Spring brings wild animals. Most states require rabies shots. Do people really understand rabies and the repercussions?

Unsupervised pets can be inquisitive. “Unknowns” can be deadly. Rabies shots protect your pet if it is bitten by a skunk, possum, rat, fox, coyote, or raccoon.

What if you are bitten by a stray dog or cat? Seek medical attention immediately. Rabies is one of the oldest known viral diseases that can infect all mammals.

Research (www.rabiesfatalities.com) As many as 55,000 people world wide die from rabies per year. Most deaths occur in children in Africa and Asia.

Rabies is transferred through a bite. Saliva or mucous membranes of an infected host contains a virus that can be transferred by picking up the dead animal.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, causing encephalopathy (dysfunction of the brain). The animal becomes aggressive and salivates.

A friend bitten by a stud horse later found him dead. The man suffered a series of rabies shots directly into his stomach. The horse was found rabid upon examination.

Any change in behavior, lack of fear, aggressiveness, lameness, lethargy, choking, bloating, vocalizing, and hydrophobia (fear of water) are symptoms of rabies. Rabies is usually fatal, but it can be prevented nearly 100-percent of the time through post exposure vaccines and immunoglobulin administered quickly after exposure.

Remember the book “Cujo” and “Old Yeller?” Immediate action is required. If it is a small wild animal, call animal control. The animal will be sent to the state for examination. Do not attempt to capture the animal yourself. Notify authorities immediately.

This is my friend’s story. She lives in a rural area up north and has a “live and let live” attitude. As she states: We chose to build in the woods and accept the challenges. Curious as to why I hadn’t heard from her, I sent an e-mail.

This is her reply. “I was bitten by a skunk.” Being inquisitive and knowing she was animal savvy, I asked “What happened?” This is what ensued.

Cleaning her dining room near her deck, she hears a scrambling noise. After a crash, she investigates.

Although the lighting is poor, she removes her cat’s bowl. A “snout” appears and she feels a “bite.” Startled, she finds herself “eye to eye” with a puffed up, indignant skunk with a “double dare” look on its face.

She grabs a heavy box and throws it over the varmint for later dispersal. Fortunately, the skunk didn’t spray her as it was obviously as surprised as she was.

My friend heads for the E.R. and the hospital starts post-rabies treatment that day. The initial dose of vaccine is 20-times the subsequent shots.

She is given five shots directly into the wound on her hand and five more shots in her biceps, deltoids, and thighs.

They use a very sharp, fine long needle. The second and third day she is given one vaccine in the deltoid. The seventh day and 14th day she is given another vaccine shot. She drinks carrot juice and milk thistle. She now feels concern for her liver.

On the bright side, she is now forever inoculated against rabies (So says the CDC). In the event of another exposure, she will require a booster.

The County Animal Control and Health Department are her best of friends. Her plans include trapping the “lying groundhog” that tears up their garden. He’s too up close and personal. She is now more cautious regarding strange animal behavior.

We experienced strange animal behavior as well. A raccoon appeared near our garage. Grinding its teeth, it advanced.

We “tucked tail” and ran for assistance. When wild animals approach, don’t assume they offer friendship. Possums carry babies in their pouch and varmints carry disease. Once established, they “come forth and multiply,” bringing parasites and fleas. When a wild critter hangs around your house, shows no fear, or threatens you with aggressive behavior, call animal control. They will use a humane trap and take proper action.

Don’t feed pets outside your door. Dispose of leftover food and garbage in covered containers. One can smell an invading skunk. If you see one and it raises its tail and backs toward you, get out of the “line of fire.”

If possums invade your barn, be aware that feeding horses hay soaked with possum urine can be deadly. The urine carries a virus that attacks the nervous system.

If you, or your pet, are “gifted” by a skunk, solutions may include tomato juice baths. Another natural, messy solution is baking soda, peroxide, and dish soap.

“Human Scent Killer” by Rutger’s University is 99 percent effective and can be purchased at Rural King. Wash your clothes and yourself in this product.

“Simple Clean” is made with a citrus base with a natural solvency to release grease and odors without ammonia or oil extracts. It’s effective on everything, especially “skunk.”

Visit www.simpleclean.org or supersoapman@aol.com.

Experiencing a recent episode, I filled my sprinkling can with “Simple Clean” and covered the barn area. If your dog meets a skunk, hopefully it will be smart enough not to “push its buttons” a second time. If you own small dogs, be vigilant of eagles and hawks.

Small wild animals can be charming, but my friend thinks differently. She warns: “Beware of small people in fur coats!” They are not “user friendly.”

“Critters” nest anywhere, especially when issued a “dinner invitation.” Both country and city dwellers can be victimized. Idle machinery, wagons, bales of straw, and garages with junk are perfect. “Furry freeloaders” savor protection with benefits.

When it comes to rabies exposure, seek treatment immediately. There is no “second chance.”

Katie Gammill of Lerna is an AKC judge and member of the American Kennel Club. A free-lance writer, she is a member of the Dog Writers Association of America and is a community education coordinator.

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