From staff reports
With the 100th rabies case reported in the state this year comes a reminder for pet owners to ensure their cats and dogs are vaccinated.
The verified case is in a cat in Boone County.
The press release from the Arkansas Department of Health reported that the cat had been in a fight with an unidentified animal in June and was being cared for by the owners. It was further reported that the cat was non-aggressive until a few hours before it died — which is unusual since rabid animals usually become aggressive several days before death.
“We’ve seen a high number of rabies cases this year,” Gary Wheeler, MD, Branch Chief of Infectious Disease at the Arkansas Department of Health said. “This case drives home the point that people need to have their family pets vaccinated, because of the contact and exposure this family faced.”
For those in the Lonoke area who need to get a pet vaccinated, information from Lonoke Animal Hospital, with Dr. Darryl Edwards, is that vaccine is available at the hospital. Call 501-676-6903 for an appointment.
To date for 2013, there have been 91 skunks, three bats, two cats, two dogs, one cow and one horse that have tested positive for rabies, and the instances are expected to increase through the rest of summer and into fall.
Wheeler remarked that pet owners might not realize how often pets come into contact with wild animals, especially skunks and bats. “So make sure your pets are current on their rabies vaccinations. This protects your pets and your family,” Wheeler said.
Rabies is a deadly virus that attacks the brains and spinal cord. It is most often seen in animals such as skunks, bats and foxes. It is spread through bites or scratches. The virus can also be spread if saliva from an infected animal touches broken skin, open wounds, or the lining of the mouth, eyes or nose.
The most common early sign of rabies in an animal is a change in behavior. Usually night-roaming animals, such as skunks, may be seen out in daylight, or they may get into a dog pen or under a house.
Rabid animals may attack people or other animals for no reason, or they may lose their fear of people and seem unusually friendly.
Staggering, convulsions, choking, frothing at the mouth and paralysis are often present.
Many animals have an obvious change in voice pitch, such as a muted or off-key tone. An animal usually dies within one week of demonstrating signs of rabies. Not all rabid animals act in these ways; avoid contact with any wild animal - especially skunks, bats and stray cats and dogs.
Arkansas state law requires all cats and dogs receive a rabies vaccination, given by a licensed veterinarian, beginning at 4 months of age. A booster is also required one year after the initial vaccine.
Over-the-counter rabies vaccinations available at feed stores do not meet the requirement of Arkansas Rabies Control Act of 2010.
Anyone who thinks they have been exposed to or injured by an animal with rabies should wash any wound thoroughly with soap and water and then immediately seek medical attention.
Contact the local county health unit immediately and report the incident. The animal in question should be captured, if possible, without damaging its head or risking further human exposure.
Cabot Animal Clinic, 2102 South Second St., reported having rabies vaccine on hand; office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with vaccinations by appointment, 501-843-5391.