On March 23, 2010 a two-year-old Labrador retriever and her two-week old litter of puppies in Bowie, Texas were confirmed to have rabies. As required by law, they were all euthanized first so that the brains could be tested. Their owner has begun the painful series of shots to prevent becoming sick.
According to The Bowie News, Bowie Pet Clinic veterinarian Pam Barlow indicated that the mother dog had NOT received rabies vaccinations, and had stopped eating and drinking. The owner euthanized a second dog exposed to the sick dog.
Rabies is virtually 100 percent deadly. It affects a wide range of mammals, including people, so laws protecting human health are strictly enforced.
"The typical incubation period for rabies is two to eight weeks but can be up to eight months," says Dr. Amanda Florsheim, a Dallas-based veterinarian. "Clinical signs are generally neurologic but not always in the early stages." Affected animals often simply act depressed (dumb rabies) or act vicious attacking anything (typical "mad dog" signs).
"If any of the dogs in the story had a rabies vaccine, they would have been fine and no risk to the people that cared for them," says Dr. Florsheim. The mother dog, her litter of puppies, and the second adult dog would be alive today. "That entire vet staff will have to undergo a series of shots," says Dr. Florsheim.
Texas law offers you two choices after a pet's suspected exposure: either destroy (euthanize) the pet, OR follow a post-exposure prophylactic (prevention) program. The specifics of the prevention program depend on whether or not the pet has been vaccinated for rabies. Cats and dogs current on rabies shots immediately receive another rabies vaccination, followed by quarantine/isolation for 45 days. Pets overdue for rabies boosters or that have never been vaccinated also immediately receive a rabies shot, followed by two repeat boosters on the third and ninth week of a 90-day isolation period.
Local authorities determine how to handle the isolation and may require you to board your pet for the 45-90 day period, which can get pricey. For instance, the Texas Department of Health usually allows quarantines to be conducted at the owner's home, when possible.
Isolation means the rabies-exposed pet may have NO contact with other domestic animals, and that only one person cares for the pet until the quarantine period expires.
Is your puppy ever in contact with wildlife like skunks or raccoons? Are your pets protected? Shots not only cost less than a 90-day boarding fee, they save pet (and human) lives. The peace of mind comes free. Learn more in this new article about rabies.
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