Posts Tagged ‘animal bites’

Rabies and pet care

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

make sure your dog's rabies vaccination is up to date

We got an older dog, a thirty-pound Tibetan terrier, eight months ago after not having a pet in the home for three years. He's had all his immunizations, but he's due for a repeat rabies shot in June. We plan to travel via car with him for the month of October and want to cross the Canadian border to see Vancouver. So we asked friends who have two much larger dogs and live in Washington State if they've been able to take their dogs into Canada.

"It's no problem as long as you bring proof that his rabies vaccination is current," my friend Bob said.

We joined the Rocky Mountain Tibetan Terrier Association and got their newsletter. One section was on preventing dog attacks, both outside the home and at home. The information came from the American Veterinary Association. More than 60% of dog bite victims are children; they need to learn not to play rough with family pets. One comment said, "Never put your face directly in front of a dog--even in play."

'Guilty as charged,' I thought. Yoda and I play and he often licks my face. I don't plan to change my behavior, but I will mention the ideas to the parents of his favorite kid, who is now one and a half years old. I do think the recommendation makes sense, for children in particular.

bats may carry the disease

So why is this important? I found an NIH National Library of Medicine article on rabies which said  that deadly viral infection is spread by infected animals. In the US the number of cases has fallen dramatically and most bites from rabid animals involve non-canines: bats, raccoons, foxes and skunks as well as cats are mentioned. We spend over $300 million a year on rabies prevention with the vast majority of that going to pet immunizations.

Worldwide rabies statistics are quite different:  over 90% of human exposure to rabies and over 99% of deaths are due to rabid dogs. Many developing countries, in spite of some having programs to vaccinate dogs and get rid of strays, can't afford a complete program.

If your child or anyone else is bitten by a non-vaccinated animal, then immediate medical care is absolutely crucial. The CDC has an online helpful description of appropriate wound care and rabies post-exposure vaccinations. Let's be clear: if your child or you are bitten, even by a beloved pet of yours that has had its shots, see your doctor right then or go to an ER. Animal bites can cause many complications outside of rabies.

Why is this so important? Well, I just read an article about a  survivor from clinical rabies, an eight-year-old girl from a non-urban area on the West Coast. That's exceedingly rare!

Yes, that's true; rabies is uniformly fatal...unless it's prevented. In the US, there have been only three people who got rabies and survived. So urgent treatment with a series of shots of both human rabies immune globulin and rabies vaccine is critical.

Don't delay; save a life.