Rabies is a fatal viral infection that is transmitted primarily through bite wounds. Skunks, bats, raccoons, and foxes are the primary carriers of the disease. Rabies is also fatal to humans; there has been only one case of a person surviving rabies when treatment was started after clinical signs were present.
Each state varies in its rabies law; most states require rabies vaccine every three years for adult pets, but in some states they are required annually. Puppies are vaccinated when three to four months of age against rabies, and then again one year later.
If a person or a pet is bitten by an unknown or unvaccinated animal (dog, cat, or wild animal), the local health department or your veterinarian should be consulted immediately. The animal that did the biting should be apprehended, if possible, and your veterinarian or local health official should be contacted immediately. A test can be done on the offending animal to see if rabies is present, but it does require the animal be euthanized because the test can only be done on the brain.
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