Editorial: Animal vaccinations a matter of public health

A rabid skunk's recent attack on a litter of puppies in Murray County is a sad but cautionary reminder to maintain rabies vaccinations in our pets.

The attack, reported by a family living off Rob Brooks Road in Crandall in north Murray County, involved a skunk getting inside a dog pen resulting in the death of one puppy and injuring others. None had yet been vaccinated for rabies, so the injured puppies were quarantined at Murray County Veterinary Services in Chatsworth until it could be determined if the skunk was positive for rabies.

It was.

Test results from the Georgia Public Health Laboratory confirmed it; The puppies had yet to be vaccinated for rabies so they were put down. The mother dog was up-to-date on her shots so she only needed a rabies booster and remains under a 45-day quarantine at home.

Rabies is a fatal but preventable viral disease that can spread to people and pets if they are bitten or scratched by a rabid animal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Around here, rabies is mostly found in wild animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes.

However, our pet dogs and cats are highly susceptible.

Rabies is transmitted in the saliva of the rabid animal through bites that break the skin or by exposure of the saliva to the nose or eyes. Puppies lick, gnaw and chew by their nature, so a lick to a fresh wound would also be an exposure to rabies.

According to the CDC's website (www.cdc.gov/rabies), there are four fairly simple rules to follow to protect your pet from rabies.

• "First, visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets and dogs."

"Maintain control of your pets by keeping cats and ferrets indoors and keeping dogs under direct supervision."

"Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly."

"Finally, call animal control to remove all stray animals from your neighborhood since these animals may be unvaccinated or ill."

Although lower-cost rabies vaccination clinics hosted by local veterinarians won't be offered this year, the National Spay Alliance Foundation’s spay/neuter nonprofit in Dalton recently announced it is expanding its $10 Tuesday vaccine clinic to $10 on other days with a limit of two pets per visit. No appointment is required and dog and cat vaccines are $10 each.

The office is at 2518 Cleveland Highway, suite 15, in the same shopping center as Tractor Supply Co.

Some pet owners think they can skip getting their pet vaccinated because they have an "indoor cat" or their dog is in a fenced-in yard.

That doesn't matter. All pets need a rabies vaccine for not only public health concerns but because it is state law.

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