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What To Do When A Dog Is Exposed To Rabies

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Stephen King identified a real fear that many people have when he wrote Cujo. His story of a friendly family dog becoming everyone's worst nightmare was terrifying because of its basis in fact. Rabies is a problem in the United States and domestic pets and the people they live with are at risk if they become exposed. Here are the steps dog owners should take it they believe their pet has come in contact with the deadly virus. 

Notifying the Authorities

It is not safe to intervene if the dog is fighting with another animal that was behaving oddly or acting aggressive. It is difficult to watch a pet in a situation like this, but if the owner is also injured there may be no one to seek help. Contact animal control immediately so they can stop the attack and capture or destroy the sick animal. 

Owners should also contact animal control if the suspicious animal ran away after biting the dog or it the dog was too close to a deceased creature that may have been rabid. The virus can live on a deceased animal for a few hours or a few months depending on the temperature. They will want to track the animal or remove the remains for testing.

Seeking Medical Assistance

If a dog has been vaccinated against rabies, it should be safe from infection. Emergency services are needed if the pet was bitten or scratched because the wounds need to be properly cleaned. Do not do this step at home. The rabies virus is passed through saliva and cleaning the wound could transmit the illness to the person tending to their injuries. The vet will know the right procedure to prevent this from happening. Wear rubber gloves while assisting the dog if there are numerous wounds.

If the pet was not injured, it still needs to see the vet. Make an appointment within a day or two for the dog to receive a rabies booster. This is a little extra insurance against the virus. In some states, dogs are required to get a booster within a specific amount of time after contact occurs. 

Understanding Quarantine Laws

Pets that are not vaccinated will not necessarily become infected just because they were in contact with a rabid animal. However, the issue is serious enough that every state has quarantine laws to protect the public. It can take days, or even weeks, before an infected animal shows signs of rabies and there are no tests that can determine infection in live animals. A dog that has been exposed will be required to remain in quarantine for 6 months, at the owner's expense. If the owner is unable to pay, the dog is euthanized. 

The best defense is to always keep all pets vaccinated and contact the vet immediately if a dog comes in contact with a wild animal or a domestic pet behaving strangely. Keep all pets and children away if a rabid animal dies in the yard. Have the deceased animal removed by animal control and clean the entire area with a solution of bleach and water.  The yard is safe again once the surface is dry. 

For more information about dealing with a rabies scare, contact a company like Animal Emergency Clinic.