Rabies Cases Increasing In Ontario

Doon Animal Hospital

A threat to our pet’s health that we thought was going away seems to be making a comeback: rabies!

At one time there were a considerable number of rabies cases annually in Ontario. As a high school co-op student in the ‘90s I travelled with some large animal vets in Perth County and was exposed to a rabid cow. This was followed by a vaccination and a series of immunoglobulin injections that I can’t say that I enjoyed.

Between 1958 and 1990, there was an average of 1500 cases of rabies each year! Vaccination has made a huge impact on these numbers and in 2001 there were only 217 rabies cases and in 2011 only 6 cases!!! However, since December of last year, there have been 128 new cases, mostly related to a new strain of rabies called raccoon variant, whereas previously we saw a fox strain of rabies. Most cases are in raccoons, skunks and bats. Most cases have been in Hamilton area but some around Stratford. So vets in Kitchener are right in the middle of these cases and we need to be aware of its threat!

Transmission of rabies is almost always by a bite. The clinical signs of rabies include an acute behaviour change and an unexplained progressive paralysis.

Vaccination is tremendously effective. We carry a rabies vaccine for dogs that, if given twice 12 months apart, can be give just once every 3 years. Most vet clinics in Kitchener carry this vaccine but some still use the annual vaccine. We carry a non adjuvanted rabies vaccine for cats which is an annual vaccine. If the cat is indoors only, I will often go off label and give every other year. Previous rabies vaccines had some rare problems in cats that, while rare, were blamed on the adjuvant. Vaccination is an extremely effective preventative against rabies!