Rabies in California

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call San Bruno Pet — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Recently there has been an increase in rabies in our area. The California Department of Public Health has declared California endemic for rabies. And the County of San Mateo has had reported cases in domestic animals, including cats. For this reason, we have recently changed our recommendations, and now strongly suggest vaccinating all cats, including indoor-only cats.

Rabies is a fatal disease for people or any animal unlucky enough to be exposed through a bite or scratch to the saliva of a rabid animal, so extra precautions must be taken to protect us all. That includes precautions for you as owners, the pets, and our staff. Because of this, we are now requiring a current rabies vaccine for grooming or boarding with us.

There’s always the chance, however small, that an indoor-only cat might sneak outdoors through an open window or door. If an unvaccinated cat or dog is bitten or scratched by a wild animal, the consequences could be quite severe. This includes a public health mandated six-month quarantine, or in rare cases even euthanasia! However, if an animal is up-to-date on her rabies vaccination and exposed to wild animal, the law simply requires a rabies booster and a 30 day quarantine at home.

Similar consequences might occur if a cat were to bite someone. Even the most calm and loving cat may be frightened or painful and sometimes bite unexpectedly.

These penalties mandated by the public health department may seem overly severe, but remember that rabies is a fatal disease, and once the signs appear, there is no effective treatment. About 50,000 people die worldwide from rabies each year. Luckily, the numbers in the US are far smaller, thanks to strong vaccination programs.

For all of the above reasons, we strongly encourage our clients to vaccinate their cats for rabies. If you are not sure if your pet is up to date on their rabies vaccine, you can call the hospital, and we will be happy to give you information regarding you pet’s vaccine status. Also remember, that if your pet has had a serious health problem, such as autoimmune disease or a serious vaccine reaction to the rabies vaccine, we would be happy to write a letter exempting your pet from the rabies vaccine requirement. And if the exemption is approved by the health department, your pet can, unfortunately, still be required to be quarantined, just as any other unvaccinated pet.

By Dr. Yael Blass, DVM, San Bruno Pet Hospital