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Thursday, August 16, 2018
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Pet Peeves - Part 3: Ain't No Maybes With Rabies

by Leonard Rego

Growing up, I heard a lot of stories about 'mad' dogs who had bitten someone or the other in my neighbourhood, and it always sent shivers down my spine. The dog had to be put to 'sleep', and as if the bite wasn't enough bad luck for the poor victim, he or she had to suffer the pain of 14 injections in the stomach (or so they said) to prevent a possible infection of rabies.

Dogs still go 'mad', but the treatment for a bite from a rabid dog is a lot more bearable nowadays. But what most people don't know is that many other types of animals - in fact all mammals - can get the disease, including cats, foxes, skunks, bats, raccoons and groundhogs, who are more likely to get infected.

What's important is to know how to figure if an animal (maybe even your pet) has rabies, and no, they do not always go 'mad' - that's a cruel way to describe an animal that's suffering, and it's not very accurate either.

The truth is, an animal that is otherwise shy may suddenly become aggressive, and an aggressive animal may become withdrawn and quiet. If you suspect the rabies virus at work, you should call the municipality or a vet whose number you have and ask what must be done. Some countries have local humane societies or animal control departments, so if yours does, keep their numbers handy so that you can report a sick animal.

Furious or dumb?

Rabies symptoms are of two main types: 'furious' and 'dumb'.

Furious rabies shows itself as extremely aggressive and weird behaviour, and about 75 percent of cats who have got the virus develop this type. A funny way of walking, biting at everything in sight and running wild are some of the symptoms, but you should also look out for excessive drooling, and your pet's inability to swallow anything.

Dumb rabies is seen in about 75 percent of all infected dogs, and affected animals may be lethargic, and weak, and will not like human contact too much. This type of rabies leads to paralysis, and you will see frothing and drooling at the animal's mouth, as it is unable to swallow.

Stay safe

Your pet may have got the virus from another infected animal, especially if it has come in contact with the animal's saliva or other bodily fluids. If your pet has not been vaccinated and/or has broken skin from a wound anywhere on its body, there is a much greater chance of it contracting the virus. It's common sense then, to have your pet's vaccinations done in a timely manner.

Cats should stay indoors most of the time, and dogs should be walked on a leash. Sometimes the infection could take up to a year to show up, so if your pet has been in a fight with another animal, and you suspect that it could have been infected, have it checked by a qualified vet.

Most important of all, make sure you protect yourself and your family members first! Experts say that if you have a pet, you should get yourself vaccinated against rabies - it's just three shots in the arm over four weeks, so that's not too bad.

What to do if it's you

If you get bitten or scratched, wash the injured area with soap and flush the wound thoroughly with water to remove as much of the infection as you can. Even if you think the animal does not have rabies, call your family doctor immediately. Some people show symptoms of rabies and develop the disease a whole year after being bitten.

The victim may lose his or her appetite, get depressed, become restless, and have an itching sensation around the bite. He or she may also have headaches, a fever, a sore throat and nausea as well, and may feel very tired, too. If you have any of these symptoms, and haven't called the doctor yet, do it immediately!

Remember - when it comes to rabies, there can be no guesswork or maybes.

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