Welcome to Rabies Time!

Spring has sprung!  Daffodils are coming up, tulips are popping, birds are singing and, unfortunately, Rabies cases are starting.

Spring and Fall are peak times for the Rabies virus to rear its ugly head among the animal population.  Not sure why it’s these two times, but it is.  So, with that in mind, let’s go over a few things to remember…….

If you see a normally nocturnal animal around and it’s daytime, DO NOT PANIC!  It may not be anything other than a foraging for food thing.  Hey, if the only time you could get a good meal was at 3am, you’d be out there, too!  Just because they’re out and about doesn’t mean they’re sick.  They’ve been semi-hibernating all winter and they’re hungry (some are even pregnant and need that extra meal).

If, however, you see ANY animal acting in a strange manner, it’s time to call the local animal control officer RIGHT AWAY!  Keep an eye on the animal and note where it goes (obviously you need to do this from a SAFE DISTANCE!)…  Make sure any pets or children are safely in the house.

As Rabies is a virus that attacks the brain, the symptoms are sometimes neurological in nature – stumbling around, acting as if drunk, and looking as if the animal’s back end is paralyzed (like it was hit by a car).  These symptoms can also be that of distemper or other illnesses so it doesn’t mean its Rabies for sure.  However, there is another avenue that Rabies can take, and that’s what is called “Furious” – the symptoms are that the animal appears to be enraged and will attack anything and anyone.  The animal can flip-flop between the two as well.  There is no guess-work on that one – the animal looks as if it’s going to kill anyone it sees.

Rabies is transmitted via bodily fluids.  An opening in the skin as small as a hangnail can be big enough to transmit the virus.  The virus travels from the site of entry (via bite, scratch, open wound exposure) to the spinal cord where it then travels up to the brain.  That’s where the virus takes hold and does its work.  If the site of entry for the virus is, say, on the foot, it will take longer for the symptoms to appear than if the site of entry was, say, on the head or neck area.  This is because that virus has a longer way to travel so it takes more time. 

So for dogs and cats, getting in a fight with a rabid animal or even having them come into contact with a dead, rabid animal means an immediate call to the local animal control officer and a trip to the veterinary hospital for a Rabies vaccination booster.  The State will test the animal and determine if it was rabid or not.  The State has procedures set up for exposure to rabid animals and your animal control officer can fill you in.

So what can you do to better ensure you don’t have an issue this year?  Easy.  Keep an eye on your pets.  Never leave your dog out, unattended (this also goes for small children!).  A rabid animal can climb into a kennel so that’s not protection.  Make sure your dog or cat is properly vaccinated against the Rabies virus.  And make sure you keep that vaccination current!  This will make a HUGE difference if your animal is exposed. 

Check your animals daily for injuries.  If you do notice one, contact your veterinarian immediately.  If you don’t know where the injury came from, it could be from a rabid animal exposure.  This goes for dogs and cats as well as horses and farm animals.

Don’t assume that a dead animal can not transmit the virus!  The Rabies virus can live in warm, moist environments or cool, moist environments.  So if your dog or cat finds a dead animal (most commonly affected animals are raccoon, opossum, woodchuck, skunk, etc) and starts to play with it (I know, eewwww!), you still need to contact the animal control officer right away.  The animal control officer can have that animal tested.   Better safe than sorry on that!

Rabies is a nasty, deadly virus that has no cure.  It’s been in Connecticut for a while now and it’s not going anywhere.  While there is no need for panic, knowing what to look for and what to do can save you a lot of time and trouble.  And it will keep your pets safer, too!

Watch Liz’s Video

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