RALEIGH, N.C. — Rabies is an extremely serious disease that can be dangerous for both you and your pet.
A cat taken to the Wake County SPCA last week tested positive for rabies, which prompted a warning that everyone should understand the disease is a threat to both people and animals in the state.
"Unfortunately, finding rabies in animals in our community is not uncommon," veterinarian Dr. Mary Ann McBride said.
The veterinarian said that every pet should be vaccinated by 16 weeks of age, but booster shots must be maintained.
"That first vaccine is good for one year, and then every vaccine thereafter is good for three years," she said.
The cat had to be euthanized. Once you see signs of the disease, it is already too late.
"The only reasonable outcome is to euthanize it, because it is a quite traumatic and painful illness and 100 percent of the time results in the death of the animal," said Jay Levine of the N.C. State College of Veterinary Medicine.
Currently, exposed humans have to go through a serious of five shots over a 28-day period with one at the site of a bite. The worst part of the process may be the expense. It costs $5,000 to $8,000 for the treatment.
"That's an expensive lesson to learn rather than paying $5 for a rabies vaccination for your dog," Dr. Lee Hunter, a veterinarian said.
Another point is avoiding contact with wild animals, particularly raccoons, who account for the vast majority of cases in the state.
"We need to not approach wild animals. We need to not make pets out of them, not think that they are sweet and cuddly, and just because you can feed raccoons off the back deck and they look tame, they are not tame," Hunter said.
If you think your pet may have tangled with a wild animal, experts say to put on gloves and get it to a veterinarian for a careful examination.