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Rabies Precautions
What Is Rabies?
The rabies virus is a disease that can pass from animals to people. Humans can get rabies if bitten or scratched by an infected animal, or by an infected animal’s saliva passing coming into contact with the human’s mucous membranes (such as inside the nose or mouth). Pets, people, livestock, and wildlife are at risk for contracting rabies. Humans are at risk when they are exposed to infected pets, or unvaccinated animals such raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes and some bats.  Vaccinating pets against rabies is vital in protecting public health and is required by law.

Types of Rabies
There are two different types of rabies: Dumb and Furious. Each affects a different part of the brain, causing different symptoms.

People and animals exhibiting symptoms of Furious rabies are violent and suffer headaches, high fever, irritability, restlessness and anxiety, muscle pain, excessive salivation and vomiting. It is when suffering from Furious rabies that a person or animal is likely to attack those near them and spread the disease.
People and animals exhibiting symptoms of Dumb rabies is less will become subdued, often suffering from depression, and partial or total paralysis. They may be very thirsty. It is much harder for a doctor to diagnose rabies in its "dumb" form than it is in its "furious" form, as the symptoms are less indicative of a specific medical issue.

Foaming at the mouth, change of vocal tone, and other unusual activity have also been noted in animals with both types rabies.

Anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to rabies should immediately seek medical treatment; rabies is nearly always fatal to humans once symptoms are apparent.

For more on rabies, visit the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health websites.


Tips For Protection

Rabies in dogs has nearly been eradicated thanks to vigilant vaccination efforts. Like dogs, cats and ferrets in Hillsborough County are required to have current vaccinations and corresponding County registration rabies tags.

How To Keep Your Family Safe

  • Do not attempt to handle stray animals including feral cats.
  • Do not feed or attempt to handle wildlife.
  • Don't allow pets to roam; confine them on your property.
  • Don't feed pets outdoors or leave food scraps.
  • Get pre-exposure rabies vaccine if you work in certain animal professions.
  • Keep pet vaccinations and tags up to date.
  • Secure trash, which may attract animals like raccoons.
   If Bitten By An Animal

  • For wildlife, confine the animal safely if possible; do not kill the animal as the brain tissue may need to be tested.
  • Get pet owner's name, address and proof of vaccination information.
  • If your pet has been bitten, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Report the bite to Animal Services at 813-744-5660.
  • Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water, and call your doctor.

For more on rabies, visit the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health.


Rabies Shots For Pets
While adopted pets leave the shelter vaccinated, the County cannot provide vaccinations or other private veterinary care for owned pets. However, many excellent family veterinarians are located across Hillsborough County. For a partial list, contact the Hillsborough County Veterinary Medical Society or the Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation.

Other resources include the Wellness Clinic at The Humane Society of Tampa Bay and the Animal Coalition of Tampa.

Additionally, many local feed stores also offer low cost rabies vaccinations, especially on weekends. Please check directory listings for locations near you.

For more information, call the Animal Services main number at 813-744-5660.