Rabies And Your Animal


Q: I had to isolate my pet for possible rabies after he caught and ate a bat. What are the policies set by the city of Lufkin, as well as the state for rabies “testing” and isolation?

A: It depends on what type of animal your pet is, according to Rhonda McClendon, director of Animal Control. But for a dog, cat or ferret that is current on all rabies vaccinations the health department recommends the animal be immediately vaccinated after contact with the bat or other possible rabies carrier for additional protection and then confined to a location away from other animals for 45 days. During these 45 days, the owner should carefully watch the pet to see if it has any changes in behavior.

Changes in behavior could mean a normally friendly animal becomes aggressive or a normally skittish or aggressive animal, such as a wild skunk, becomes overly friendly toward humans. Closer to the end stages of rabies an animal will no longer be able to swallow and will stop eating and drinking. Other symptoms include confusion, a high fever, loss of balance and stumbling around. However, sometimes an animal with rabies exhibits little or no symptoms and sometimes an animal exhibiting these symptoms may not necessarily have rabies, according to McClendon.

If an owner suspects his or her pet may carry the rabies virus he or she should immediately take the animal to the vet. The vet will examine the animal to determine if the animal is showing symptoms of rabies. Should the vet determine the animal does carry rabies, the animal will be humanely euthanized and then sent to a lab for testing to see if it did carry the virus.

For animals not current on rabies vaccinations, the owner should immediately take the animal in for a vaccination and then again three weeks later and again eight weeks later. This animal should remain under strict supervision for 90 days without access to other animals.

For animals other than cats or dogs, such as horses or cattle, that an owner suspect may have been around the rabies virus, the owner should consult a veterinarian for the best procedure.

McClendon advised if a pet’s owner can keep the animal that may have had rabies, such as a bat, the owner should take it to his or her veterinarian or Animal Control to have it tested for the virus. Animals should not be shot in the head since the brain must be tested and should not be disposed of or frozen.

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