Did you know that the Philippines is one of the top 10 countries in the world where rabies remains a major public health concern? According to the World Health Organization, up to 300 Filipinos die each year due to rabies, one-third of them children less than 15 years old. Dogs are responsible for 99 percent of rabies transmission to humans.
Executive Order 89, series of 1999, declared March as Rabies Awareness Month, a nationwide information campaign, followed by the mass immunization of dogs and cats in key areas for free. “To declare the Philippines rabies-free by 2022” is the vision of the Department of Health.
Help make that happen by following these five suggestions from Maricelle Navales Licuanan, a practicing veterinarian for 19 years, and founder of the Philippine Pet Birth Control Center Foundation. “Rabies is 100 percent preventable,” she says, “but the community has to be proactive.”
Rabies Prevention Tip #1: Have Your Dog or Cat Vaccinated Annually
It’s the easiest way for you and your pet to avoid being infected by the rabies virus. Depending on the type of vaccine used (for dogs, there are 1-year and 3-year vaccines; for cats, a 1-year vaccine), rabies vaccinations are given annually, the succeeding ones as booster shots.
Inquire with your local government unit (LGU) about getting rabies vaccinations for your pets. “LGUs give them for free,” says Dr. Maricelle. (IN PHOTOS: The Most Adorable Costumes Made for Pets)
Rabies Prevention Tip #2: Alert Your Community Leaders if You Suspect a Stray Has Rabies
It’s for everyone’s safety— including your pets’. Dr. Maricelle recalls a client whose indoor pet dog was bitten by a stray cat with rabies. The pet dog was not vaccinated, so he was infected with the rabies virus and died. Because the entire household was in close contact with the dog, they were all required to receive rabies shots. (Read: 5 Tips to Keep Your Pets Safe During a Disaster)
Rabies Prevention Tip #3: If You Are Bitten, Seek Medical Attention Immediately
Wash the bite carefully with water and soap, apply a sterile bandage to the wound, and see a doctor fast. Don’t wait to experience the early symptoms of rabies (flu-like symptoms in as early as three days) before getting a series of shots to prevent the virus from spreading to your system and infecting you.
Even being scratched by a dog or cat warrants a visit to a doctor, says Dr. Maricelle. “Dogs and cats lick their paws,” she explains, “so when they scratch you (and especially if the scratch punctures or breaks skin) their nails may have bacteria, or saliva infected with the rabies virus.”
Rabies Prevention Tip #4: Have Your Pets Spayed or Neutered
This reduces the number of dogs and cats that may not be able to receive the proper care and regular vaccinations. (Checklist: 5 Things Responsible Pet Owners Focus On)
Rabies Prevention Tip #5: Be a Responsible Pet Owner
Caring for a pet is a serious commitment, and if you have neither the time nor the resources to give a dog or cat the love and attention it deserves, then don’t get one.