A skunk was found January 26th, in Greenville that turned out to be rabid. This happens two or three times each spring, but not usually so early in the year. That means it will be a bad season for rabies.
You may think that you do not have much to worry about from this dread disease, but you would be wrong. While coyotes, fox, skunks, and bats are the most common rabies vectors, any mammal can get it by coming into contact with the blood or salvia of an infected animal. This includes dogs and humans.
Because rabies is always fatal (with one exception – a woman who survived but is severely disabled as a result), it is so very important to make sure your dog is vaccinated properly. Dogs should be vaccinated by 16 weeks of age and receive one booster within a year. After that, they may be vaccinated every three years provided a three year vaccine is used. This change, from every year to every 3 years, was in response to concerns about over vaccination.
The rabies vaccination is not expensive. There are low or no cost vaccines available from most animal control agencies in the metroplex. Some of the humane societies also have vaccine clinics.
Why is rabies such a concern? It is fatal. Once you start showing symptoms, you will die. If you are exposed to a rabid animal, you must take shots over the course of a month to make sure you do not get the disease. While the shots are now given in the arm, not the stomach, they are still pretty grim. It is important to report any exposure to an animal you do not know has had a vaccination to the health department. That means if the cute squirrel you feed nips you, you need to report it.
What are the animal symptoms of rabies? The “mad” type is the classic attack anything that moves symptoms. The “dumb” type acts as if something is lodged in their throat, and are drowsy and snap at movement. They are the ones with a paralyzed lower jaw that become afraid of water. Another clue is if a night animal, such as a skunk, is out during the day. If you see an animal that is possibly rabid, call animal control and they will come pick it up.
Rescue groups should be careful with new dogs. This is especially true of groups taking dogs from shelters that only hold the dog three days. Since it can take 7-10 days for symptoms to occur after the bite, you could easily bring a dog into the house and have it develop rabies symptoms once you have it.
Dogs that are exposed to rabies and have had a vaccination within three years must have a booster shot immediately. Unfortunately, they are quarantined for 45 days after exposure. Dogs who are not up to date on their boosters must be given a shot and quarantined for 90 days. They must also get two boosters during that period.