Rabies Precautions Urged For Pet Owners

Encounters Involving Pets & Rabies-Infected Wildlife Trigger Advisory

PITTSBURGH – The Allegheny County Health Department is cautioning pet owners to vaccinate dogs and cats against rabies, keep them away from wildlife as well as stray animals, and take appropriate actions to protect themselves and their pet if such encounters should occur.

“We have had several encounters this month between rabid animals and pets.  Protect your family and your pet by having your pet vaccinated against rabies,” said Acting Health Director Dr. Ron Voorhees.

When pet owners keep their pet’s rabies vaccination up to date, their pet is less likely to develop the disease after an encounter with a rabid animal.  However, when unvaccinated or not up to date with its shots, a pet is much more likely to get rabies and die after such an encounter and possibly pass the deadly virus on to humans.

Spending time outdoors makes a pet more likely to have an encounter with wildlife or a stray animal that might be rabid, so health officials are recommending these precautions to reduce the risk of rabies:

  • Make sure your pet is protected.  State law requires that dogs and cats be rabies vaccinated and booster shots be given periodically to maintain lifelong immunity.
  • Keep yourself and your pet away from stray animals and wildlife, especially raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats, species that are high-risk carriers of the rabies virus. 
  • When a raccoon or other wildlife approaches you or your pet, don’t go near it and back away.  If it comes on your property, chances are it will go away but if it doesn’t and becomes threatening, call local animal control, the police or the game commission.
  • If your pet encounters wildlife or a stray animal, especially if it is bitten or comes in contact with their saliva, wear rubber gloves when handling your pet, cleanse  any wounds with soap and water and take it to a veterinarian for examination.
  • If you are ever bitten, scratched or otherwise exposed to saliva from wildlife or a stray animal, cleanse the contact area with soap and water, seek emergency medical treatment and report the incident to the Allegheny County Health Department by calling 412-687-ACHD (2243).

Rabies exposures typically occur through a break in the skin that comes in contact with an infected animal’s saliva.  The disease is almost always fatal when left untreated.

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