What is rabies?
Rabies is a horrific viral disease that is almost invariably fatal once symptoms appear. The disease can affect all mammals including dogs, cats, rodents and wild animals like bats and foxes. It is also zoonotic (which means it can spread from animals to people). Fortunately, thanks to long-term quarantine controls and The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) the UK continues to be free of rabies.
The disease is mainly prevalent in Asia, America and Africa, although some European countries are also affected. Indeed, rabies is so widespread that the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates 55,000 people die from the disease annually, mostly in rural areas of Africa and Asia. Around 10 million people receive treatment each year after being exposed to animals thought to have the disease.
Symptoms vary depending on species but can include loss of appetite, fever, seizures, salivation, paralysis, aggression, fear of water and ultimately death. The disease has an incubation period from 9 days to a few months, although symptoms usually occur within 4 weeks of being infected.
What causes rabies?
Rabies is spread by the bite of an animal infected with the rabies virus and dogs are the main source of rabies infection in people.
There is no specific treatment for rabies in animals, although post-exposure vaccination and therapy can be very helpful if administered early enough in human exposure cases.
PETS requires pets travelling abroad to be vaccinated against rabies. For further information on taking pets abroad, please contact the Pet Travel Scheme Helpline on 0870 241 1710 or visit your vet.