Puppy confirmed to have rabies; multiple individuals to undergo post-exposure treatment


CONTACT: Dee W. Jones, D.V.M.
(334) 206-5100 or 1-800-338-8374

A 4-month-old stray puppy that had recently been taken in by Dothan city and Houston County Animal Control has been confirmed to have rabies. The puppy was one of a litter of four that was treated and held for the required observation period before adoption.

The puppy began showing abnormal neurological signs soon after being transferred to a local rescue group, and was taken to a local veterinarian for treatment. The animal died shortly after and was tested for rabies by the Alabama Department of Public Health. Rabies is rare in domestic animals because of vaccination requirements, but very young, stray animals often are a greater risk of having rabies because they have not been vaccinated.

“We are working with the attending veterinarians, the rescue group, and the animal control workers to determine a list of individuals who were potentially exposed to the puppy on January 21 or later,” State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Dee W. Jones said.

At this point, multiple persons exposed to the puppy have been identified, and they are receiving the standard rabies prevention treatment. Rabies is 100 percent preventable if treated appropriately and in a timely manner. Dr. Jones said, “This highlights the importance of identifying anyone who was in contact with this animal within the shedding period so that treatment can be performed”.

The rabies virus is transmitted by saliva. In general, rabies exposure requires direct contact with infected saliva, usually through a bite or a scratch, but other less common contact exposures with mucous membranes (eyes, nose and mouth) are also considered as potential exposures.

Dr. Jones said, “In general, rabies prevention is multifaceted; it involves people taking precautions with wildlife, making sure their pets are current on rabies vaccinations, and always reporting an animal bite or other exposure to their medical provider or the health department.”

Alabama state law requires that dogs, cats and ferrets 12 weeks of age and older be current with rabies vaccination. Rabies vaccines are also available for horses and other livestock if recommended by a veterinarian. Vaccinating animals reduces the risk of rabies infection should an exposure occur; thus vaccinations help protect animals, as well as their owners and caretakers.

For more information about rabies and prevention, please contact the Houston County Health Department at (334) 678-2815. You may also call ADPH at 1-800-338-8374 or (334) 206-5100 or visit alabamapublichealth.gov/infectiousdiseases/rabies.