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Apr 23, 2018

Rabies Awareness

Garden State Veterinary Specialists


Rabies is a viral disease that affects both animals and people.  It is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal, most often by a bite.  In the United States, rabies occurs mostly in wild animals such as raccoons, foxes, bats, skunks and groundhogs.  In 2017, there were 208 animal cases of rabies in New Jersey.  This includes 22 cases in Monmouth County.  Because nearly all animals and people who have rabies die from this disease, prevention is the key to keeping your household rabies-free.

The first step to prevention is vaccination.  All dogs and cats should be vaccinated for rabies.  This is particularly important for cats. Cats that never go outside have been known to come in contact with wildlife inside the home. In New Jersey, cats have accounted for 90 percent of the domestic animal cases seen each year for the past five years.  Cats are also more likely to roam and encounter wild animals.  Vaccines are available from your veterinarian or at a community vaccine clinic.  It is important to note that dogs and cats are not considered to be protected from rabies until 30 days after receiving the vaccine.

Most dogs and cats get rabies from exposure to a rabid wild animal such as a raccoon or fox. Keeping your cat indoors or your dog on a leash and under your direct control decreases the risk that they will come in contact with a rabid animal.

Report all stray animals to your local Animal Control. You should also report any suspicious wildlife. This would include animals who are behaving abnormally or nocturnal animals that are out during the day. Animals that have rabies may appear sick, weak, walking as if they are drunk, or they may even appear normal. Do not feed or handle wildlife.  Don’t provide an incentive for wildlife to come into your yard.  Keep garbage cans tightly covered and do not leave pet food outside. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, or you are concerned that your pet has been exposed to rabies, you should immediately contact your veterinarian. If animal control is able to capture wildlife suspected of having rabies, testing can be performed by the New Jersey Department of Health.

If a person is bitten or comes in contact with a potentially rabid animal they should seek immediate medical attention and ensure that the New Jersey Department of Health is contacted so that the appropriate testing and treatment steps are taken. For more information on rabies in animals and people, contact your local health department, your veterinarian or check these websites, or