Rabies is an acute viral infection of the central nervous system. It is usually carried by animals in the wild including raccoons, skunks, bats, coyotes, and foxes. Rabies is seen in saliva and other bodily fluids. Cats most often catch rabies when they are bitten or scratched by another animal or if the cat has an open sore that an affected animal licks. The virus will then travel from the bite or sore to the brain and central nervous system. It is the infection and inflammation to the CNS and brain that causes the typical symptoms of rabies.
Your cat will generally start showing signs of rabies about 4-8 weeks after being bitten or in contact with another rabid animal. You will first notice your friendly little pet acting very strange from the norm. He (she) may first get very restless, excitable and possibly isolate him/herself for long periods. He or she will then enter into a very painful phase of body spasms (including throat spasms upon trying to drink, this is where the phrase "hydrophobia" comes from), severe aggressiveness and possible paralysis. There is no cure for rabies and the best course of action for a rabid animal is to put him/her to sleep.
Symptoms of Rabies:
Because the signs of rabies vary, diagnosis is very difficult while the animal is alive. The only positive diagnosis is by laboratory examination of the brain.
The best treatment is prevention. If you suspect your cat has rabies take him or her to the vet immediately.
Your pet should have a rabies vaccination between 3 and 6 months of age. After that a rabies booster can be given yearly. Also if you have an outdoor cat you may want to periodically monitor him/her and look for any open sores, bites or fight wounds and have them checked out by your veterinarian as soon as possible.
What to Do if Bitten:
If a suspected rabid animal bites a person, the animal should be quarantined. If the animal develops signs of rabies or dies, tissues must be sent to a laboratory for examination.
Since rabies is such a threat to people and other animals, affected animals are not treated. Euthanasia is mandatory.
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