Tricounty News

Rabies

Zoonotic diseases are those which can be transmitted from animal to human, the most important of which, in my opinion, is rabies. It is nearly 100 percent fatal, our pets can get it, the wildlife around us can get it, and we can get it. Naturally as veterinarians, caring for animals is our primary charge, but protecting the humans in our society from zoonoses like rabies is another. Two cows in Stearns County were found to have had rabies last November. It is found in animals in our area nearly every year and many more are put to sleep because of suspicion of exposure. Rabies can only be definitively diagnosed after the animal is dead. For this reason, every dog, cat, and horse should be current on its rabies vaccination. If they are involved in an animal/animal or animal/human exposure and are not vaccinated, they could be subject to euthanasia, extended quarantine periods, or you or whoever your animal bites might have to undergo post-exposure shots at the doctor (which I'm told are not pleasant). I worked at the Minnesota Zoo a few years ago when a child climbed into the meerkat exhibit and got bit. The parents did not want their child to have to get shots, so the entire colony of meerkats had to be euthanized and tested even though they were vaccinated (available vaccines are not FDA-approved for meerkats, but they are for dogs, cats, and horses.) They all tested negative. Rabies is transmitted through penetrating bite wounds where the virus is present in saliva and can get into nerve tissue where it will then ascend those nerves until it reaches the brain causing the symptoms. Sometimes those symptoms could be the wild dog foaming at the mouth, but it could look like just about any abnormal behavior involving the mental status of an animal. It is for only about 10 days before the rabid animal dies where it is shedding virus in its saliva. In our area bats and skunks are the most common reservoirs, but any warm-blooded animal could get and transmit rabies. It is important to note that bat bites can be nearly invisible, even on bare skin much less under the coat of a dog, cat, cow, or horse. Be diligent about bringing your animals to us yearly. Vaccine durations and recommendations vary, so it is important to review them regularly. Being current on rabies vaccination could save your animal's life or a person's life. At the very least it will save you a lot of hassle, expense, and worry if any symptoms show up in your animal or if they get into an altercation with wildlife, other pets, or heaven forbid, if they nip at a person. A great resource for rabies information is the Minnesota Board of Animal Health Web site at www.bah.state.mn.us. E-mail your animal questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .