Protect Domesticated Animals from Rabies

| April 4, 2014 | 0 Comments | News

Urban raccoon and skunk feed on cat food.

Thursday, Prince William Health District warned that a rabid raccoon that had been picked at Frnaklin Woods and Fleetwood Drive Nokesville, the week of March 24.

While the Prince William Health District alerted residents that there have been 11 incidents of rabid animals in the county since July of 2013, that number under represents the true threat that may be out there.

That is because, according to Prince William Animal Control representatives, when they pick up a sick or injured animal, they do not automatically test it for rabies. They only test for rabies if there has been an incident, such as a dog or cat being bit by an animal, or a persona approached by an animal.

While animals infrequently attack people, often times a rabid animal will approach a person.

“I’ve never heard of anybody getting bit,” said Sergeant Laurie Newsome with Prince William Animal Control. “Normally animals would run off.”

If a wild animal, such as a raccoon or fox, approaches a person rather than running off, “that’s a sign of rabies,” said, and Animal Control should be contacted.

With spring coming, seeing animals more frequently is common, but people need to be wary of animals that seem uninhibited by people. Newsome said animals are out more in general in the spring, she said, because it is when they are having their babies.

However, people need to be aware of the danger rabid animals present, especially to domesticated animals.

“You really want to make sure your animals are up to date on rabies vaccines because that is really going to protect them against the virus,” Amanda Burke of Prince William Animal Shelter said.

Domesticated animals are more likely to engage with rabid animals than people are, even children. Burke believes dogs are cats see them either as a friend to play with, or a toy to be played with.

Then when the animals get together, cats tend to get into scrapes, and dogs may get into fight, which could end with either of the animals biting each other, which is the most direct way rabies is transmitted.

But even when a dog or cat is up-to-date on their rabies shot, that is not going to completely protect them. According to state Health Department, after being bit by a rabid animal, the animal that was bitten must spend 45-days in quarantine.

The Virginia Health Department mandates that quarantine is a double enclosure, preferably outside, so that the person caring for the animal can provide food and drink without risking exposure.

Quarantines happen quite often according tot he Prince William Health District, which said that 381 Prince William animals had to be quarantined since July.

When an animal is behind on their rabies vaccine, they receive a mandatory 6-month quarantine. Sometimes an owner might prefer to euthanize the animal rather than put it through that time of incarceration.

Newsome said rabies is not just a problem in the rural areas, but everywhere.

“It happens all over,” she said, “Rabies is throughout the whole area of Prince William County.”

She said rabid animals are in suburban, rural and urban area and on the east and west sides of the county alike. They do not sleep in just one place, but most of the animals that carry rabies are nomadic moving across the region.

Animals in their back yards are not always safe from a wild animal attack.

“They can climb a fence. Wildlife is going to get into your yard, even if you have a six foot fence,” she said.

For that reason, animals should be attended when they are out in their yards.

Scrapes can cause a transmittance of the rabies virus, but more often it is a bite wound.

Besides raccoon, skunks, foxes, bats, rabbits, squirrel, chipmunks, rats, mice, gerbils, hamsters, dogs and cats may all transmit the rabies virus through their saliva. Just because one species member has rabies, does not mean more are likely too. It does not spread throughout a population that way, but different species infect each other through bites and scrapes.

However, Newsome said that people do not need to be concerned just because they see wild animals out and about during the day. Even raccoons are not exclusively nocturnal. However, if wild animals approach, or look sick or injured, they ask that residents contact them at 703-792-6465.

© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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