(Welcome to the weekly pet column of Pet Connection Programs Inc. of Marilla, N.Y. A new article is posted each week, so be sure to check back on a regular basis!)
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) celebrated the 10th anniversary of World Rabies Day on Sept. 28 by urging the public to remain vigilant and follow six simple rabies prevention tips to protect people and pets.
“Because only one to three rabies cases are reported annually in the United States, it is easy for people to become complacent and forget that the threat is real,” said Dr. Tom Meyer, president of the AVMA.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 to 100 dogs and more than 300 cats are infected annually with rabies and have the potential to expose an unknowing public. These are most likely unvaccinated cats and dogs infected by wildlife.
“Every year there are news reports about people coming in contact with and being scratched or bitten by stray dogs and cats,” said Dr. Meyer. “The story turns tragic when the animal has to be euthanized to determine if it is rabid or not, and people are required to undergo treatment.”
Because the United States has emphasized vaccinating pets for rabies since the 1950s, most people do not realize rabies is a huge problem in much of the rest of the world. It is estimated that rabies kills more than 60,000 people every year; approximately 40 percent of the victims are children. Keeping pets free from rabies helps to keep people free from rabies.
Dr. Meyer says that while dogs and cats can pass the virus to people, exposure to bats is the most common cause of human rabies cases in the United States, while raccoons are the most frequently reported rabid wildlife species (accounting for 30.2 percent of all animal cases during 2014). Keeping bats out of the home, and avoiding wildlife in general, is key to avoiding infection.
To help completely eradicate rabies cases in the United States, the AVMA is encouraging the public to follow these six simple steps:
• Vaccinate dogs, cats, ferrets and select horses and livestock against rabies.
• Don’t let your pets roam free, where they may come into contact with rabid wildlife.
• Bat-proof your home and other structures on your property.
• Don’t leave exposed garbage or pet food outside. It will attract wild or stray animals.
• Don’t keep wild animals as pets.
• Keep your distance from wildlife and stray animals … even the cute ones!
“We currently have the tools to prevent this devastating disease,” said Dr. René Carlson, president of the World Veterinary Association and past president of the AVMA. “Eradicating rabies is not an option. It is a public health necessity.”
(For more information on pets and animal adoption, please visit www.petconnectionprogramsinc.com. Or, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PetConnectionProgramsinc. Located in Marilla, N.Y., Pet Connection Programs Inc. is a nonprofit maternity and special care shelter founded in 1984.)