When a new puppy is presented to me for vaccinations, I begin by doing a physical exam, I ask the owner some pertinent questions and then write down my recommended vaccination schedule. More often than not, the pet owner is incredulous when he discovers that the Rabies vaccine is not the first vaccine on my list.“Doc,” the pet owner will say, ”We just want the rabies shot for the puppy. We are just afraid that he might accidentally bite us and give us rabies.” It is at this point that I invariably launch into my “Puppies are not born with rabies” speech, and beginning with just these six simple words I have been able to dispel a long held erroneous belief among many a Filipino pet owner.
Far too many Filipinos are still stuck with the notion that Rabies is a poison (or kamandag) that a dog is born with – much like a poisonous snake is born with the ability to produce venom.
This is NOT TRUE! Rabies is NOT a poison or venom.
Rabies is a disease. Just like the common flu, Rabies is caused by a virus. A person or animal can get infected with the rabies virus when the virus-laden saliva of an infected animal comes into contact with the mucous membranes of an uninfected animal. This generally occurs through animal bites.
All mammals can get infected with rabies. That includes dogs and cats, and other common pets such as rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs to name a few examples of mammals that we live with. And, yes, that also includes humans.
An animal may be suspected of having rabies if it shows signs such as
- depression, a general change from normal behavior,
- difficulty in swallowing, which may manifest as an aversion towards water,
- foaming at the mouth due to excessive drooling,
- increased aggression,
- biting or attacking everything it sees,
- partial or complete paralysis, incoordination.
There is no specific cure for an infected animal and death soon follows when these clinical signs begin to show. The good news is that rabies is a completely preventable disease. Rabies vaccination administered through a subcutaneous injection at the appropriate age (generally 3 months old) protects the animal from getting rabies from other infected animals with which it may come into contact. This protection will last the animal for a very long time, and only needs to be re-administered once every year (as mandated by Philippine Law).
In summary, and because I have not said it enough, I want to make it clear: Puppies are NOT born with rabies. Rabies is caused by a virus. The rabies vaccination for dogs is given to protect the puppy or dog from getting infected with rabies. Puppies are NOT born with rabies!