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By Jimmie Earls
Sun Staff Writer
Washington County officials have now confirmed a second local case of rabies. Following that news, officials are urging pet owners to have their animals vaccinated.
“The latest report was a case of a dog being bitten by a rabid skunk and passing the rabies on to the pet,” said Sharon Browning with the Washington County Environmental Services. “Apparently the skunk got into a fight with the dog. The skunk wasn't tested, but the dog died and tested positive for rabies.”
Browning also said that there was another case in mid-October that involved a hunting dog. That case prompted a rabies vaccination clinic early last November that saw more than 40 clients bring in their animals.
According to state law, all domestic dogs, cats and ferrets must be vaccinated. Rabies vaccines are also available for other animals such as horses and cattle, but that is more of a precautionary tactic to prevent farmers from being bitten, plus those vaccines are not required by the state.
Checking an animal for rabies involves testing the brain tissue. Browning added that generally, dogs bitten by an infected animal usually die within 10 days.
“Typically, if an animal bites a person, and it has not had rabies shots, then the environmentalist has to quarantine the dog for 10 days. The incubation period on humans is uncertain,” added Browning. “It's important for people to have their pets vaccinated. If the pet bites somebody and they don't have proof of the vaccination, then the animal must be quarantined and there are costs associated with that. If the pet owner has the rabies certificate, then they can quarantine the animal at home in a kennel or cage. The Marion County Animal Shelter works with Washington County to provide for the quarantine but there is a charge for it.
People treated for a rabies bite must undergo treatments that could cost anywhere from $2,700 to $4,000, according to Dr. John W. Poe, Kentucky state public health veterinarian.
Dr. Phil Billings of the Springfield Animal Clinic said there is no known cure for rabies in animals. He said there are a few early warnings signs that your pet may be infected with rabies.
“The owner should look for a change in the animal's attitude, behavior and temperament,” he said. “Those may sound like they are all the same, but they are not. Sometimes the animal will act disoriented and feel spaced-out. The lights are on but they're not home. Then they can get the furious rabies with them trying to bite or they get the “dumb” rabies which is where they're not trying to bite but they're in a daze.”
Billings added that people who notice their animal acting in such ways should bring their pets in for testing because these symptoms may not always be caused by rabies. But if rabies is detected, the animal can be quarantined.
“By that time, there's nothing anyone can do,” he added. “The only thing you can do is prevent it from spreading. That's why it's so important for people to have their animals vaccinated.”
For more information about vaccinating your animal, please call the Springfield Animal Clinic at (859) 336-9923.