Lessons for pets after PV's rabies scare
PV's false alarm can be a teaching moment
Rabies have been nearly wiped out in the United States, with only 106 cases in Arizona last year among wild and domestic animals combined, however citizens still should not let down their guard, says Prescott Valley Animal Control Officer Don Plate.
Preventing and identifying rabies in animals are two ways people can continue to protect their pets and themselves.
"People hear 'rabies' and they go crazy," said Plate, who is one of two Animal Control officers, with Supervisor Robin Petrovsky, at the Prescott Valley Police Department. Plate has been on the job for 11 years and Petrovsky for 26. "It's so, so important to get your dogs vaccinated for rabies. Our country cannot afford an outbreak."
Plate said the United States is one of only a handful of countries in the world that has laws requiring rabies vaccinations for family pets. A cat hit by a car Dec. 3 in Prescott Valley tested postive for rabies, but after a second test, turned out to be a false positive.
The bite victim chose to continue treatments anyway after learning of the false positive test results.
Most cat owners keep their felines indoors, Plate said, minimizing the number of exposures to other animals which may be carrying rabies. For that reason, he was surprised when he first heard of the rabid cat report.
"I almost fell out of my chair when I heard that," Plate said. "What cat could tangle with a wild animal? A coyote can easily kill a cat."
Dogs, however, spend a lot of time outside and may get into fights with wild animals, especially skunks or raccoons, or even bats, he said.
Skunks and bats top the list of the state's confirmed positive rabies tests. For example, of the 114 cases in 2010, 66 were skunks and 36 were bats; no cats or dogs tested positive that year. Being sprayed by a skunk, however, does not transmit rabies, if the animal were infected.
"We have a lot of skunks in Prescott Valley living is culvert pipes," Plate said, "and they come out at night looking for food and water."
Plate recommends that people don't leave their dog's food and water outside at night because it can attract these wild animals.
People can easily spot an animal with rabies, because the animal experiences behavior changes and clinical signs, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services, such as:
▶ Initial - lethargy, fever, vomiting, anorexia
▶ Progressive - cerebral dysfunction (including ataxia, difficulty walking, tremors, disorientation, seizures), weakness, paralysis, difficulty breathing or swallowing, excessive salivation, aggression, self-mutilation, abnormal behavior and vocalization.
▶ Death usually occurs from three to seven days after onset.
"Because rabies infects the animal's brain, they don't act normal; they are out of their mind," Plate pointed out. "They have no fear. Normally most wild animals would run away from people or even dogs. But when they have rabies, they charge right up."
Plate recalled a case of a bobcat in a Prescott Valley neighborhood that attacked a dog and bit two people.
The bobcat tested positive for rabies, and the dog and people received treatment.
State laws require that people report all dog and cat bites, so that Animal Control departments can check an owner's record to see if the pet is current with vaccinations.
According to the Arizona Department of Health website, based on the rabies incubation period after exposure, the quarantine period is 45 days for a vaccinated domestic animal and 180 days for an unvaccinated animal.
In addition, human exposure to rabies does not include the following situations, according to the website:
▶ Petting or touching the body/fur of a potentialy rabid animal (as long as contact with the head is ruled out).
▶ Touching an inanimate object that has had contact with a rabid animal does not constitute an exposure unless wet saliva or CNS tissue entered a fresh, open wound or contacted a mucus membrane.
▶ Being sprayed by a skunk.
▶ Having contact with blood, urine or feces of a rabid or suspected rabid animal does not constitute an exposure.
▶ Being in the vicinity of a rabid animal.
Every Friday, 8 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4:30 p.m., people can get their pets vaccinated for rabies at the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) Wellness Clinic at a cost of $16. Plate also said that's a good time to get the annual municipal license fees paid.
The YHS Wellness Clinic is located at 2989 Centerpoint East Drive in Prescott, off Highway 89A, east of Larry Caldwell Drive. For more information, contact YHS online at www.yavapaihumane.org or call the clinic at 771-0547.
Prescott Valley requires only dogs to be licensed with a current rabies vaccine.
A one-year license costs $8 for a spayed or neutered dog or $35 for a non-altered dog. The PV Animal Control office is at 7601 W. Civic Center.
To report an animal bite or for more information about rabies, call Animal Control at 772-5190 or go online at www.pvaz.com.