Myths vs. Facts About Rabies

Published: April 12, 2020

Academy Animal Hospital Greenwood

Rabies is a disease that’s surrounded by misunderstandings and myths. So let’s look at the facts about rabies because it’s actually one of the most-studied and well-understood diseases in the world.

Rabies is an infection of the central nervous system that doesn’t cause symptoms at first, but develops over time and becomes deadly. After exposure, which typically comes through an animal bite, the person or animal will begin to feel weak, have a fever, and develop headaches and body-wide discomfort.

If rabies is left untreated, over a period of weeks or months it will compromise the nervous system and lead to abnormal behavior including hallucinations, delirium, insomnia, mobility issues, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Eventually, it will cause a painful death.

Myth: Rabies isn’t preventable.

Fact: Rabies is highly preventable in cats and dogs through the use of vaccines. A cat, dog, or person living in the United States has far less than a 1% chance of contracting rabies due to the widespread use of vaccines.

Myth: Rabies isn’t a problem in the United States.

Fact: Although rabies is rare in the U.S., it’s still present. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly all cases have been attributed to unvaccinated animals.

Myth: Rabies is incurable.

Fact: If you allow a rabies infection to become established, there is no effective treatment and rabies is always life-threatening when left untreated. But there is a slim chance of survival after a rabies infection, and the key is getting immediate treatment with a series of shots that prevent the infection from taking hold.

Myth: Rabies is only transmitted by animal bites.

Fact: Although most people associate rabies with dog bites, it can also be transmitted by dog scratches and other wounds if there is fresh saliva present. You can also get rabies from a bite or scratch from some wild animals, like raccoons, foxes, and skunks. Rarely, airborne transmission of rabies has been found in caves with large bat populations.

Myth: Washing a dog bite wound won’t work.

Fact: According to the World Health Organization, one of the best things to do after a dog bite is to wash the wound immediately and thoroughly to limit your chances of getting rabies. But washing alone isn’t enough to treat rabies. Seek urgent medical care, including post-exposure vaccinations.

Myth: Rabies vaccines only work for a few months.

Fact: Rabies vaccines are quite effective in animals and last about a year. This is why it’s important to schedule a regular annual health checkup at the vet for your pet, where you can update all of their shots and keep everyone safe.

Myth: Indoor dogs and cats don’t need rabies vaccines.

Fact: It’s important to follow your veterinarian’s advice about whether your indoor animals need to be vaccinated. An indoor pet living in a rural environment could escape and be bitten by a rabid wild animal. Also, pets are often required to have rabies vaccinations by law for public safety. So check with your vet about local regulations.

Myth: It’s too expensive to vaccinate your dog.

Fact: At around $10 to $30, the rabies vaccine isn’t expensive, especially when you consider the cost that could be involved if your pet or human family member gets rabies. It costs an average of $3,000 to treat it in humans, and some people face bills as high as $40,000 to treat a case of full-blown rabies.

Schedule a rabies checkup now at Academy Animal Hospital.