Okaw Veterinary Clinic

140 W. Sale
Tuscola, IL 61953

(217)253-3221

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Tularemia - What is it?


Contents:

Tularemia - What is it?
Rabies Kills

Living with a Deaf Dog

Tularemia - What is it?

There has been some recent concern about Tularemia, a serious infection of wildlife that can affect people and pets. Tularemia is a bacterial infection most commonly found in rabbits. When the rabbit is hunted by an animals, and the blood is now ingested the infection spreads. It is also possible to inhale the organism from the carcass, drinking contaminated water (a carcass in the water) or biting insects that draw blood can be a source of spread. Tularemia has been reported in some cats in Champaign County and to date we have not seen it in Douglas County. It is likely in the wildlife so taking precautions is still smart.

Tularemia is a bacterial organism that causes an infection in the lungs, skin, eyes, and sinuses of animals. It is most commonly found in rabbits, mice, sheep, and people although cats and dogs can become infected also. The disease is treatable with antibiotic provided the infection is detected early. Dogs or cats who hunt rabbits can have the infection in their mouth or claws. If your dog or cat licks near your face, an open sore, or scratches you that is how you may become infected. 

Common signs of the disease are fever, skin abscesses, nasal discharge, eye discharge, or pneumonia. It may take 1 to 10 days before symptoms develop. The disease is spread primarily through ticks, fleas and biting flies. Dogs and cats can also become infected by eating the raw flesh of the rabbits or infected animals. Ticks, fleas and biting flies can also spread the disease from one animal to another when they suck the blood and bite another animal. Humans become infected by skinning hunted animals or handling hit by car wildlife without wearing gloves. Cats rarely spread infection directly to humans. It is usually handling the dead wildlife that the cat has brought in that causes spread of the infection.

The disease may be difficult to diagnose at first because the symptoms are similar to other infections. Be sure to tell your veterinarian if your dog or cat is allowed to run off leash at all, even for short periods. Cats are very good hunters, and can kill mice and small rodents within a short time outside, even if they are not hungry. Blood tests and cultures can confirm the diagnosis but these tests may take up to weeks to get the results.

To protect your pets and yourself follow these guidelines:

  • Keep a veterinary recommended flea and tick product on your dog or cat. Preventing those tick and flea bites is an easy way to protect your pets and yourself. Revolution is a good product to kill fleas, ticks, heartworm and other diseases in the dog and cat.
  • Do not handle any dead wildlife without gloves on and wash your hands after handling. Use a shovel to clear any road kill.
  • If you have hunted, wear gloves and a mask for skinning and processing.
  • Do not let your pet eat dead or dying wildlife.
  • Walk your dogs on leash and limit how much time your cat goes outside. Have your cat wear a breakaway collar with a bell to warn wildlife.

Take your pet to the vet as soon as they are not eating normally, acting quiet or having any eye or nasal discharge. Cats do not show the signs of disease as obviously as dogs do, so anything that has your cat "off" take them in or have the veterinarian come to your home.

Luckily I have not seen a case of Tularemia here in Tuscola. I hope I never do.

You can read more about Tularemia at our Pet Library.

Rabies Kills

Cases of Rabies in animals and humans have decreased dramatically because we have a vaccine to protect animals and people. However we still see cases of Rabies. So it is important to keep your pet vaccinated and protected against Rabies. Rabies is still such an important and deadly disease, that World Rabies Day was created to help raise awareness about the disease and how to prevent it.

The map to the right shows counties, in pink, where animals tested positive for Rabies in 2014. In 2013, the CDC had reports of 5,865 cases of Rabies in the United States. Of these cases, 247 were cats, 89 were dogs and 3 were people. Over 55,000 people die world-wide from Rabies every year.

Dogs in the state of Illinois are required by law to be vaccinated for Rabies. Cats vaccination requirement varies depending on what county you live in. Champaign County requires cats to be vaccinated. Douglas County does not require cats to be vaccinated. We highly recommend having cats vaccinated for Rabies. Cats who go outside are exposed to Rabies, just like dogs. Even cats who live indoors only should be vaccinated. Mice and bats can come inside the house where your cat can catch them or get bitten by them. Inside cats can can also sneak out of the house, without anyone knowing, and can come into contact with wildlife. Dogs and cats are given their first Rabies vaccine when they are four months old. The vaccine is boostered every one to three years, depending on the type of vaccine given. It is important for your pet to have an exam prior to receiving any vaccination. If your pet is ill, the vaccine can make them sicker. Giving a vaccine to an ill pet can also cause the vaccine to not be effective at preventing the disease.

Rabies is disease caused by a virus that is almost always fatal. Infected dogs, cats, skunks, foxes, bats, raccoons and other animals can spread the disease. The virus can be transmitted through saliva, blood and nerve tissues (brain, spine, nerves). So, for example, your neighbor has a dog named Fluffy and does not keep Fluffy up to date on her Rabies vaccine. Fluffy is in the back yard playing and an infected skunk wanders into their yard. Fluffy doesn't like this intruder so she attacks the skunk. During the fight, the skunk bites Fluffy. The skunk's saliva, and the Rabies virus, enters Fluffy's body through the bite wounds. In a few days Fluffy may start to behave differently (hide and act nervous), snap at her owners, wonder around the house, stumble as she walks and drool. Fluffy will die from her Rabies infection. If Fluffy had her vaccine, she would have been protected. We do not have a cure for rabies and it is almost always fatal. This is why vaccinating for Rabies is so important.
 
