Sophie, a 4-year-old Labrador retriever that lives at Acute Care Veterinary Clinic in Martinez, is protected for another year.
Dr. Mark Brucker recently gave Sophie her annual shots, including one for rabies. The process is one he recommends for every pet, especially this time of year.
"It is the only shot that is required by law, in the state of Georgia anyway,'' he said. "... The only one the government cares about is the up-to-date rabies shot on both dogs and cats. I really don't have to convince people to get the rabies shot."
Sophie's shots took about three minutes to administer and caused her little discomfort.
This time of year, as temperatures rise, officials say, wild animals that often carry rabies, such as raccoons and foxes, are out looking for food and are more likely to come in contact with outdoor pets. That's why county and medical officials say owners should make sure rabies shots are part of their pets' annual vaccinations.
Rabies is a viral infection transmitted in the saliva of infected animals. The virus enters the central nervous system of the host, causing a disease that is almost always fatal.
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. Linda Fulmer, the director of Columbia County Animal Care and Control, said her office normally sees between three and five cases of rabies each year, mostly in wild animals.
Officials say vaccinations are important because if a vaccinated pet comes into contact with an infected animal, that pet only needs a booster shot and to be carefully watched while quarantined at home.
If a pet that hasn't been vaccinated comes in contact with an infected animal, it must either be euthanized or kept in a very specific kennel, to be inspected by Animal Care and Control employees, for at least six months, with no direct human or animal contact.
Officials say there are ways to rid your property of wild animals that might carry rabies.
"If they are steadily coming up to your house, there is a food source they are coming back to," Fulmer said, adding that pet food is often left outside. "... You don't want to leave those bowls out."
A fenced yard also helps keep wild animals away from domesticated pets.
If a pet is suspected to have come in contact with a wild animal, Fulmer said, the owner should call Animal Care and Control immediately.
She said a pet that has rabies usually exhibits distinct changes in its behavior.
"Those changes can include lethargy, sudden aggression, difficulty swallowing and drooling,'' she said.
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