FORUM: Many wild animals, feral cats infected with rabies

2012-12-01T06:00:00Z FORUM: Many wild animals, feral cats infected with rabiesShirley D. Schumacher writes from Oral Rapid City Journal
December 01, 2012 6:00 am  • 

Attacked! When I got home recently, the bear dogs were barking, digging at the fence and racing around. I went out to see what the ruckus was and there was a dark gray cat, hunched up with its eyes closed about three feet from the fence, obviously quite ill.

I threw a stick at it and shouted but it ran straight at us. It would've leapt the fence, except the dogs got it by the tail from the inside while it was atop the fencepost. It got away and ran to another section of fence, jumped it, and attacked again -- eyes bugged out, claws stretched and yowling.

The cat was coming at me, when the dogs got it down on the ground between them. I bludgeoned it with a large stick as it bit the dogs and clawed them.

I wanted to have the cat tested for rabies, but my vet was unavailable and neither was the game warden. I was told to keep it cool (not freeze it) and take it to a veterinarian's office in the morning, but it would have cost over $100 to find out if it was rabid. With an infestation of skunks this year and at least one rabid bat so far in Fall River County, I would think there would be a better way to test an obviously rabid animal.

Be careful of any animal that acts strangely: A skunk wandering about in daylight hours or showing no fear of people; a cat that is obviously sick and attacks in a split second. If you are bitten or scratched, immediately bring the animal in to be quarantined and/or tested. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to begin treatment for rabies (which modern medicine has improved upon greatly).

In humans, the time it takes to show symptoms of infection is variable from a few days to two months or more. Once symptoms become clear, survival is rare.

In animals with rabies, the behavioral changes occur in the beginning, a few days after exposure and are called the prodomal stage. The second stage, which lasts for three or four days, is called the excitative or furious stage and the animal is hyper-reactive to stimuli, and will bite at anything.

The staggering and foaming at the mouth seen in horror movies is actually the third stage of the virus and is called the paralytic stage.

The virus is active in the mucous membranes and will remain viable for 24 hours until it dries. It might be a good idea for hunters in the area to keep a vigilant eye on the critters this year.

And keep in mind that, as of September of this year, forty-five rabid animals had been caught in South Dakota, and 60 percent of skunks tested were positive for the rabies virus. How many more go unreported, as in the instance I have mentioned here with the cat?

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