Your pet’s loving licks can be dangerous if it has not been vaccinated.

“Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer.” I am sure all dog lovers agree with Dean Koontz but how many know that a dog’s loving lick may be fatal? Rabies is a viral infection transmitted through wild or unvaccinated domestic animal bites. The disease affects the brain and spinal cord and can cause death, if left untreated.

How it happens

The infection occurs when the virus is introduced into wounds, open cuts or mucous membranes from the saliva of the infected animal. However, most people think that the virus is transmitted only through the bite of an infected dog. Actually there is a chance of transmission from the saliva (a lick, for instance) into the body through a wound or broken skin. Who would go to a doctor because your dog licked you on a wound or a scratch?

The lack of tests to diagnose the infection in humans ia big challenge. Clinical diagnosis is possible only after onset of disease. The incubation period may vary from one week to three months. The major symptoms are difficulty in swallowing water, anxiety and hydrophobia.

The WHO has categorised rabies infection into three categories and has recommended post-exposure measures for each There is no post-exposure measure for category I (touching or feeding animals, licks on intact skin). In the second category, immediate vaccination and local treatment of the wound is advised (nibbling of uncovered skin, minor scratches or abrasions without bleeding). In the third category (transdermal bites or scratches, licks on broken skin, exposures to bats) post-exposure treatment includes immediate vaccination and administration of rabies immunoglobulin along with local treatment. The importance of timely treatment cannot be overemphasised as this can prevent symptoms from developing.

There are two kinds of rabies vaccines: intramuscular and intradermal. Intramuscular is more commonly used in India. The victim is given five doses of the injection in a particular interval: day 0, 3, 7, 14, and 28. D(ay 0 is when the first dose is given) In the case of intradermal schedule, the day 14 dose is absent.

The most effective way to prevent rabies is by vaccinating dogs. Hence rabies is also called vaccine-preventable disease. Pre-exposure immunisation is also recommended for children as they are at particular risk. So, this is a message for all dog lovers: get your dog vaccinated and enjoy your pet’s love.

Keywords: vaccinationrabiesdogs