Gary Reese took Biscuit, his pet of six months, to Dr. Dirk Motzkus' veterinary office in Grovetown on Wednesday for the 4-year-old dog's annual shots, which included a rabies vaccination.
Gary Reese, who lives just outside Grovetown, holds his dog, 4-year-old Biscuit, while Grovetown veterinarian Dr. Dirk Motzkus gives Biscuit a rabies shot at the Grovetown Animal Hospital. Last week, a rabid fox infected three dogs in a fight in Columbia County.
Photo by Valerie Rowell
Biscuit took his shot in the thigh with nothing more than a pained look, but now he's protected for an entire year.
Linda Fulmer, Columbia County Animal Care and Control manager, says such pet checkups are important, especially in light of a recent rabies case in the county.
Fulmer's reminder is spurred by an incident last week in which a rabid fox got into a fight with three dogs, whose rabies vaccinations were not current.
The Appling owner opted to have one of the dogs, whose vaccination expired in November, euthanized instead of quarantining the dog for the required six months.
"Can you imagine a dog not having any human contact because you are sliding your food and water dishes in, cleaning it from the outside?" Fulmer said. "You cannot touch that pet for six months."
Rabies vaccinations for the other two dogs were two months' expired, and they are being quarantined for 45 days, in accordance with state regulations, to be watched closely for signs of rabies, Fulmer said.
Rabies in domesticated animals such as dogs, cats and ferrets usually comes from contact with infected wild animals such as foxes, bats, skunks and, most commonly in this area, raccoons, said Motzkus, of the Grovetown Animal Clinic.
"It's hot weather. It's dry weather. Animals are looking for food, and that's when they are going to come up, particularly if you are leaving food out at your house," Fulmer said. "They are going to be coming up looking for food. And if your pets are outside, that's when you are looking at something that is going to happen."
Rabies vaccinations are required by state law and can be given annually or every three years after an initial shot.
"We want to remind people to keep the shots current, not to let them expire because of this situation," Fulmer said.
Rabies is a viral infection transmitted in the saliva of infected animals.
The virus enters the central nervous system of the bitten animal, causing encephalomyelitis that is almost always fatal.
Fulmer said her office handles three to five cases a year of wild animals that tested positive for rabies after confrontations with pets.
There are two common types of rabies - "furious" rabies and paralytic or "dumb" rabies.
Animals with furious rabies act much like Cujo in the 1983 popular movie.
They are hostile, might bite at objects and might foam at the mouth from too much saliva, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Animals infected with paralytic rabies, the most common type, act timid, often reject food, and have paralysis of the lower jaw and muscles.
Kimberley Zimmerman, of Grovetown, brought her 11-year-old long-haried Akita, Kaido, into Motzkus' office for his annual shots Wednesday. Zimmerman said she takes rabies very seriously because it can affect her family as much as the dog she considers her child.
"We're religious about doing it," Zimmerman said, adding that Kaido didn't need his rabies shot updated because he still has two more years left on his three-year vaccination. "I'm not taking any chances with this big boy."
Fulmer said people should keep pets away from wild animals that are gradually pushed into residential areas by development.
"People that feed their pets outside and leave that food out, that is a welcome invitation right there for wildlife to come up and eat whenever they want to," Fulmer said.
Pet owners should watch for the following signs if rabies is suspected:
- Changes in the animal's behavior
- General sickness - Problems swallowing
- Increase in drool or saliva
- Wild animals that appear abnormally tame or sick
- Animals that might bite at everything if excited
- Difficulty moving or paralysis
Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Viral and Rickettsial Zoonoses Branch
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