Now is the time to vaccinate pets against rabies
Now that warm weather has arrived, owners need to vaccinate dogs and cats against rabies, says Mark Keaton, Baxter County Extension agent with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
Early spring is a dangerous time for pets because skunks--the primary carriers of rabies--are most active.
"March usually has the highest number of rabies cases because male skunks are searching for mates and females are looking for dens to raise their young," says Keaton.
State law requires that cats and dogs in Arkansas be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian.
"This not only protects the animal," says Keaton, "but also acts as a barrier between wildlife exposures of rabies and people, as pets are more likely than humans to be directly exposed to a rabid skunk."
Keaton provides rabies statistics for Arkansas:
--2000 through 2007: 388 confirmed cases of rabies in animals
--2004: one human death from rabies
--2007: 33 lab-confirmed cases of rabies in animals
--2008: through April 4, 11 lab-confirmed cases of rabies in animals (one bat, one goat, one dog and eight skunks)
Children should be reminded not to touch wild animals and to stay away from stray pets.
"If someone is bitten by an animal, an effort should be made to preserve the animal's head," says Keaton. "Rabies is a virus affecting the central nervous system, traveling up nerves to the brain, so state Health Department officials need to examine the brain."
If an animal bite does occur, call your county Health Department or the Epizootic Disease Program, State Department of Health at Little Rock at 501-661-2264 or 501-661-2597.
For more information about rabies, contact your county extension agent or visit www.uaex.edu and search for Rabies. The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the U of A Division of Agriculture.