If your pet has been bitten by any animal, bring him or her to the vet. We will wash out the wounds and prescribe medication. Tell us what happened to your pet (what animal bit yours, was the animal acting strange). If the other animal may be rabid, and your pet has been vaccinated, we will vaccinate your pet again and send him or her home for confinement. If your pet has not been vaccinated, we will send him or her home for confinement for up to six months and vaccinate your pet. Unvaccinated pets will usually die if they have been bitten by a rabid animal.
 
If you have been bitten by an animal, you should go to the doctor. The doctor's office can treat your wound and may prescribe medication. Tell your doctor what happened and, if you were bitten by a dog, they need to contact Animal Control. You can reach the Douglas County Animal Control at 253-4921. You will need to locate the owner of the dog and find out if the dog is current on their Rabies vaccine. Animal Control will issue a quarantine notice for the dog. The dog can be quarantined for 10 days at a vet clinic or in the owner's home, depending on if the dog has been vaccinated. 
 
Some of the symptoms an animal with Rabies show include a change in attitude, difficulty swallowing, trouble walking, drooling, paralysis and restlessness. Wild animals will often lose their fear of humans and may wander into your yard. Never approach a wild animal that is acting friendly or is hurt. Contact your local Animal Control Department or the Department of Natural Resources at (217) 345-2420 if you see a wild animal that is hurt or acting strangely.
 
You can protect your pet against Rabies. The most important thing you can do is to have your pet vaccinated against Rabies. Encourage your neighbors to have their pets vaccinated too. Always take your pet out on leash, so you can keep an eye on your pet.  

For more information about Rabies, visit the Center for Disease Control's website. For more information about the number of cases of Rabies reported in Illinois, visit the Illinois Department of Public Health's website.

* Graphic courtesy of Illinois Department of Public Health

Living with a Deaf Dog

Have you or someone you know owned a deaf dog? Celebrate National Deaf Dog Awareness Week this September 20 - 26. Some dogs are born deaf and others lose their hearing due to health problems, such as a high fever, or aging.

Living with a deaf dog can be challenging, but with a few adjustments, you can learn how to communicate with your dog. You need to use vibrations or visual signals, instead of words, to communicate with the dog. Instead of calling the dog's name to get his or her attention, stomp on the floor or use a vibrating collar. Use hand signals to give the dog commands. Come up with a "good" command so your dog know when he or she did something right. We have a client who uses a thumbs up to signal her deaf dog he was good.

As dogs get older, many dogs can have trouble hearing. The hearing loss is usually gradual and you may not notice it until your pet can no longer hear. Pets usually don't seem too bothered by being deaf. Dogs who were scared of fireworks, loud sounds and thunderstorms are often no longer bothered by these things.

We interviewed one of our clients about living with a deaf dog. Selena had gotten Oliver as a puppy. He is a Great Dane with lots of energy. Check out how Selena adapted to living with a deaf dog. 

What is living with a deaf dog like?
 
In the beginning it was an adjustment; first, learning how to effectively communicate without verbal commands and second, ways to grab his attention without startling him. We started shortly after his BAER test with a trainer and established what commands would be effective and then the best route to deliver those commands. We use a combination of ASL and general obedience signs. Since he was going to be a large dog, I went with single handed commands, so I could instruct and control. Through repetition we quickly learned how to communicate in the home and in public.  
 
As for his startle reflex, I chose his shoulders as my “location” to grab his attention, so he knew with a touch to his left or right shoulder; I needed him to look at me. When he’s too far away, I use the vibration through the floor or flicker the lights to let him know I again need his attention. To wake him, I use my hand beneath his nose and once he grabs my scent he wakes up.  When we are in public, he wears a collar that states “I’m deaf,” so others are aware of his limitation and to not touch without permission or having his attention. As he got older he adapted to his surroundings; the sights, vibrations and smells and often tells me when someone’s at the door.

What is most challenging?
 
Still the most challenging thing is his level of energy and excitement when he gets to leave the yard or the house; he tries to take everything in. Windy days are rough, he’s so overwhelmed with the number scents floating around, it often increases his level of anxiety. We have simply learned to redirect his focus with playtime.

What is most rewarding?
 
Not to seem too general but everything about having him is rewarding. In the beginning, we taught each other patience and perseverance and those are always good qualities to learn. In my opinion, he’s a well-adjusted gentle giant, who loves the vacuum and doesn't mind a good thunder storm.

What tips would you give to someone who just got a deaf dog?
 
Continue to talk to your dog, just because they can’t hear you doesn't mean they don’t understand the reflections and expressions you show when you talk, especially when you praise them. Deaf dogs are just as intelligent and well adapted as hearing dogs and always keep them on leash, recalling a deaf dog is very difficult.

Do you have any other information you would like to include?
 
When I found out Oliver was deaf, I found some helpful resources and would recommend anyone considering a deaf dog to read a book called Living with a Deaf Dog by Susan Cope Becker. It’s not only a comfort to read but she provides advice and not only how she trained her deaf dog but incorporates other deaf dog owners and what worked for them. She also includes a whole section on ASL with visuals. Another great site is deafdogsrock.com, they also have a Facebook page that allows for open forums and dialogue for all deaf dog owners who have questions, concerns or just needs to brag about how awesome their deaf dogs are!

Check out a great article about deafness on ASPCA's website.