Rabies is one of the most severe viral infections in the world because there is no cure, and infections always result in death. Cats, dogs, humans, and all other mammals are at risk for rabies virus infection. In Minnesota, wildlife is the source rabies infection with skunks, bats, foxes, and raccoons being the most common species involved.

Rabies is transmitted in the saliva (spit) of an infected animal. When the animal bites or scratches another animal or person and spit with the virus enters the skin, the virus travels up the nerves of the body where it eventually reaches the brain. It is very important that the virus does not enter the brain or other organs because once it does, there is no way to stop it from killing the infected individual.

Rabies virus has to different forms- furious and dumb. They have very different signs.

Furious Form:

  • foaming at the mouth
  • aggression and other erratic behavior
  • tremors and seizures

Dumb Form:

  • dull mentation (staring into space)
  • lethargy/laziness
  • drooling
  • unresponsiveness

The rabies virus can live in the body for a long time before signs are shown, but the most common time until animals show signs is 21-80 days in dogs and 24-42 days in cats. Any encounter between your pet and a wild animal should be considered a potential rabies exposure.

It is VERY important that every cat and dog receive the vaccination against rabies early in life and continue to keep it up to date all their lives. If a dog or cat is not vaccinated for rabies and bites a human, they will need to be quarantined for 10 days to see if they show signs of the disease. You will have to pay for this time in quarantine. Also, if you pet is bitten by a wild animal suspected of having rabies, it will have to be quarantined for 2 months, again at your expense.