Back in April, a property owner in Oakland shot a skunk that was walking around in circles, according to the May 3, 2017 edition of the Waterville Sentinel. The skunk was tested and found to be rabid.
Bats, foxes, raccoons, and skunks are the primary carriers of rabies here in Maine. Only a small percentage of them will be rabid. Maine has had 27 rabies cases this year, and 18 of the cases were raccoons.
Exposure occurs when saliva or the neural tissue of a rabid animal enters through a bite or scratch, cut in the skin, or gets into the eyes, nose, or mouth of your dog or cat.
Unfortunately, it is almost always fatal to dogs and cats.
How to Prevent Your Dog or Cat From Getting Rabies?
- Make sure your dog or cat has an up-to-date rabies vaccination. It is state law and protects both animals and humans. It’s affordable and ensures your pet will survive a bite by a rabid animal, whether it is a wild animal or another infected dog or cat.
- Be sure your pets avoid contact with wild animals. Make sure compost and garbage bins are covered and not available to rummaging animals like skunks, raccoons, and foxes. That way your pets are less likely to meet and greet.
- Your pet may exhibit a fever, hydrophobia (extreme fear of water), and erratic behavior that suggest brain damage.
- Generally, there is not one telltale sign to indicate rabies in a wild animal. You might look for an uncoordinated walk because rabies can cause partial paralysis in the hind quarter of the animal.
- Disoriented bats appearing during the day are typically rabid. Should you need to remove a bat, you’ll want to wear gloves and be very cautious.
- When you see nocturnal animals out and about in the daytime it’s often a sign of disorientation caused by rabies, though raccoons may be rummaging food for their babies.
- We have all heard about an animal with rabies foaming in the mouth. This is very late in the process and is just before the animal succumbs to the virus.
What to do if Your Dog or Cat Gets Bitten
It depends on whether it is a domestic animal that bit your pet or a wild animal. The Maine.gov website suggests the following:
Domestic animal (cat or dog)
- Call your local Animal Control Officer.
- Call your Veterinarian.
- If fully vaccinated, the cat or dog will likely require a 45-day observation period to rule out rabies.
Wild animal (raccoon, skunk, bat, fox, or other wild animal)
- Call your local Game Warden.
- Call your Veterinarian.
- Rabies testing is needed on the wild animal to rule out rabies.
Twenty years ago, Dr. Matt had two incidents of bats getting into a house and coming in contact with a cat in each household. These were “indoor cats” and had never been vaccinated for rabies. Both bats tested positive.
The cats lived but were quarantined for an extensive period of time with significant contact restrictions. As Dr. Matt said, “I would have told you the odds were slim, but it happened twice in 6 months. It hasn’t happened again in over 20 years, but once was enough, not to mention twice.”
Protect your dog or cat with a simple vaccination. It’s state law and protects everyone in our community.