By John Chappell – Wednesday, November 24, 2010
A rabid skunk attacked a family dog near Robbins in the early morning hours last Monday.
Animal Control officers had to put down three beloved pets whose inoculations were out of date after tests confirmed that the skunk did have rabies.
“I woke up hearing barking,” David Sanders said. “A skunk was in the dog pen fighting Sandy. She was a white Pekingese. They fought for 45 minutes, but she would not let go. All I had was a shotgun.”
Sanders said he couldn’t get a clear shot on the skunk that wouldn’t also hit his pet. Two other dogs were in the pen, but not in the fight.
“Cookie, also a white Pekingese, who was her pup, and our male Rue-ru,” he said. “It was about 3 in the morning. I went out and my first thought was, ‘What is that terrible smell?’ It was still in my nose the next day at the ER.
“Everywhere I went for three days I could smell it. I still don’t know how that skunk got in. There was no break in the pen.”
There was a shepherd dog in a second lot, but the Sanderses lost not only Sandy but also both the other Pekingese once rabies was confirmed.
“Animal Control had to put all three down,” he said. “It was a hard lesson. If you want to keep your dogs, get them a rabies shot.”
Moore County Animal Control makes house calls to administer rabies vaccinations for a $5 charge. Preventing the dread disease is one thing at the top of Al Carter’s list. He is director of operations at the center.
Rabies has been on the wane in the county of late, down to only four instances in 2010.
“Two skunks and two raccoons,” Carter said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “Rabies is somewhat of a cyclical disease. When an animal gets it, it dies. We have been on a down side the last couple of years. That’s good. It is a terrible way to die.”
A rabid dog got into the compound when Carter was in Special Forces. Soldiers had to get the shots. The Army showed them film of people dying from rabies.
“Even sedated, they were in agony,” he said. “It’s real. It’s a dangerous disease. The virus attacks the nervous system, jumps from synapse to synapse slowly until it reaches the medulla.”
That’s the part of the brain of a suspected infected animal that is sent off to be checked. In this case, tests showed Sanders’ invading skunk was rabid. Animal Control advised him to go to an emergency room or be checked by his family doctor right away.
“We went the next morning,” Sanders said. “They checked me over and didn’t find any cuts or any scratches where I could get infected.”
He didn’t have to take the shots. They are very costly.
“There have been improvements,” Carter said. “It isn’t the ones they used to have to give in the stomach. I think the first one now is strongly prophylactic, and there are four to six more after that. It’s not cheap. It costs around $8,000.”
All three of the Sanderses’ pets had to be destroyed. Their alternative would have been to have them boarded for observation in a clinic for six months. That runs about $2,500 per dog, Carter estimated.
Had Sanders himself needed the shots and had he had all four of their dogs boarded, that skunk attack would have cost about $20,000, according to Carter.
“We have very little wiggle room when the tags are out-of-date,” Carter said. “The only other option is to board them at a licensed veterinary clinic.”
Even that would not guarantee survival, as one or more would still have to die if the disease developed. The slow growth of the disease can take months before symptoms can be seen.
“It comes out in saliva,” Carter said. “We say it ‘sheds’ through the saliva.”
Even though 2010 has seen fewer instances, Carter wants local residents to be aware of the danger, be cautious around wild creatures such as foxes, raccoons and skunks, and get their pets protected.
“Rabies is dangerous,” he said. “It is real, and it is in Moore County.”
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