Rabies is a potentially fatal viral infection that can be transmitted among mammals. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention maps the progression of the infection beginning with virus saliva entering muscle tissue, most often through a bite. Traveling along the nervous system, it can take a few weeks to a few months to reach the brain. The bitten animal shows no symptoms and is not contagious at this time, known as the incubation period.
Once the disease reaches the brain, the virus infects the salivary glands, and the animal shows signs of rabies and can spread the disease through biting. At this advanced stage, the animal usually dies within a week. For more information on rabies, visit the Disease Control website: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/.
It is important for your pet to be vaccinated against this disease on an annual basis. Austin and the surrounding area are home to raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks that often carry the virus. The state of Texas requires the inoculation by law to help prevent the spread of rabies, especially to humans. While humans have a treatment for the rabies virus with prompt medical attention, all pets need to be vaccinated yearly to keep them safe and healthy.
Austin's Town Lake Animal Center is holding free rabies vaccination clinics for dogs and cats. For the clinic schedule go to: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/health/animal_services_community.htm. Puppies and kittens must be at least 12 weeks old to receive the vaccine.