Dr. Mickelson, DVM
Rabies Positive Puppy in Northwestern MN
An unusual case of a rapid puppy in Minnesota reminds us all that rabies vaccines should not be shrugged off or forgotten about.
A blue heeler-black lab puppy was bitten by a skunk on July 1st, of this year. The puppy was only 4 weeks old at the time and was too young to be vaccinated for rabies. The skunk was shot and killed, but it was not submitted to a laboratory for further testing. The puppy did not show any signs of illness until it was routinely vaccinated for rabies at 15 weeks of age. The puppy had a severe vaccine reaction that was beyond normal; at that time the veterinarian discovered the puppy had been exposed to rabies 10 weeks prior. The puppy did not respond the treatment and was submitted to a state laboratory for testing after humane euthanasia.
Rabies infections typically have an onset within 10 days of exposure; the long incubation time is what makes this case abnormal.
What you should know about rabies
1) Dogs and Cats can be first vaccinated at 12 weeks of age and should be annually vaccinated yearly or every 3 years; your veterinary medical professional will inform you when your pet is due for rabies vaccines.
If your pet is exposed to rabies (interaction with a wild animal) or bites a human and your pet is not vaccinated, your pet is at risk of a 10-day quarantine or even euthanasia. Rabies testing can only be done on brain tissue after the animal has been euthanized; there is no way to test for rabies while the animal is alive.
2) Large Animals (horse and cows) can also be vaccinated; a yearly vaccine is the current recommendation for horses. Several horses were diagnosed with rabies last year in Minnesota.
3) Rabies is most commonly spread through saliva. The virus is present in the blood; however, saliva transmission (bite) is the most common route of infection.
4) The most common animals that carry rabies are; Skunks, Raccoons and Bats. Bats can be especially dangerous because a bite from a bat can easily go undetected.
5) Whenever there is a risk of exposure to rabies (bite, pet kills a bat, abnormal behaving animal) it is best to reduce your contact with the animal if possible and submit the head (or whole body)
for rabies testing. Contact your local Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (St. Paul or Madison) for further instructions about submitting an animal for rabies testing.
Vaccinate your pets! Reduce your risk of exposure! When in doubt, contact your local humane society officer or veterinary medical professional.