Sunday, May 03, 2009

A Needed Rabies Vaccination? For Here, Yes!

(Please keep in mind that the following is happening in my area and may not be happening in your area. This is meant as a "forewarned is forearmed" passage of information...)

This past Wednesday, I vaccinated my flock of sheep for Rabies. For those of you following the news you'll remember the infamous "Bobcat in a Bar" in Prescott, Arizona, where a bobcat wandered into a local pub, during broad daylight, and tried to attack patrons. Well, we've had a few similar happenings here in northern Arizona as well.
What prompted me to inquire about the prospect of having sheep immunized for rabies was an incident a few weeks ago on the east side of town. A gentleman left his house one morning to get in his car in his driveway and was attacked, and subsequently bitten, by a rabid fox. In Suburbia. Yes...the fox was found and tested positive for rabies...and yes, the man had to undergo treatment.
Being the inquisitive person I am, I started asking questions of the two veterinarians I use. The thought had struck me: Well, I put the sheep in the barn area at night to (hopefully) avoid predation by the coyotes, dogs, bears and lions we have in this area, but was I overlooking the smaller pests? We have skunks, bobcats, fox, raccoon and porcupines moving through all the time. And "What if..." one happened to bite a sheep and transmit the virus to the sheep? Hmmm...
OK...our county did place a quarantine into effect for the city of Flagstaff and parts north into the San Francisco Peaks, with all cats and dogs to be inside or under control of their owners for a certain time period. While that is going on, county and Fish and Game people were dropping vaccination baits all over the areas where rabies had been found in hopes to "vaccinate" any creatures who had not contracted the disease already. However, two things were very wrong with this implementation: one was that not enough area was included in this quarantine to cover the range of the rabies, and, from the feedback for various people involved in this scheme as well as local veterinarians, it isn't working all that well. A third thought was did I really trust the county officials?
After talking to the vets, I decided it would be in my best interest to go ahead and vaccinate the sheep. One problem with the transmission of rabies, if a sheep does get bitten from a rabid animal, is transmission to humans. Although I doubt any rabid animal could even catch one of my "Puddlejumpers", do I want to chance both their health and mine? I don't think so.
When a sheep (cow or horse for that matter) starts to show symptoms of rabies, one of the first signs is coughing as if the animal is choking on something. The responsible owner then reaches in the mouth of said animal to retrieve the object d'jour only to find nothing but saliva all over their hand and arm. All you need do is have an open wound from a cut or torn cuticle, or to slice yourself on a sharp molar and there you have it.
Little did I know that one vet had already ordered the vaccine for me. OK...I get the message. I'll vaccinate the Sheeple. So, everyone got their shot and the next day were not only grumpy with the Shepherdess, but just grumpy from the shot as well.

And as much as I hate to admit it, even though it cost me some money, I feel I did the best I could for not only my flock...but me and the Hired-Hand-With-Benefits as well.

NOTE: In my research I found out from a Vet-Tech that horse owners can become exposed just by bridling a horse IF that horse was exposed to the virus. Who would have thought that the simple act of placing a bit into a horse's mouth could be a contributing factor?


Wrensong Farm said...

I never thought about the sheep and horse saliva with rabies! Definitely not worth the risk when there is a vaccine!!

Val said...

Better to be sure than sorry.

Mim said...

I'd be right behind you if I was your neighbor! Rabies is spooky stuff.

Sharon said...

Educational - and I hope I never need to apply this knowledge.

Kara said...

I do vaccinate my flock, and even bats carry rabies. Consdiering it is fatal if not treated BEFORE symptoms appear, it is worth the piece of mind. I also had a raccoon get in with my flock once and my Shetland ewe charged it with a Cheviot ewe at her back and they threw it over the fence! So I was glad they were protected and all they needed was a booster.

thecrazysheeplady said...

I too vaccinated against rabies this year. Good calls I believe.