Rabies in Hamilton
Rabies is a viral disease found worldwide in all mammals. This disease affects the brain and causes changes in behaviour, severe neurologic signs, followed by seizures, coma, and eventually death. Rabies is a fatal and untreatable disease.
Rabies is spread through contact with bodily fluids of infected animals, including blood and saliva. The most common mode of transmission is through bite wounds; however any contact with a rabid animal carries a risk of infection. In Ontario, rabies is found in several species of wild animal including skunks, racoons, and bats. Rabies is capable of infecting all domestic mammalian species, including cats, dogs, horses, and people.
Current government regulations requires all cats and dogs to be protected from rabies through regular vaccination. Several types of vaccine exist in Ontario, which require boosters every 1-3 years. Animals up to date on vaccinations have a very, very low risk of infection; even if they are exposed to an infected animal.
Cats that go outdoors may come in contact with rabies through bats, foxes, raccoons, or skunks. As many of our cats are kept indoors, the largest rabies threat to our feline population comes from contact with bats. Bats commonly find their way into houses where they are caught, eaten, and played with by pet cats. Cats may be infected through biting or eating bats, or by being bitten by them. The small tooth size of most Ontario bats means that bite wounds are often missed or overlooked by owners and veterinarians. Each year, several bats in the Hamilton area test positive for rabies, and many more are likely present in the wild.
Recently, racoons in Hamilton have tested positive for rabies. These are the first cases of rabies detected in racoons in this area in several years (the last reported case occurred in 2005). This presents a significant threat to humans, dogs, and cats in Hamilton.
Cats infected with rabies may not show any signs for weeks, months, or even years after exposure. Once clinical signs develop, the disease is rapidly fatal. Cats may infect people or other animals for up to 10 days before showing signs. Keeping your cat up to date on their rabies vaccination is essential for the health and well - being of your cat and your family.
Cornell Feline Health Center
Ontario Rabies Legislation
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Bottoms K, Trotz-Williams L, Hutchison S, MacLeod J, Dixon J, et al. An evaluation of rabies vaccination rates among canines and felines involved in biting incidents within the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health Department. Zoonoses Public Health. 2014 Nov;61(7):499-508. PubMed PMID: 24628865.
Frymus T, Addie D, Belák S, Boucraut-Baralon C, Egberink H, et al. Feline rabies ABCD guidelines on prevention and management. J Feline Med Surg. 2009 Jul;11(7):585-93. PubMed PMID: 19481038.