Rabies is scary.

So, turns out 2011 marks 250 years of veterinary medicine. This past Saturday, April 30, was World Veterinary Day. The theme this year was: RABIES. Scary stuff. So I thought I’d dedicate a post to Rabies!

For many people in Canada, rabies is a disease you have to vaccinate your dog and cat against because it’s the law. Or because it’s strongly encouraged. Or because you intend to take Fluffy or Fido across the border to the US. Not a lot of people seem to think of rabies as a disease you’re actually going to find here in Canada. Those people are wrong.

In 2010 there were 123 cases of rabies confirmed in animals in Canada. None in Newfoundland (yay!), but Newfoundland is not rabies free – there have been positive cases here in the past. The last confirmed case on the island of Newfoundland was  in 2003. In Canada, it is required by federal law to report all suspicious cases to federal officials (CFIA or RCMP).

The most common animals to spread rabies in Canada are bats, foxes, skunks and raccoons. Rabies is definitely a human health risk – some facts from the World Veterinary Association: Rabies is the most fatal infectious disease in the world. One person dies from rabies every 10 minutes. Most victims of rabies are children. 99% of human cases are caused by bites from infected dogs. Animal vaccination remains the method of choice to control and eradicate rabies.

Canada is definitely not a high risk area for rabies, but it’s here, and you don’t want to mess around with it. In 2007, a man in Alberta died from rabies. Before that, a man in Bristish Columbia died in 2003. These were both from rabid bat exposure. A young boy died in Quebec in 2000, from bat rabies. Previous to that, there hadn’t been a rabies related death in Canada since 1985.

So if a rabies vaccination is not required in your area, and you live in a country where rabies occurs (which is worldwide with few exceptions), you may want to go ahead and talk to your veterinarian about it. People can get vaccinated for it as well – good idea if you work with animals (yes, I’m vaccinated), plan on travelling to a country that’s considered high risk (anywhere with lots of stray dogs and rabies – a deadly combo. Think: India, Thailand. . . ), or if you’re a spelunker! (caves full of bats = rabies waiting to happen.)

“Do I really have to vaccinate my dog against rabies?” is a question I’m often asked in the exam room. While it’s not a required vaccine in Newfoundland, I definitely encourage it.

If you want to know more, here’s some links!

Site listing “rabies free countries”

Rabies risk among travellers

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Rabies cases in animals in Canada

Public Health Agency of Canada


About dottiemaggie

A veterinarian living and working in St John's, Newfoundland. I love my job, and I love my home. Professionally I am passionate about critical care and client education. Away from work I am passionate about enjoying life, spending time with friends, enjoying hobbies of all sorts, and exploring this wonderful province I call home.
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10 Responses to Rabies is scary.

  1. JaniceP says:

    When I lived in the Magdalen Islands, my next door neighbours had a great dog that I used to “borrow” and take for walks. He was a snow dog, and I loved watching him bounce around in the drifts. Sadly, his owners hadn’t gotten him vaccined for rabies and he got it (not sure how, but he was an outdoor dog so there were a lot of opportunities). By the time they got him to the vet, it was too late and he died a horrible death. No dog should have to go through that, when a simple shot is all that’s needed to prevent it.

  2. omawarisan says:

    The most fatal infectious disease in the world…I’d never have guessed.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      honestly, me neither! I was reading an article about World Veterinarian Day and read that factoir and was like “holy shitballs!” and started reading into it. Hence, the blog post ;D

  3. linlah says:

    We vaccinate our dog cause it’s the right thing to do.

  4. um yea, rabies is pretty much a necessary shot here in the US.

    not that i’ve ever had a dog but i hear people yapping about it.

    see? this why i don’t do pets. i mean, last thing i need to worry about is Lassie dying of rabies.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      A dog needs a rabies vaccine to cross the border into the US, so I gather it’s a necessary shot down there.

      Yeah, I could see how you and a dog could be a bad combination. . . he looks askance at his water dish and you’d diagnose him with rabies and be bawling in no time. Though I think I’d enjoy you as a client. 😉

  5. Kate says:

    All our animals have been vaccinated. Except maybe our cat needs another one-good reminder. It’s no joke, I didn’t really understand how serious it was though. I thought since our cat never went outside and the only animals that she’s ever exposed to are our dogs, she couldn’t get it. Better safe than sorry though, so I’ll have to call our vet.

    When Josh worked at a bank, there was a cat stuck in the rain gutter of the bank and Josh was voted to go get the cat out because he has a messed up shoulder on his left side which results in him being able to get into places that he shouldn’t. He got the cat out but not before the cat bit him and ran off. Since the cat couldn’t be tested he had to go and get rabies shots just in case. It was a huge pain (both in the arse and the shots were painful, many, and because he had to go in so many times).

    • dottiemaggie says:

      yikes! I do not envy anyone who has to go through the post exposure vaccination :S Even vaccinated, I’d have to get a shot if I was exposed.. but not nearly as many as Josh had to get!!

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