All dogs and cats must be vaccinated for rabies in accordance with state law. The statute from Texas Health and Safety Code Chapter 826.021 reads as follows.
826.021. Vaccination of Dogs and Cats Required:
- Except as otherwise provided by board rule, the owner of a dog or cat shall have the animal vaccinated against rabies by the time the animal is four months of age and at regular intervals thereafter as prescribed by board rule.
- A veterinarian who vaccinates a dog or cat against rabies shall issue to the animal's owner a vaccination certificate in a form that meets the minimum standards approved by the board.
- A county or municipality may not register or license an animal that has not been vaccinated in accordance with this section.
How Rabies Can Be Controlled
Man and all mammals are susceptible to rabies, and it can be fatal. The disease is transmitted by an infected animal's biting or licking. The virus enters the victim's body through a break in the skin, or rarely, through mucus membranes (eyes, nose, throat). Rabies affects the central nervous system. It may take from ten days to over a year to develop; however, exposed people can be successfully treated before the development of symptoms by a series of vaccinations.
Rabies infection is detected by a laboratory examination of the suspect's brain tissue. Wildlife rabies is a major source of infection for domestic animals, including pets. The disease may be transmitted to man either by infected wild or domestic animals. Contrary to popular belief, rabies occurs in all seasons and in all sections of the country.
Things To Watch Out For
- Bold, friendly, or apparently tame wild animals.
- Night animals, like skunks and foxes that are seen in the daytime.
- Pets that have difficulty walking, eating, or drinking.
- Signs of excitement or viciousness in normally quiet animals.
- Animals that tear at or scratch an old wound until it bleeds.
- Cattle that "strain" for long periods.
- Bats that are unable to fly.
In the early stages, the personality of pets may change. A normally friendly dog may stay alone; another may begin to seek more attention. Some animals scratch at the place the virus entered their bodies. Later, symptoms follow a furious pattern, a dumb (paralytic) pattern, or a combination of both.
Furious symptoms include excitement and viciousness, roaming, unusual noises, and a tendency to attack anything attracting the animal’s attention. Such animals may snap at anything, including themselves. They tend to "drool," and their saliva may be mixed with blood. They may swallow objects such as stones and sticks. These symptoms progress to paralysis and, eventually death.
Dumb symptoms include difficulty in chewing, swallowing, and drinking, or trouble walking. An animal may not be able to close its mouth. People have been exposed by trying to clear the throats of such animals, which may seem to be choking. Paralysis spreads throughout the body until death. Parts paralyzed by rabies are limp, not rigid or stiff. A Veterinarian should be consulted immediately when any of these signs are first noted.
What to Do if Bitten
If bitten by an animal, treat the bite as if the animal were rabid, and follow these steps, they may save your life:
- Identify the animal - by kind, size color, and place. Caution children to seek the help of a policeman, school guard or other adult.
- Immediately cleanse the wound thoroughly by washing with soap and water. Rinse well and disinfect with alcohol, iodine, or other disinfectants. This lessens the chance of contracting rabies by removing or inactivating virus in the wound.
- See a doctor immediately after washing the wound. The physician will decide on need for treatment to prevent rabies.
- Report the incident to the local health officer and animal control agency.
- If possible, have the biting dog or cat tested for rabies or placed under observation. If it is alive and normal after ten days of observation, the animal was not infected for rabies at the time of the bite.
The ten day observation period is not valid for animals other than dogs and cats because no information is available as to when the virus is excreted in the saliva of other animal. For more information on rabies please visit the Texas Department of State Health Services website.