RABIES – Don’t be Complacent
RABIES! We are not joking, it is HERE!
Truthfully, it has been here all along. Nothing has changed, except that we’ve become more aware of it. We love Bats, they are an important part of our ecosystem and I love that they eat Mosquitoes. BUT, a certain percentage of Bats do have Rabies. 10% of Bats that are tested, are positive for Rabies. That does NOT mean that 10% of the Bat population has Rabies, it means that 10% of the Bats THAT ARE TESTED are positive. (usually no one would test a Bat unless something seemed unusual, for example = Bats are not usually out in the day and if someone found a sickly one on the ground they might carefully catch it and have it tested)
We had first hand experience with a Rabid Cat recently. It was an indoor and outdoor cat that we believe came into contact with a Rabid bat. When they tested it for Rabies, they were able to identify that it had a strain of Rabies that is found in Bats. (There are other strains found in Foxes, Raccoons, etc – that would be new to our area).
The sad part is that this cat had to be euthanized. The owner had a second cat from the same household and had the difficult choice of either putting that cat into isolation for an extended time or euthanasia. Due to limited resources, the owner had to have the second cat euthanized.
The owner brought the first cat to us because it was just acting abnormal. In our exam, it was evident that the cat had neurological abnormalities. We hospitalized it for lab work and further monitoring. Unfortunately, the cat bit one of our technicians. It wasn’t a typical grouchy/ reactive bite. This cat went from being fairly calm to suddenly very aggressively attacking and tenaciously hanging on with it’s fangs and all 4 claws. It was genuinely scary! Because our technician was bitten, and because the cat had never been vaccinated for Rabies – – we had to report the bite, have our technician get Rabies post-exposure prophylaxis injections, euthanize the cat, and have the cat tested for Rabies.
Cat’s testing positive for Rabies are very rare in Oregon, so we thought that the testing was just a formality. But the lab got back to us quickly and alerted us that the test was positive. We were very glad that our technician had received Rabies post-exposure prophylaxis injections. One other team member and the owner of the cat had questionable scratches, so to be on the safe side, they went through Rabies post-exposure prophylaxis injections too.
Fortunately, all the humans involved have fully recovered. Sadly, the two cats had to be euthanized. We are relaying this event because we are adamant that your pet have its Rabies vaccine updated. It is very sad to see the pet’s have to go through illness and end up euthanized, but there is also a very real and very scary risk to humans as well.
Again, we cherish that Bats are an important part of our ecosystem – but a certain percentage do have Rabies. Once those Bats are affected by Rabies, they become neurologic and sickly – becoming easy prey for roaming cats or dogs. Cats especially cannot resist a mouse sized creature moving around on the ground and any cat “worth its weight” is going to attack (or play) with that bat. At that point, they can contract Rabies. Best to prevent Rabies in your Cat (or Dog), by vaccinating. The vaccines are not ‘benign’, there is always a chance of reaction, etc – but it is rare. Protecting your pet by keeping their Rabies vaccine up to date is a priority.