Luckily, I'm not freaked out by bats. In fact, I'm kind of a bat advocate. So when our puppy, Ruby Mae, pranced out of the garden and proudly delivered one to me, I managed not to scream too loudly. The bat was alive and obviously sick. Did it bite our dog and give her rabies?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website defines rabies as a viral disease most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system of mammals and eventually kills them. There's no cure. You can prevent it by having pets vaccinated, but little Ruby was too young and hadn't had her first rabies shot yet.
Where we live, in Minnesota, bats and skunks are the animals that are most likely to carry rabies. The Minnesota Department of Health's website has great info on rabies, including a flow chart that walks you through what to do. They report that only 3.6 percent of bats they test are rabid, compared to half of all skunks.
When Ruby had the run-in with the bat, I called our vet's office immediately. They helped us start the process. We quarantined Ruby, and, after donning a homemade hazmat suit, my son used sticks to put the bat in a container. The vet euthanized the bat and we drove it to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and nervously awaited a call from the Minnesota Department of Health with results. If it was positive, Ruby would either have to have postexposure prophylaxsis, which is a series of shots, and/or be quarantined for 100-plus days. If the bat had been inside of our home, we may have needed the shot series too.
We celebrated when results came back negative.
Because it has no cure, rabies is nothing to mess with. If there's a possibility of exposure -- even if you're not sure -- please act fast. Call your vet and/or healthcare provider immediately for advice. They can hep determine if you or your pet needs treatment.
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