For those of you who have been listening to the local news this won’t be a surprise, to some others it will be… a rabid bat has been found in Brighton. This is no real surprise to veterinarians as we have been telling people all along that rabies continues to be present in Ontario (and many other provinces in Canada). Along these same lines, the Quinte Humane Society has also recently had a case of feline distemper (Panleukopenia) in their shelter and are being forced to deal with the clean-up this entails. Again, no real surprise to us in the veterinary community.
We have been educating our clients for years about the risks that even indoor animals have for being exposed to life-threatening viruses like distemper and rabies. People seem to have the opinion that if their pets live indoors that they cannot be exposed to these diseases. They are wrong. Some diseases, like heartworm, are spread by mosquitoes that have easy access indoors. The most common source of rabies in Ontario is the same one that it is in other provinces in Canada… the Little Brown Bat and related species. These little fellas often live in houses in attics and over garages and in sheds and such, and are a significant risk to both people and pets as a source of rabies.
Many diseases like Panleukopenia and “Kennel” Cough in dogs (cats can get it too) are ridiculously contagious and can easily infect an animal that spends almost all of its time indoors. In both human and veterinary medicine we vaccinate our patients for two reasons; either the disease is so prevalent that the risk of getting it is very high (like influenza in people) or the disease will result in the death of the person or animal that contracts it.
Although vaccines work on an individual animal/person basis, they work best when a certain percentage of the population is vaccinated. This prevents the disease from being able to reproduce itself in the population, which prevents it from spreading. At Hillcrest all of our patients receive vaccinations and preventive medications that are tailored to their individual lifestyles, whether they are indoors or outdoors and whether they are at risk for exposure to other risks factors like ticks.
What this illustrates is the importance of having your pets regularly examined and vaccinated for diseases like rabies and distemper. As with many other topics about the health of your pets, the only opinion that you should be listening to is the opinion of a veterinarian. Please do not make decisions about your pets without consulting a veterinarian. The opinions of family members, friends and others in the community are often well-meaning but they are just that… opinions. Very few people have the breadth of knowledge that your veterinarian possesses when it comes to the health and care of your pets.
Here is a bit of food for thought. There is an old saying in veterinary medicine… “No one knows how to treat your cow better than the farmer down the road. Why? Because it ain’t his cow!”. Please, don’t listen to the farmer… listen to your veterinarian.
Mike Steen, DVM