Virginia health officials investigating rare case of human rabies in Central Virginia

Katie O’Connor with the Richmond Time-Dispatch wrote this article published May 12, 2017.

After being bitten by a dog while traveling in India, a central Virginia resident has a confirmed case of human rabies, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The department declined to share any additional information about the patient, citing privacy concerns.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, human rabies is almost always fatal.

“Once symptoms appear in a person, that person’s prognosis is poor,” said Julia Murphy, state public health veterinarian with the VDH. “That’s why we emphasize the importance of prompt reporting of exposures.”

Health providers can intervene with a vaccine before a person becomes symptomatic, Murphy said. There has not been a vaccine failure in the U.S. since the 1980s.

Cases of human rabies are extremely rare in the U.S.; only 1 to 3 cases are reported annually.

The last time the VDH reported a case was in 2009, when another patient was bitten by a dog in India. That person died, Murphy said.

Health officials are assessing — “out of an abundance of caution,” Murphy said — those who had direct contact with the central Virginia patient, such as family members or health care workers, to determine if they have been exposed.

“The only documented case of human-to-human transmission has been via organ transplantation,” she said.

According to the CDC’s website, the symptoms of rabies are very similar to the flu, with general weakness, discomfort, fever and headaches.

Symptoms could progress to anxiety, confusion and agitation, and eventually to delirium, hallucinations and insomnia.

Rabies is a vaccine-preventable disease, and Murphy said anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to rabies should seek medical attention.

“Virginia is rabies endemic — you don’t have to travel internationally to be exposed,” she said. “If a person in Virginia is bitten by an animal, we ask them to take certain precautions like washing the wound thoroughly with lots of soap and water, try to identify the animal, then alert someone — particularly in the local health department.”

The Pet Effect

The Pet Effect Campaign, led by HABRI-founder Zoetis, is a multi-pronged campaign aimed to introduce pet owners to the health benefits of the human-animal bond, and to understand how important their veterinarians are for happy, healthy pets!

HABRI has assembled scientific evidence that demonstrates how pets improve heart health; alleviate depression; increase well-being; support child health and development; and contribute to healthy aging. In addition, companion animals can assist in the treatment of a broad range of conditions from post-traumatic stress to Alzheimer’s disease to autism spectrum disorder. Veterinarians are the professionals who keep pets healthy so that in turn they can positively impact our health and well-being.

Check out The Pet Effect website and these videos and infographics to learn more!

Pets & AutismPets & Blood PressurePets & Your Cardio HealthPets & Childhood AllergiesPets & DepressionPets & PatientsPets & DoctorsCats & Your HeartPets & ObesityPets & PTSD

Top Pet Toxins of 2016

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center  (APCC) has compiled the list of top 10 pet toxins most commonly ingested by pets—and reported to APCC—in 2016.

10. Garden Products. Kicking off the Top 10 list are garden products, including herbicides and fungicides, which accounted for 2.6% of the APCC’s cases in 2016. Many pets find fertilizers irresistible, so it’s incredibly important to store lawn and garden products out paws’ reach and to supervise pets whenever they’re outside.

9. Plants. Dropping one spot this year from #8 to #9, plants accounted for 5.2% of APCC’s cases. Both indoor and outdoor plants, along with bouquets, can be dangerous for pets. Be sure to understand the toxicity of plants before putting them in or around your house.

8. Rodenticides. Mice and rats continue to be problematic around the country, but rodent poisons can be just as toxic to pets as they are to the pests they’re designed to kill. This year they moved up a spot on APCC’s list, making up nearly 5.5% of all cases.

7. Insecticides. Interestingly, the total number of insecticide cases has steadily decreased in recent years—sliding from #3 in 2015 to #7 in 2016—but that doesn’t mean they’re safe! If label directions are not followed, these products can be very dangerous to pets, so always use caution when dealing with insect poisons.

6. Chocolate. From brownies to candy bars, dogs love chocolate! APCC receives an average of 39 chocolate calls every day—nearly 7.9% of their cases. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it can be.

5. Household Items. Holding strong in the #5 spot, household items includes products like paint, glue and cleaning supplies—and they contribute to tens of thousands of poison cases each year.

4. Veterinary products. At 9.3% of this year’s cases, veterinary products moved up two places on our list. Over-the-counter supplements for joints and prescription pain medications made up a large portion of these cases, particularly because many of these products are designed to be tasty for ease of administration. Unfortunately, this means that pets may be tempted to eat the entire container.

3. Food. Pets (especially dogs, who ingest human foods more often than cats) can get into serious trouble by eating onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, alcohol and other human foods. This year, food moved up a spot on APCC’s list—mostly due to concerns about xylitol, a sweetener used in many sugar-free products.

