For the first time in several years in Alberta, a confirmed case of rabies was identified in a household cat.

On November 13 the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian received notification confirming the case of rabies.

According to the notification, the cat was nine years old and spent it's time both indoors and outdoors, at a farm in Longview.

The owners of the cat noticed extreme aggression in the animal, which would later bite both it's owner and the owner's son who are currently seeking medical treatment to prevent further infection.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Website, this is the first case of rabies documented in a cat since 2010 in Alberta.

Public Health Veterinarian for the Government of Alberta Darcia Kostiuk says, while cases of rabies are rare, there are a few common factors leading to infection.

"It circulates within the bat population and very typically, indoor and outdoor cats can easily hunt a bat. It's not surprising to see a cat get rabies, luckily it's not that common though."

According to Kostiuk, cats aren't the only household pet at risk.

"Dogs don't usually have that same hunting behavior that cats do, but dogs will tend to pick up anything on the ground. Bats with rabies typically cannot fly properly, so they will be grounded. I have had dogs in the past where we tested the bat after a dog has picked it up in its mouth and the bat turned out to be positive, so the dog has had to enter a quarantine period."

Kostiuk says pet owners should focus on drastic changes in behavior, if they suspect their animal has been infected.

"Aggression can be common, however on the flip side an animal can also become paralyzed and comatose. Definitely things to look for in the beginning is any change in personality or behavior, whether that means getting more aggressive, or whether that means a normally outgoing animal becomes quiet."

Kostiuk says the rabies virus is transmitted through the infected host's saliva.

"Rabies is a virus that has to cross the skin barrier to get into any mammals body. Once it travels through the body, it targets the central nervous system. It's not present in the blood, but once it gets to the brain it then goes to the salivary glands, and that's how the virus gets passed on, so whether a wound is contaminated with saliva or a bite occurs, something has to cross the skin barrier."

The cat involved in the case in Longview has since passed away, and Kostiuk says once symptoms start manifesting, it's usually too late.

"Once an animal or a human has symptoms, there's nothing you can do, they will pass away from rabies. If a human is exposed to a bat in any way shape or form, they must contact their public health care physician."

To prevent rabies Kostiuk recommends keeping up with vaccinations.

"It's so important to keep up with rabies vaccinations, I know it's not always easy, but it's very important to get those vaccinations and keep up with the schedule. Whatever the manufacturer recommends for vaccinations, pet owners should follow, so that those antibodies are ready in case the animal is exposed. I've had cats that live in apartment buildings and a positive bat had fallen on their balcony. Bats do get into homes, and when they do, household cats will do something about that bat. Just because a cat is indoors doesn't mean it won't be exposed."

Kostiuk also recommends encouraging children to not touch wild animals and to assure any outdoor animal is supervised.


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