|Vaccinations the key to preventing rabies in pets|
|Written by Dr. Tony Cappello, Northeast Colorado Health Department public health director|
Vaccinating your animals against rabies is part of being a responsible and loving pet owner, and never has this responsibility been more important or had such dire consequences if ignored.
The presence of a strain of skunk rabies is not new to many in this area as the virus has been circulating in northeast Colorado since 2007. However, as the number of rabid wild skunks has increased and now moved into more populated areas, so has their contact with domestic animals.
Despite our efforts to help educate the general public regarding the importance of rabies vaccinations, we continue to come across unvaccinated family pets that have become the victim of an encounter with a rabid animal. As a result, these pets become further victimized because their owners have chosen to not protect them against this deadly disease, leaving few options for the outcome of their beloved animals.
Rabies is a fatal disease for humans and animals. There are three people in the history of the United States that have survived once symptoms start. Because of the seriousness of this disease, extreme measures are taken when it is discovered.
When a human is suspected of coming into contact with a rabid animal, they are started on post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, which consists of a series of five shots. This is done before symptoms start, because once they start, rabies is not survivable.
With animals, there is no treatment available after an exposure to rabies, instead their safety and well-being will be a direct result of measures their owners have taken prior to exposure, in the form of a rabies vaccination. The recommendation for any unvaccinated animal that comes into contact with a confirmed rabid animal, per state statute, is euthanasia.
In some instances a strict 180-day quarantine is allowable at an approved facility, but it comes with a hefty price tag, oftentimes running into the thousands of dollars; the expense of which is the responsibility of the animal owner. It is unfair to ask a local veterinary business or other approved facility, or the taxpayers of northeast Colorado, to shoulder this type of financial burden for something that could have been prevented by a pet owner for under $25.
I would like to take this opportunity to once again implore pet owners to make sure their animals’ rabies vaccinations are up to date and are given by a licensed veterinarian. Any rabies vaccination not administered by a licensed veterinarian is not considered adequate.
The time to be passionate about the safety and well being of our pets is before they are exposed to rabid animals, by taking the responsibilities of pet ownership seriously and making sure they are protected. Rabies is preventable, as is the recommendation of euthanasia if your pet is attacked by a rabid animal. Please vaccinate.
Dr. Tony Cappello,
public health director
Holyoke Enterprise February 28, 2013