Recent rabies cases highlight need to keep pets vaccinated

SEATTLE —Two cats from the Pacific Northwest  recently tested positive for rabies – the first such cases in more than a decade – and doctors from BluePearl Veterinary Partners are urging all pet owners to ensure their pets are current on their vaccinations.

The most recent incident was confirmed Friday, when Jefferson County public health officials reported a 2-year-old female cat from the Chimacum area had the deadly disease.  It’s the first reported case of rabies in a cat in Washington since 2002.

The other case is from Langlois, Ore., where a 6-year-old cat tested positive for rabies the week of Oct. 19. The state hasn’t had a case of feline rabies since 1999, Oregon Health Authority officials reported.

Dr. Beth Davidow, medical director for BluePearl in Washington, said the incidents are an important reminder to all pet owners to check with their family veterinarians to make sure pets are up-to-date on rabies vaccines.

“Vaccinating pets remains the most effective step people can take to protect themselves, their families and their pets against this deadly virus,” Davidow said.

Most domestic pets in the Pacific Northwest are exposed to rabies through contact with wild bats. Davidow notes that bats are known to occasionally get into houses via the chimney, which means all pets should be vaccinated – even those who don’t typically go outside.

If pets have not been vaccinated and are possibly exposed to rabies, a mandatory quarantine will be established in which the pet can’t have any human contact. As a worst-case scenario, euthanasia may be the only option, as it was for the cats in both of the recent cases.

In addition to keeping pets current on their vaccinations, Davidow also offered the following tips to prevent exposure to rabies:

  • Do not handle wild animals, especially bats.
  • Teach your children never to touch or handle bats, even dead ones. Have your children tell an adult if they find a bat at home, at school or with a pet.
  • If you see a wild animal, leave it alone.
  • Keep bats out of your living space by “bat proofing” your home.