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Published: Mar 07, 2012

Although somewhat rare in the United States compared to other parts of the world, some areas of the country still experience rabies epidemics. An outbreak recently occurred in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, according to WSLS.  It is important for pet owners all over the country to know what they can do to prevent rabies and how this fatal disease is spread.

In dogs, clinical signs of rabies may include an aggressive temperament, difficulty swallowing, progressive weakness or paralysis of the limbs and an unusual tragic facial expression. The clinical signs of rabies in cats vary depending on the individual personality - active cats may become lazy, while less energetic felines could suddenly be jumping around the room. Eventually infected cats will become very aggressive and will often experience difficulty swallowing and excessive drooling.

Rabies can only be transmitted through a bite and the disease typically has an incubation period of two weeks to four months in dogs and three weeks to eight months in cats. Thus, owners should take note of any bites that their pet has suffered, especially from animals such as foxes, skunks or raccoons and report these incidents to their veterinarian immediately.

Unfortunately, rabies is fatal once an animal begins to show signs of the disease, and there are no treatment options. This is why VCA Animal Hospitals recommends that all dogs and cats between the ages of twelve and sixteen weeks get vaccinated for rabies. Vaccinations are extremely safe and effective, but will do no good if the pet has already been infected.