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Information on Wounds of Unknown Origin

Rabies Virus

Rabies has reached epidemic proportions in the eastern United States. Cats, humans and other mammals may acquire the virus through contact with virus-laden saliva from an infected animal (such as a cat, dog or skunk, etc.) The Rabies virus is 100% fatal once an animal shows signs of infection.

There is no known treatment for Rabies either in humans or in animals. The only test for Rabies requires euthanizing and decapitating the animal and inspecting the animal’s brain tissue for the virus. Treatment for potential exposure to Rabies involves a series of post exposure injections.

Because feral cats interact with both humans and wild animals, they are at high risk for contracting and spreading Rabies. Feral cats should be vaccinated against the Rabies virus. Healthy cats admitted to a Commonwealth Cats clinic will receive a Rabies vaccine that is good for one year.

Wounds of Unknown Origin

It is against the law in Massachusetts to provide a Rabies vaccine to an unvaccinated animal with a wound of unknown origin. All cats admitted to a Commonwealth Cats clinic will receive a pre-surgical examination by a veterinarian and any cat found to have a wound of unknown origin will not receive a Rabies vaccination. A cat with a wound of unknown origin will receive the other services provided by the clinic.

Cats that are found to have a wound of unknown origin will be documented on the Commonwealth Cats Wound of Unknown Origin Reporting Form.

Legal Requirements

The veterinarians on staff at a Commonwealth Cats clinic are required by law to report wounds of unknown origin to the animal inspector in the town where the cat lives. The Commonwealth Cats Clinic Director or a designated assistant will contact the Animal Inspector in the town of the cat’s origin.

State mandated options for an unvaccinated cat with a wound of unknown origin are a six month quarantine or euthanasia.

If a caretaker chooses euthanasia rather than quarantine they will need to contact their own veterinarian. Commonwealth Cats will not euthanize a cat because of a non-life-threatening wound of unknown origin.

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