When I was seven years old, a skunk wandered into our backyard one summer afternoon and began staggering around our willow tree. My mother watched in horror from the window as I walked towards the sick animal calling, “Here kitty kitty.” This was the same year I thought our canister vacuum cleaner was thirsty and I fed it three glasses of water. Luckily my mother is a super hero and managed to save me from a potential rabies exposure and an electrocution all in one year.
Now I can’t say for sure if that skunk in my backyard was rabid,
but I am awfully glad my mother intervened before I had a chance to find out. Rabies is not something to take chances with. That is why vaccinating our pets is so important.
Connecticut state law requires all dogs and cats to be current with their rabies vaccination, and with good reason. Rabies is considered one of the most deadly viruses on EARTH, with a 99.9% fatality rate. What makes rabies especially dangerous is its ability to transmit between species, including humans. Without treatment, a human who has contracted rabies will most likely die. There is NO CURE for rabies.
Understanding how rabies is transmitted can help prevent an exposure. Rabies is a viral disease which is carried in the saliva of the infected animal and usually transmitted from a bite. The virus travels to the brain where it will cause swelling. This is when the symptoms will appear and this is when the infected animal is contagious.
Symptoms my include lethargy, staggering, loss of coordination and general confusion. Animals may act out aggressively and even attack inanimate objects. Nocturnal animals such as skunks and raccoons might suddenly be wandering during the day, however, that does not always mean they are sick.
According to the Center for Disease Control, raccoons account for the highest percentage of wild animals to test positive for rabies followed by bats and then skunks. The percentages for domestic animals are very low, with cats accounting for a higher number than dogs. This is due to cats being allowed to roam freely outside, and also due to a high population of feral cats.
Here are a few tips to avoid a rabies exposure:
-Vaccination is the number one precaution against rabies.
-Do not allow your dogs to roam, always leash walk your dogs!
-Do not ground feed or leave pet food outdoors
-Keep your yard clean and free of debris
If you or your pet is bitten by a wild animal, you should seek medical attention and report the bite to your police department or local animal control. You should also report bats found inside your home even if you don’t think you have been bitten. Wild animals that bite humans will be rabies tested for free at the Connecticut Public Health Laboratory. Wild animals that bite domestic animals can be tested at UCONN Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory for a fee. For additional information call 860-486-3738. If you observe a wild animal staggering, drooling, or acting otherwise odd or sick, stay away from it, keep your pets inside, and call your local animal control.
The New Britain Animal Control is holding their annual rabies and parvovirus clinic June 4th from 9am-noon at 99 Oak Street, the Oak Street substation. Prices are $10 for rabies, $20 for parvovirus, cash only. New Britain residents can also get their dog licenses! We hope to see you there!