Officials offer insight on protecting Panhandle pets from rabies

It is required by state law for animals to receive their rabies vaccinations. Officials say to keep your pets away from stray animals. (File Photo)

With six confirmed cases of rabies in the Texas Panhandle this year, rabies vaccinations are important for pets.

Richard Havens, Director of Animal Management & Welfare for the City of Amarillo, said bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes are the top vectors of rabies in the Panhandle. He said these types of calls are taken very seriously.

"Especially with bats. There are a lot of bats in the Canyon area," Havens said. "We do test a lot of bats from the Canyon area every year. We want to make sure their citizens are safe and if post-exposure rabies does happen, [it happens] at a very timely manner."

Dogs, cats and ferrets are the most common animals needing rabies vaccinations, but rabies can impact all mammals, which includes humans. If a human is scratched or bitten, he said majority of the time it will be fatal because once symptoms start, it will be too late.

"[Rabies] affects the central nervous system and it has a 99.99 percent fatality rate," Havens said. "It is nothing that people should mess around with. That is why we are so strict with animal scratches."

Dr. Janice Wolf with Canyon Road Animal Hospital said there are two different forms of rabies, one more severe than the other. Both forms have different symptoms to look out for.

Dr. Wolf said the dumb form of rabies occurs when animals are drooling because the virus is paralyzing the muscles that control swallowing. She said the furious form of rabies occurs when the animal lashes out at any kind of movement.

"These dogs may also have some salvation," Dr. Wolf said. "A lot of times because of their activity, it works up into a frothy, foamy substance."

Dr. Wolf said rabies vaccinations are required by state law and even if you have an animal that does not go outside, the pet needs to be vaccinated.

"There's always a chance that they can escape out of the house," Dr. Wolf said. "If they are ever bitten by a rabid animal or one that is even suspected that might be rabid, then the protocol involves putting that pet to sleep."

Havens said it is important for pet owners to keep their pets away from any stray animal because residents do not know what that animal could possibly have.

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