Rabies Vaccines A Matter Of Life And Death

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Any pet owner who read the story on the front page of today's newspaper probably had their heart sink when they saw that a woman had to put five of her dogs to sleep.

Of the six dogs who found and killed a rabid mountain lion, only one is still alive and will cost the pet owner almost $1,300 to be quarantined for rabies.

This tragic end to the life of five pets and possibly a sixth came about because none of the animals had current rabies vaccinations.

This woman's tragedy can be a lesson to all pet owners.

In the Rim Country, we live side by side with wild animals. Outdoors pets regularly come in contact with skunks and foxes as well as the occasional coyote and mountain lion.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association Web site, rabies is rare in domestic animals in the United States. Rabies is primarily a disease of wild animals, but domestic animals are often the targets of attacks by rabid wild animals.

In Northern Gila County, the mountain lion who exposed six ranch dogs to rabies was the third case of the disease in a wild animal this year. The other two incidents involved a coyote, found east of Star Valley, and a fox, found near the campus of Gila Community College.

"There is a lot more rabies in the wildlife than people know," said Dr. Sandra Snyder of Payson Pet Care."

The issue of making sure each pet has a current rabies vaccination is about more than the possible loss of that pet. It is a human health issue.

A rabies vaccination costs $22. The first shot is good for one year and must be followed by a booster that lasts for an additional three years.

Vaccines must be given from then on in three-year intervals. Keeping up on rabies vaccinations is a responsibility that continues for the entire life of your pet.

Any animal over three months of age can be vaccinated against rabies.

"If you can afford a bag of dog food, you can afford a rabies vaccination," Snyder said. "It's part of owning an animal. If you can't afford it, you shouldn't have a (pet)."

If an unvaccinated animal comes in contact with a wild animal with rabies, you won't know it until it is too late and the disease could be passed on to you or your children by the pet licking your face or getting saliva into a cut on your hand.

"They don't always become like Kujo," Snyder said. "Sometimes they just start acting sick."

Rabies is a deadly disease and there is no treatment, she said. "It's a horrible, horrible death and there's no cure for it."

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