Rabies Vaccination

Rabies is a virus which causes acute encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) which is  spread through saliva through an open wound in broken skin.

From the time of exposure to the onset of symptoms (known as the incubations period), is about one month in humans, and three to eight weeks in dogs and cats. The virus is only treatable during the incubation period. If left untreated and symptoms arise, the virus is untreatable and death is certain.

Symptoms in humans include: difficulty swallowing, slight or partial paralysis, increase in saliva, difficulty swallowing, hydrophobia, insomnia, anxiety, and confusion.

A dog infected with rabies will start to exhibit symptoms of nervousness, apprehension, anxiety, and fever. After a few days of these symptoms, the infected will dog will start to become more aggressive, irritable, and vicious. The infected dog will eventually become more disoriented, show signs of paralysis and labored breathing, and will eventually die of respiratory failure.

Each year, around 55,000 people die of rabies worldwide. Thankfully, the United States has laws requiring pet owners to vaccinate their pets. Vaccination has eradicated rabies in  some parts of the world and has reduced the number of cases of death caused by rabies in the US to around 3 to 6 cases a year.

Rabies is a preventable disease due to vaccination, which is the best way to combat rabies. In a nut shell, a vaccine is used to help the body prepare for future contact with a disease causing pathogen. After receiving a vaccine, the body is more able to identify a pathogen, which results in shorter duration of illness or no illness at all.

In the rabies vaccine for dogs (the particular product called Rabvac 3) contains a “dead” virus which cannot replicate or cause disease. A substance called an adjuvant (typically composed of aluminum) is added to the vaccine to elicit an immune response from the body. More antibodies are created as a result of the immune response created by the adjuvant. The vaccine also contains neomycin and polymyxin, which are antibiotics. Amphotericin B is added as an antifungal. The ingredient thimerosal is added as a preservative, antifungal, and antiseptic to extend the shelf-life of a vaccine and to keep other pathogens out.

In Omaha, dogs, cats, and mini-pigs are required to be vaccinated for rabies every three years. Every local government has their own laws. If you live in the Omaha area, be sure to check out the Nebraska Humane Society’s page about responsible pet ownership. It explains when your animal needs to be vaccinated as well as other general city ordinances for which pet owners should be aware.



Breed of the Month: Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Photo by Michael Tafford: traffordphotos.com

Description: The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a medium sized dog. It is very muscular dog with a smooth and short coat which comes in the colors black, white, blue, fawn, red, and brindle. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier shares ancestry with the American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier so, they share many characteristics like the broad head, small ears and strong legs.

History: Prior to the early eighteenth century, some dogs were bred for such heinous bloodsports as bull baiting and bear baiting; entertainment for both the well-to-do and the common man. The dogs that fought in these battles were “Bull and Terrier” dogs and were a predecessor to the Staffordshire Bull Terrier we know today.

In 1835, the United Kingdom outlawed bull baiting and bear baiting. Despite being illegal, dog fighting gained in popularity since it was cheaper to organize and easier to hide from authorities. The bulldog, mixed with terrier, possessed agility, ferocity, tenacity, indomitability, and qualities better suited to fight other dogs.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier would later make a trek across the Atlantic ocean to the USA where it would be bread with larger dogs to create the American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier.

Size: Males:13-17 inches at the withers, weighing 30-40 pounds. Females: 13-15 inches at the withers, weighing 23-35 pounds.

Temperament: Although they possess a muscular appearance which tends to make them appear intimidating, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is seldom wary of strangers and is not typically suited for guard or attack purposes. Staffordshire Bull Terriers are said to a perfect “all-purpose” dog that is very loving of its family and known to be good with children. The Stafford has a tendency to be combative with other dogs so, socializing while young is very important. However, like with any dog, the Staffie needs stern correction from, not one but, all members of the family and a pack order needs to be set, with humans in control.

Health: Cataracts (clouding in the lens of the eye, compromising vision); L2HGA (L-2-hydroxyglutaric aciduria) (mild motor and neurological abnormalities, seizures); persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous (congenital developmental anomaly of the eye); and distichia (eyelashes that arise from unusual places on the eyelid).

Before purchasing a Staffie, it is recommended that the dog screened for L2HGA.

Lifespan: The Staffie has a lifespan of approximately12-14 years. To put that number into perspective, lets take a look back at the article I published about Dog Longevity:

“The mean age at death (all breeds, all causes) was 11 years one month, but in dogs dying of natural causes it was 12 years eight months. Only 8 percent of dogs lived beyond 15…

According to this data from the British Veterinary Association, the Staffie lives within the mean age of all dogs and lives an average to above average lifespan compared to the average dog.

Trivia: Famous conservationist and TV star, Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, was an owner of a Staffie named Sui. He would eventually name his daughter, Bindi Sue, after his Staffie. Irwin’s dog Sui accompanied the Crocodile Hunter on nearly all of his expeditions, helping Irwin catch literally thousands of snakes, crocodiles, and feral pigs. Sui, age 16, died in 2004 after battling cancer.