It’s THAT Time of Year (Again)

Fall has to be one of my four favorite seasons.  The autumn colors become vivid against a crisp, blue sky.  The leaves crackle under my feet.  The air becomes cool and clean and dry.  Unfortunately, it’s also the time where the Rabies Virus comes to a front again.


As an animal control officer I did a lot of research on this nasty, nasty virus.  It seems that Spring and Fall are the two peak times where this virus surfaces.  Not sure why, but it does.  So now is the time to become aware of the signs and symptoms and to keep a sharp eye out.


First of all, just because a normally nocturnal animal is out and about during they day does NOT mean it’s rabid.  They’re all preparing for the winter so food collection is of utmost importance at this point.


What SHOULD catch your eye, though, is how they behave.  Rabies can show symptoms in two different ways.  The first is that the animal looks to be in a stupor, or that it might have been hit by a car. Animals showing this type of symptom will often stumble around or look like it’s confused or dazed.  Many times people can mistake this type of behavior for an injury and will try and help the animal.  Any time I’ve seen a rabid cat, this is how its symptoms are presented so extreme caution should be taken when approaching what appears to be an injured cat.


 The second is that the animal suddenly becomes enraged and will attack anything (or anyone) it sees.  I’ve seen raccoons actually attack cars, other animals, themselves or even people when they exhibit these symptoms.  They actually look possessed and are extremely agile so the further away you can stay from them the better.


Now for the kicker; a rabid animal can flip-flop between these signs, being dazed one moment and enraged another.


The Rabies Virus attacks the nervous system.  The virus is introduced into the body by direct contact with saliva or bodily fluids from an affected animal.  The virus then travels up to the spinal chord and then into the brain of the victim animal.  The victim animal will then show the symptoms. The closer the bite (site of introduction) is to the base of the brain, the faster the symptoms will appear.  The victim animal, once the symptoms appear, will not survive for long but can transmit the virus to another animal while showing sypmtoms.  There is no cure for Rabies once the symptoms appear.


So THAT having been said, it is VERY important to keep watch over your pets.  A pet who has been vaccinated only once for Rabies MAY NOT be completely protected.  The animal needs to build up an immunity to the virus and this can only be done through multiple vaccinations through the years.  IF your animal comes home with a wound that it did not leave with, make sure to contact your veterinarian for a booster vaccination. 

All in all, though, it is rare that a wildlife encounter will be with a rabid animal.  But should you see one that is not acting right, you are urged to contact your local animal control officer immediately.  Keep a close eye (from a safe distance) on where that animal goes so that responding officers can assess what needs to be done.  As there are other diseases that mimic the Rabies Virus, only testing can positively identify if it is the virus or not.


And keep your pets vaccinated!  Should Fido or Kitty come into contact with a rabid animal, it does not mean they WILL get the virus.  If their vaccination is current, they will be given another one and you will be advised to watch the animal for a certain period of time.  Again, it’s not a death sentence for a vaccinated pet.


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