2. Over-the-counter products. OTC products just barely dropped out of the first position with 16.7% of APCC’s cases. This category is exceptionally large, encompassing nearly 7,000 products, and ibuprofen is still the number one medication the APCC receives calls about.

1. Human Prescription Medications. Topping out this year’s list after a one-year hiatus, human prescription medications accounted for nearly 17% of all cases at the APCC. The types of medication to which animals were most often exposed correlate with the most popular medications prescribed to humans, including heart medications, antidepressants, and ADHD medications. Pet parents should always maintain the utmost care when handling and storing these and other potentially poisonous products around pets.

If you have any reason to suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please contact us at (276) 223-1234 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435.

2016 Wytheville Christmas Parade

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This is the first year that we have had a float in the Wytheville Christmas Parade. It was a ton of fun and thank you to everyone who came out to the parade!

People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets

The ASPCA has put together a handy list of the top toxic people foods to avoid feeding your pet. As always, if you suspect your pet has eaten any of the following foods, please note the amount ingested and contact us at (276) 223-1234 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Alcohol
Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death. Under no circumstances should your pet be given any alcohol. If you suspect that your pet has ingested alcohol, contact us or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately.

Avocado
Avocado is primarily a problem for birds, rabbits, donkeys, horses, and ruminants including sheep and goats. The biggest concern is for cardiovascular damage and death in birds.  Horses, donkeys and ruminants frequently get swollen, edematous head and neck.

Chocolate, Coffee and Caffeine
These products all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee, and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.

Citrus
The stems, leaves, peels, fruit and seeds of citrus plants contain varying amounts of citric acid and essential oils that can cause irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression if ingested in significant amounts. Small doses, such as eating the fruit, are not likely to present problems beyond minor stomach upset.

Coconut and Coconut Oil
When ingested in small amounts, coconut and coconut-based products are not likely to cause serious harm to your pet. The flesh and milk of fresh coconuts do contain oils that may cause stomach upset, loose stools or diarrhea. Because of this, we encourage you to use caution when offering your pets these foods. Coconut water is high in potassium and should not be given to your pet.

Grapes and Raisins
Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure. Until more information is known about the toxic substance, it is best to avoid feeding grapes and raisins to dogs.

Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 12 to 48 hours.

Milk and Dairy
Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other dairy-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.

Nuts
Nuts, including almonds, pecans, and walnuts, contain high amounts of oils and fats. The fats can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and potentially pancreatitis in pets.

Onions, Garlic, Chives
These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic confirmation of Heinz bodies.

Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones
Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets and humans. Raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract.

Salt and Salty Snack Foods
Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death. As such, we encourage you to avoid feeding salt-heavy snacks like potato chips, pretzels, and salted popcorn to your pets.

Xylitol
Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days.

Yeast Dough
Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach to bloat, and potentially twist, becoming a life threatening emergency. The yeast produce ethanol as a by-product and a dog ingesting raw bread dough can become drunk (See alcohol).

World Rabies Day – September 28, 2016

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2016 marks the 10th World Rabies Day, a milestone in rabies prevention.

Since it began in 2007, the rabies community have aligned to make World Rabies Day a global phenomenon. In that time, its life-saving rabies prevention messages have reached millions of people in over 100 different countries.

This year’s theme is Rabies: Educate. Vaccinate. Eliminate.

More information on World Rabies Day can be found at the Rabies Alliance website and by clicking here.

With dogs, it’s not just what you say but how you say it

When it comes to canines, matching the pitch of your voice with words of praise isn’t just natural. It is also the most effective, according to a new study.

Researchers from Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary studied how dogs process speech and concluded that they are a lot like humans. In fact, dogs use the left hemisphere to process words, and the right to process intonation. Further, praising triggers a dog’s reward center when both words and intonation match.

The paper was published in the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s journal, Science,on Aug. 29.

The researchers trained 13 dogs to lay motionless in an fMRI brain scanner while they measured the dogs’ brain activity as a trainer used both praise words and meaningless words with both praising and neutral intonations. As they did, the researchers watched for brain regions that differentiated between meaningless and meaningful words, or praising and non-praising intonations.

“[Our study] shows that for dogs, a nice praise can very well work as a reward, but it works best if both words and intonation match,” said lead researcher Attila Andics, PhD. “So dogs not only tell apart what we say and how we say it, but they can also combine the two, for a correct interpretation of what those words really meant.”

Pet Microchip FAQs

The following frequently asked questions were found at Petfinder.

Q: Will it hurt my pet when he gets the microchip implanted?

