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Vets surprised by rabies case

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Posted: Saturday, December 8, 2012 2:11 am

Two Titus County veterinarians were stunned last week as they found a case of live rabies in a family pet that belonged to a Mount Vernon family.

Both Drs. Katy Dunn and Ronnie Robertson, who operates Robertson-Dunn Veterinary Services on Industrial Street, said they can’t recall the last time they saw a dog with active rabies.

The dog was euthanized Monday, along with the other three family dogs who had been exposed, and the members of the family now must have post-exposure rabies vaccinations, said Dr. Robertson.

Dr. Dunn said the family contacted the Franklin County Animal Control office over the weekend and reported the dog was disoriented, aggressive, and attacking the other dogs.

They were told to bring the dog to the family vet on Monday. When they saw the dog, they knew it had active rabies and it was euthanized, said Dunn. Lab reports confirmed on Wednesday it had full-blown rabies.

The other family dogs were euthanized, and now family members must have vaccinations to prevent developing the disease. One active, rabies is always fatal, said Dunn, “you die a slow, painful death.”

She added that she has never seen actives rabies in a dog, and the only time she’s observed rabies in non-wildlife - during her seven years as a vet - was with two horses.

Dr. Robertson also said he was stunned to discover the live rabies, “I can’t recall the last time I saw that,” in his over 30 years in practice.

Livestock or pets can contract rabies from wild animals, “any mammal can be a carrier of rabies,” said Dunn.

The family faces an ordeal in the wake of the discovery, said Dunn. The post-exposure treatment for rabies involves five vaccinations and costs $12,000 per person.

Human vaccine is very expensive because not much is produced, she said; the only people who regularly get rabies vaccinations are veterinarians and people who deal with animals in their jobs, such as zookeepers.

State law requires pets be vaccinated every three years, and it is once a year in Mount Pleasant.

The discovery of the rabies “concerns us,” said Dunn. “People are not getting their animals vaccinated as often as they need to.”

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  • DBeebe posted at 7:38 pm on Mon, Dec 10, 2012.

    DBeebe Posts: 1

    Were any of the dogs current on rabies vaccines? I'm also curious if they know where the dog may have been exposed.

  • srstephanie posted at 1:55 pm on Mon, Dec 10, 2012.

    srstephanie Posts: 1

    Could you give more information about the dog(s)? What is the vaccination history of the dog that had active rabies? Had the dog ever been vaccinated? If so, when was the last vaccination (and when was the initial rabies vaccination)? What product was used? How old was the dog? Do they know how the dog was infected (raccoon, fox, bat, etc)?

    What about the other dogs in the family? Had they never been vaccinated ... and was that the reason they were euthanized?

    It would be important to know if this was a case of unvaccinated dogs getting rabies ... or, if this could be a possible case of vaccination failure. Generally, rabies vaccines give good protection for "at least" 3 years. I've heard that the Rabies Challenge study by Dr Ron Schultz at the Univ of Wisconsin showed protection after 5 years and they have another year or so for the 7 yr challenge study.

    Rabies vaccines for dogs are all "Killed Virus" (aka: "inactivated") vaccines. Immunologically, for most KV vaccines it is better to give TWO initial doses, 2-6 weeks apart before going to the first annual booster ... though the law only requires a single initial vaccination and then a booster a year later, with later boosters every 1 or 3 years, depending on local law. Vets in the area may want to consider a 2-dose initial series ... or, at least check with the local legal authorities about that.

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