Make Sure Pet Vaccinations Are Up to Date
“Old Yeller” was a tear-jerking book and movie in the 1950s about a boy and his faithful dog. This dog protected the family from a bear and wild hogs and, eventually, when a rabid wolf went after member of the family, Old Yeller was bitten. Nothing could be done in this isolated community in Texas to save the dog, and he had to be put down before he bit a member of the family. The disease is fatal to animals and humans.
Last week, the L.A. County Department of Public Health announced that a dead bat, which tested positive for rabies, was found in the Palisades Highlands, near a home.
Circling the News spoke to Dr. Holly Jordan at the Pacific Palisades Veterinary Center about rabies.
Animals, cat and dogs, should be vaccinated every three years. “It’s the only vaccination required by law,” said Jordan, who recently vaccinated a pet after the owner checked when the animal was last vaccinated.
Pet owners need to be able to prove the vaccination with a current certificate, which is supplied by a veterinarian.
“If someone is anti-vaccine, they can have the pet go through a titer test,” Jordan explained. “It takes longer and is expensive.”
She explained that the shot for pets is done under the skin and is usually the least reactive of any of the vaccines – for both cats and dogs.
What if your animal is an indoor animal, with only occasional time outside (and on a leash)?
“You can’t control another animal that might come and bite your dog,” Jordan said.
She explained that the most common carriers of rabies are bats, skunks and raccoons, but that squirrels, opossums and rats could also potentially carry the virus. “If a dog has bitten someone, it has to be quarantined for 10 days.”
Jordan said that the first clue a resident might have that an animal has rabies is if that animal acts strangely.
If a bat gets into your house, what’s the chance your dog or cat could be bitten?
Jordan said that if a bat did come into your house and did not fly away (which would be strange behavior), your pet might go over to investigate and be scratched or exposed in that way.
Rabies is not only serious in animals, but also in humans. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Once a rabies infection is established, there’s no effective treatment. For that reason, if you think you’ve been exposed to rabies, you must get a series of shots to prevent the infection from taking hold.”
Vaccination after exposure, PEP, is 100 percent effective against rabies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It consists of one dose of immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14-day period.
The standard length of time a rabies vaccination is good for pets is three years. If your pet has not had one in that period, make an appointment.
According to Michelle Chang with the L.A. County Department of Public Health, although bats are the major animal species that carry rabies in Los Angeles County, only about one or two percent of bats in nature have rabies.
In the county, since the beginning of the year, 22 rabid bats have been found.
This website contains step by step instructions if a bat is found inside your home: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/vet/batinhouse.htm.