Randy Newton, animal control supervisor for the city of Shawnee, said a dog who showed signs of rabies following a fight with a skunk has tested positive for the rabies virus, prompting officials to remind residents to get their pets vaccinated.
“This is the first dog to test positive in the 25 years I’ve been here,” Newton said.
He and other city officials want to remind area residents that rabies in dogs and cats can be prevented with a simple rabies vaccination.
Newton said the dog, which hadn’t been vaccinated against rabies, was involved in a fight with a skunk in the backyard of its owner’s home in south Shawnee.
The owner took the dog to a local veterinarian, and after 24 hours of observation, the dog began shaking and showing symptoms of rabies, Newton said, such as foaming at the mouth.
The animal was taken to the Oklahoma State Department of Health for rabies testing, which returned positive.
Newton said the skunk likely bit the dog during that fight since rabies is spread through saliva to bite contact.
“Skunks are the primary carriers of rabies,” Newton said, adding there are many of them around Shawnee.
While skunks are prevalent in rural areas, food is often what brings them to city areas, he said, and there’s usually plenty to attract them.
“The biggest problems are the people who feed cats outside,” Newton said, adding the smell of cat and dog food is sure way to see skunks nearby. “Take away the food source and they’ll leave.”
Newton said this case shows the importance of vaccinating cats and dogs against rabies — a shot that can be as inexpensive as $12 The preventative rabies shot is 99.9 percent effective against rabies.
“The virus affects the nervous system and brain,” Newton said, adding an infected animal will usually show some signs within 10 days.
“You can’t always tell by looking at a skunk, dog or cat if it has rabies,” he added.
The only way to test for rabies in a pet is to is look at the dog’s brain, he said, so the animals has to die no matter how the test comes out.
This case should be a reminder for all pet owners to check their pet’s vaccination records.
Shawnee Police Chief Russell Frantz said the city of Shawnee requires rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats, along with a city tag to register their pet.
Page 2 of 2 - “The rabies tag lets us know the animal has been vaccinated and the city tag registers the animal so if it gets loose Animal Control can return the animal back to owner.”
City tags are $5 if the pet is spayed or neutered, but $10 if they’re not, he said.
Newton said pet owners can be fined for not having rabies vaccinations and a city license for their pets, and those fines start at $122.
Newton, who said the license and rabies shot are much cheaper than a fine, said it also will better protect pets and others against the rabies virus, which can widely spread if a an infected dog or cat comes in contact with another, and then another.
“It can snowball really quick once it gets started,” he said, not to mention the risk for humans.
For more information on rabies vaccination or city licenses for animals, contact the Shawnee Animal Shelter at 878-1531.