A: It won’t hurt any more than a routine vaccination – having a microchip implanted doesn’t even require anesthetic. The procedure is performed at your veterinarian’s office and is simple and similar to administering a vaccine or a routine shot.

The microchip comes preloaded in a sterile applicator and is injected under the loose skin between the shoulder blades. The process takes only a few seconds, and your pet will not react any more than he would to a vaccination.

Q: Will a microchip tell me my pet’s location?

A: Pet microchips are not tracking devices and do not work like global positioning devices (GPS). They are radio-frequency identification (RFID) implants that provide permanent ID for your pet.

Because they use RFID technology, microchips do not require a power source like a GPS. When a microchip scanner is passed over the pet, the microchip gets enough power from the scanner to transmit the microchip’s ID number. Since there’s no battery and no moving parts, there’s nothing to keep charged, wear out, or replace. The microchip will last your pet’s lifetime.

Q: Why does my pet need a microchip when he already wears a collar with tags?

A: All pets should wear collar tags imprinted with their name and the phone number of their pet parent, but only a microchip provides permanent ID that cannot fall off, be removed, or become impossible to read.

Q: How much does it cost to microchip my pet?

A: The average cost to have a microchip implanted by a veterinarian is around $45, which is a one–time fee and often includes registration in a pet recovery database.

If your pet was adopted from a shelter or purchased from a breeder, your pet may already have a microchip. Consult your pet adoption paperwork, or have your pet scanned for a microchip at your next vet visit to reveal the unique microchip ID number and register it.

Q: Isn’t microchipping only for dogs?

A: Both cats and dogs need to be microchipped.

Cats often do not wear collars, and may not have any other form of ID. A recent study showed that less than 2% of cats without microchips were returned home. However, if a cat is microchipped, the return-to-owner rate is 20 times higher than if the cat was not microchipped.

Q: Can anyone with a scanner access my contact information from the chip?

A: Microchips carry only a unique identification number.

If your pet gets lost and is taken to a vet clinic or animal shelter, your pet will be scanned for a microchip to reveal his unique ID number. That number will be called into the pet recovery service, and you will be contacted using the contact information on file with your pet’s microchip.

**It is vital to keep your contact information up to date so that you can be reached.

Q: How many times do I need to microchip my pet?

A: A microchip will normally last the lifetime of your pet because it is composed of biocompatible materials that will not degenerate over time.

The HomeAgain® microchip has the Bio-Bond™ patented anti–migration feature to help ensure the chip stays where it’s implanted. Also, since microchips require no power source and have no moving parts, there’s nothing that can wear out and need to be replaced. Pet parents can also check to make sure their pet’s microchip is still working by asking a vet to scan it during their pet’s next checkup.

Q: My pet has a microchip. Is that all I need to protect him if he gets lost?

A: A microchip is only the first step! You must register your pet’s microchip to give your pet the best protection.

Register your pet’s microchip in a national pet recovery database such as HomeAgain with your contact information, so you can be contacted when your lost pet is found. Also, remember to keep your contact information up to date whenever you move or change phone numbers.

USPS to Feature Pets in Upcoming Stamps

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From USPS:

To celebrate America’s love for pets, the Postal Service will issue a booklet of 20 Forever stamps featuring photographs of 20 pets. Each photograph represents an animal we love from these groups: puppies, betta fish, iguanas, hamsters, goldfish, parrots, guinea pigs, tortoises, rabbits, kittens, corn snakes, mice, hermit crabs, chinchillas, gerbils, dogs, parakeets, horses, cats, and geckos. The photographs were taken by Eric Isselée and Derry Noyes was the art director.

Diseases Transmitted by Ticks

Lyme disease is an infection of the tissues that often leads to lameness. Lyme disease is zoonotic and can be very serious for both people and pets. In general, symptoms in dogs are difficult to detect and may not appear until several months after infection. Also, symptoms may come and go and can mimic other health conditions. Cases vary from mild to severe with severe cases sometimes resulting in kidney failure and death.

While a “bull’s eye” rash at the site of the tick bite is common with human Lyme disease infection, dogs have no such indicator. In fact, a dog infected with Lyme disease may show few if any signs, but some of the more common symptoms of this disease can include any of the following:

  • Spontaneous and shifting leg lameness that lasts 3–4 days, sometimes accompanied by loss of appetite and depression
  • Reluctance to move
  • Fatigue

Rocky Mountain spotted fever appears suddenly with severe illness lasting about two weeks. If not treated early enough, Rocky Mountain spotted fever can result in death. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is also a zoonotic disease, which means it can infect people as well as pets.

While people infected with Rocky Mountain spotted fever are likely to develop a visible rash, pets do not. Common symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever include:

  • Arthritis-like stiffness when walking
  • Neurological abnormalities