Rabies is a viral disease which can affect all mammals. It causes severe damage in the brain which leads to death. Worldwide, rabies is a huge problem causing 24,000-60,000 humans deaths every year, mainly in Asia and Africa. Rabies is transmitted through saliva of infected animals and the most common route of infection is dog bites. Mission Rabies is a charity working to reduce the number of human cases of rabies in Asia and Africa through vaccination of dogs. Click here to donate to this project.Signs of rabies in an animal include behavioural changes, usually becoming more aggressive although some animals may just become very withdrawn. This then progresses to unco-ordination, paralysis, difficulty swallowing and death. Death usually occurs within a week or two of the development of clinical signs, however the actual infection can occur many months before clinical signs develop.
Fortunately, rabies can be prevented by vaccination and some countries are free of the disease altogether. The United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand keep their rabies-free status by ensuring that all cats, dogs and ferrets entering the countries are vaccinated against rabies and have a period after the vaccination where they do not travel, with a quarantine period as well depending on which country is involved.
In the UK, vaccination against rabies is not necessary for animals remaining in the country, however those travelling, or those wishing to enter the UK from another country, must be vaccinated. Under the Pet Travel Scheme, dogs, cats and ferrets should be at least 12 weeks, or 3 months, old for their rabies vaccination and then must wait 3 weeks after the vaccination before travelling. Most rabies vaccines licensed in the UK require booster vaccinations every 3 years, however some countries do require annual vaccination. You should check the requirements with the country you are travelling to.