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The Dangers of Rabies in Cats

The Dangers of Rabies in Cats

If you have a cat then it is important that you protect against the serious conditions and diseases that could affect them. Some of these diseases, such as rabies, are potentially deadly but also preventable. Today, our Greeley vets talk about the potentially fatal rabies virus, the signs of rabies in cats and what you can do to help prevent it.

The Rabies Virus in Cats

Rabies is a deadly disease that affects the nervous system of the infected animal. Despite being deadly and having no cure, this disease is actually preventable. 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. As soon as the rabies virus reaches the brain, the symptoms will become apparent and your cat will die within a week.

What is rabies spread among cats?

While rabies can be found in any mammal, the usual transmitters include skunks, raccoons and bats. This disease is also the most common amount area where there is a large number of feral dogs and cats.

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 of becoming infected. 

If your cat contracts rabies or comes into contact with an animal that is suspected to have rabies then you should isolate them immediately. The rabies virus is highly contagious and your cat could spread it among the humans and other pets 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 came into contact with your infected or potentially infected cat then you should contact your vet immediately to have the vaccine administered.

Is rabies a common disease in cats?

Thankfully today rabies isn't common among cats largely thanks to the rabies vaccine, 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 are vaccinated.

Can I get rabies from a cat scratch?

Because rabies is transferred through the saliva of an infected animal your chance of getting rabies through a cat scratch is pretty low. Unfortunately, you may however become ill with the virus if you were scratched and the animal was also hissing which would cause the saliva to be distributed through the air. 

What are the typical signs of rabies in cats?

When it comes to the progression of rabies in case there are three main stages that will occur. These are:

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. 

When will my cat begin to show the signs of rabies?

When your cat becomes infected with the rabies virus, they won't show any signs until the disease is in an advanced stage. The usual incubation period is approximately three to eight weeks, but, it can be anywhere from 10 days to as long as a year.

The speed at which symptoms appear depends entirely on the infection site. 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.

Can rabies in cats be treated?

If your cat starts displaying symptoms of rabies, there is unfortunately nothing you or your vet can do to help them. There is no known cure for rabies and after symptoms start appearing, their health will deteriorate within a few days.

If your pet has had the kitten shots that protect them from rabies, including all required boosters, provide proof of vaccination to your veterinarian. If anyone came into contact with their saliva or was bitten by your pet (yourself included), advise them to contact a physician immediately for treatment. Unfortunately, rabies is always fatal for unvaccinated animals, usually occurring within 7 to 10 days from when the initial symptoms start.

If your cat is diagnosed with rabies you will have to report the case to your local health department. An unvaccinated pet that is bitten or exposed to a known rabid animal must be quarantined for up to six months, or according to local and state regulations. A vaccinated animal that has bitten or scratched a human, conversely, should be quarantined and monitored for 10 days.

Your pet should be humanely euthanized to ease their suffering and to protect the other people and pets in your home. If your cat dies suddenly of what you suspect to be rabies, your vet may recommend having a sample from the cat’s brain examined. Direct testing of the brain is the only way to diagnose rabies for sure.

The only way that you can help protect them against this potentially fatal disease is with routine vaccinations that help prevent it. Talk to your vet about scheduling an appointment to make sure your pet is up to date with their rabies shots and other vaccinations. 

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.

If you are worried that your cat has contracted rabies then you should contact our Greeley vets right away.

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