AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The Georgia Department of Public Health recently responded to a call about a Richmond County dog that was attacked by a rabies positive raccoon. Luckily, the dog was up to date on its rabies shots.
It’s commonly believed that an animal infected with rabies will foam at the mouth. While this is true in some cases, Dr. Steve Knittel of Paradise Animal Hospital says animals present different symptoms at different stages of infection.
“A lot of it is just going to be uncharacteristic behaviors,” Dr. Knittel said. “A wild animal that normally would be wanting to stay away from people may be wandering up close, acting like it’s tame. But it’s not tame, it’s just sick.”
He says as an animal becomes more ill, it may act lethargic, or become overly aggressive– known as furious rabies.
“It doesn’t take the same path in each individual,” Dr. Knittel said. “It can be various presentations.”
He says pets are most commonly exposed when they are out of sight, and owners are unaware of an attack.
“Your dog is out there interacting with things, you may not be there to see it. And so that’s why vaccination is important,” Dr. Knittel said. “Just to be continually protected for those situations that you might not even see happen.”
A pet must be at least three months old to receive the first round of the rabies shot.
“That initial one can only be good for one year,” Dr. Knittel said. “On their second booster, you can do a one year again, or you can do a three year if you use a proper vaccine.”
Dr. Knittel says in warmer months as people are outdoors more, pets may have a higher risk of coming in contact with a rabies infected animal.
But a risk factor he says is year round– bats, which are commonly infected with rabies.
“Bats are always the X-factor, because they can show up anywhere,” Dr. Knittel said. “They can be laying on the sidewalk outside your front door, they can get in your house, and you have no idea that your pet has just been exposed to rabies.”