Rabies Vaccination in Your Backyard

By Karin Krisher

rabies vaccinationIn Vermont, we’re pretty wary of rabies. We’ve got a lot of critters running around that are highly susceptible to the disease—and that makes us and our pets highly susceptible, especially if we don’t have daily trash removal at our boondock residences.

But Vermont, like other states across the nation, takes measures to prevent rabies, both through education and through—wait for it—airdropping rabies vaccination packets across the state’s wooded areas (which are, to say the least, plentiful).

Wait, what? People are flying around in planes packed with rabies vaccines? They’re dropping them in our backyards? We were surprised, too, the first time we heard that Vermont regularly participates in an international effort with its Canadian neighbors to eradicate the rabies virus. Since 2009, Quebec hasn’t seen a single rabies case.

So the validity of the method is easy to spot. But we had one, big, lingering question: What if these packets fall into the wrong mouths? What if, for example, our dogs or cats pick one up for a snack? Is this cause for concern?

rabies vaccination
Photo provided by healthvermont.gov

In short, not really. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware. Learn about when there will be drops in your area by consulting your veterinarian for a contact at the USDA’s National Rabies Management Program. And learn to identify the packets, which can have several different appearances, but will always say “rabies vaccine” if you look closely.

The new type of vaccine packet contains an icing sugar and a vegetable fat wax coating, all flavored with vanilla. Chances are good that your dog or cat will be attracted to the sweetness. The vaccine packets won’t infect your pet (or your child!) with rabies, but if you find one, you should use gloves to move it to a more wooded area where it will be found by the target animals.

If you’re still concerned about the rabies vaccination packets raining down, ask your vet about precautions you can take to make sure your animal isn’t near them. Short of keeping constant watch, though, there is little you can influence here. Instead of fretting, look up at the sky and be thankful that an organization is taking steps to guard both our pets and our woodland critters from a terrible virus.

Has your pet ever eaten a rabies vaccination packet? What happened? Tell us in a comment!

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