameson

Rabies

Rabies is caused by a virus, Rabies lyssavirus, that is transmitted by infected saliva, often through a bite or scratch. Clinical signs of infection can be quite variable, but may include behavioral changes (depression or aggression), nausea, vomiting, excessive drooling, seizures, and paralysis.



Many different species of animals can be infected with rabies including dogs, cats and humans. Species that have tested positive for rabies in Canada include the arctic and red fox, bats, cows, cats, dogs, raccoons, and skunks. In Alberta the most common species that has tested positive for rabies is the bat. In 2023, 5 bats tested positive for rabies in Alberta.



Changes in behavior are common in infected animals because the virus attacks brain tissue. Once clinical signs have started the disease is almost always fatal. However, infection can be prevented by vaccination. Rabies vaccination protocols for cats and dogs typically start with one vaccine between 12 and 16 weeks and a second at 1.5 years of age. After that, vaccination for rabies may be annual or every three years depending on the vaccine used. At the Sylvan Lake Veterinary Clinic, we use a 3 year vaccine so we only vaccinate for rabies every three years.


Rabies is a reportable disease in Canada. If a person is bitten by a pet without up to date rabies vaccination status, it needs to be reported to public health and the pet will be quarantined.


People that work in high risk environments are recommended to be vaccinated for rabies. However, if they are bitten by a suspect animal they should receive post exposure vaccination as well.

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