Thursday, April 16, 2015

Protect Your Pet Against Rabies

While the number of animals positive for rabies in the southeast has been reduced over the last several years, there is still a substantial rabies problem in the southeast. Please keep in mind that the purpose of this topic is not to provoke fear of every wild or unknown domestic animal you come across, but to stress the importance of rabies vaccines in pets.  

The best way to keep your pet safe from rabies is to make sure he/she stays current on their vaccinations. In fact, it is the law in NC that any dog, cat or ferret over four months of age, residing in North Carolina be kept current on their rabies vaccines. According to NC law, when a cat, dog or ferret that has not been previously vaccinated receives it's initial rabies vaccine, the animal is considered "currently vaccinated" 28 days after the date of the initial vaccine. In most cases, initial rabies vaccines are good for 1 year, subsequent vaccines are good for 3 years as long as there is no lapse in time from when the vaccine is due. Since there are different manufacturers of rabies vaccine, the state defers to the label of the particular vaccine your pet received.    

Within the first 28 days of the initial vaccine, owners should be particularly careful that their pets are not exposed to wild animals/feral animals, unvaccinated animals and any animal that may have exposure to any of the above. If an exposure situation takes place and your pet is not past the initial 28 days, in the eyes of the law your pet is not considered current and could be ordered euthanized or quarantined for up to six months by the state, at your expense. The ultimate decisions in these cases are made by the public health director in your county, not by your family veterinarians who are under very strict guidelines regarding cases like these. Also, your family veterinarian can not under any circumstances exempt your pet (in the eyes of the law) from the rabies requirement even if the pet is ill or has a reaction to the vaccine itself.

Some Examples to Consider:
Keep in mind these are just basic examples and that further measures may apply, as per the public health director.

Situation: A pet that is current on its rabies vaccine bites someone (even the owner).
Per NC Law: The bite must be reported to animal control and the animal must be quarantined for 10 days at the owners expense. Depending on the situation, an in home quarantine may be allowed.  

Situation: A pet who is current on its rabies vaccine catches and kills a bat that comes back positive for rabies.
Per NC Law: The pet must have a rabies booster within 5 days of exposure. Other confinement measures may apply.

Situation: A pet who is not current on its rabies vaccination attacks a wild animal. The wild animal escapes, rendering it unavailable for testing.
Per NC Law: The pet must be quarantined in an approved quarantine facility for six months at the owners expense or euthanized.

The list goes on and on and we see these things time and time again in the veterinary industry with variations here and there. The indisputable facts are: Six month quarantines are extremely expensive. The animals are not allowed family visits. It is very difficult for the animal as well as the family when their pets are in long term quarantine. If you are treated at a hospital or urgent care for an animal bite, by law it is automatically reported to the health department and animal control for follow up. If your veterinarian is made aware that you have been bitten by your pet, your pet has been attacked by a wild or feral animal or your pet bites a staff member, the veterinarian is required by law to report it.

The bottom line is that rabies vaccines are relatively inexpensive in relation to quarantines and other issues that come along with these situations. It is not only the right thing to do for you, your pet and your family, but it is also the law.

For more information on rabies, vaccines and North Carolina law on this subject, please visit

Monroe Road Animal Hospital will be offering a reduced cost rabies vaccine clinic from May 4th through May 9th. The cost is 10.00 and no appointment is required.

-Your Friends at Monroe Road Animal Hospital

(Michelle Ray-Hospital Administrator)      

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