Rabies Is Out There

by William Wise, Director of Walton County Animal Control

 Photo: William Wise

Photo: William Wise

I don’t mean to over-dramatize or spark panic, but two recent encounters have pushed forward the fact that although rare, rabies is still a threat to your pet. However, there is no need to call out the National Guard. Rabies is a fear that is easily abated by a simple, affordable vaccine.

In the month of February, two dogs in Walton County were quarantined in rabies observation after being exposed to rabid raccoons in two separate incidents. In the first encounter, a raccoon wandered aimlessly into a yard where it got into a tussle with the homeowner’s dog, Sam. The dog owner told animal control that the raccoon was stumbling around and then flopping on the ground while growling. Not surprisingly, the raccoon tested positive.

The second incident occurred just a few days later. Nut and his owner were in Rutledge, GA not far from Hard Labor Creek State Park when the Coonhound came face to face with a raccoon and was bitten on the nose. Once again, the raccoon tested positive.

The good side of this story is that both dog owners were responsible pet parents and had their dogs’ rabies vaccinations up to date. Therefore, both were allowed to do an in-home rabies observation for 45 days. Had they not been current on rabies vaccinations, the outcome might have been much worse.

According to the Georgia rabies guidelines followed by all animal control agencies, unvaccinated dogs and cats that come into contact with a rabid animal “should be euthanized immediately.” Imagine putting down your beloved pet because of an overlooked annual visit to your veterinarian for a rabies vaccine!

Well, most of us couldn’t stand for that. So what is the alternative? Six months of “strict isolation.” And this is no easy task. The exposed dog or cat must be kept in a secure, double-walled enclosure with a feeding door and a method of sectioning off the pet for cage cleaning. Even if you could find a veterinary clinic or boarding kennel willing to quarantine your pet, the cost would be astronomical.

The cost of prevention, however, is quite small. Rabies vaccinations are available through all veterinarians at a reasonable price. There are even regular, low-cost vaccine clinics hosted on Saturdays at various locations in nearly every city. Costing less than dinner for two, there is no reason to not have your beloved pet vaccinated regularly.

So when it comes to your pet and rabies, there is no need for alarm. But there is a need to be a diligent, responsible pet parent by ensuring your dog or cat is kept current on the necessary vaccines. Mark your calendar, set a reminder on your phone, whatever it takes—don’t let it slip your mind, or it can be costly.