Rabies Informational For Pet Owners: Rabies Is Real

 

Many years ago when I was still a newly qualified vet and was still living up in the North, I received a call from a client who needed me to check on his dog at their home as the dog was not eating and “acting really strange”. Upon arriving at their house, I saw his dog (it was a full grown male Siberian Husky) chained by the yard, seemed to have no bodily coordination and sense of conscious bodily control (like the infected people in the movie Train to Busan). Its eyes were glassy so I couldn’t tell if the dog was able to recognize our presence or not.

At that moment I have already suspected rabies and asked the owner if his dog was immunized with anti-rabies vaccine and if any stray dog had come across his dog by the yard. The owner said that his dog was not given anti-rabies vaccine and that there was a stray dog that came by the yard about two weeks ago and actually bit his dog.

Just then the dog made its last effort to struggle, with mouth open and eyes rolling wildly, the dog kept pulling on the chain while at the same time obviously not able to breath normally. After which, the dog was subdued and started to die just before our very eyes.

I wasn’t able to do a single thing to help that dog and I couldn’t imagine if somebody got bitten during that afternoon. It was a probable case of a rabid dog dying before my eyes and it was one of the few chances I had to actually see a dog infected with rabies and how it died. This wouldn’t have happened if the dog had been vaccinated. I was not able to save the dog from dying, but the experience gave me a deeper understanding about rabies and gave me a feeling that “rabies is real” and that it is a serious animal and public health concern.

We have heard stories about rabies and have heard about the dread of this disease but many still do not fully understand this disease condition. Myths about rabies are still believed to be true and a lot of people still go to the “mananandok” whenever somebody got bitten.

The purpose of this blog post is to provide simple, easy to understand information about rabies from a vet’s perspective. These are very common questions about this disease and their answers so that pet owners will be guided on how to protect their pets and themselves from rabies.

rabies prevention in Marikina City

What Causes Rabies?

Rabies is caused by a virus (Lyssavirus) whose natural hosts are warm-blooded animals (this includes us, humans). The most commonly affected species of animals in the Philippines are dogs and cats, although other domestic animals like cattle and horses can also be affected. In the wild, bats are also considered carriers of rabies.

What Happens to Dogs and Cats With Rabies?

The reason why rabid animals behave as they do is because rabies virus travels through the nerves inside the body. It progresses inside the body until it ultimately reaches the brain. From then on the virus is shed through the saliva and this is the time when infected animals show the most recognizable signs of rabies such as pica (eating of non-nutritional objects such as stone, concrete, dirt, etc.), disorientation, aggression, changes in tone of bark, inability to swallow, and foaming of the mouth (due to paralysis).

Two Forms Of Rabies:
  1. Furious Form – Characterized by very obvious behavioral changes, including aggression to humans and other animals or any moving object. These infected animals attack and seek out victims by roaming from place to place. This is the classic form of rabies.
  2. Paralytic Form – also known as the dumb form, this is characterized by general  weakness, loss of coordination, and paralysis. Infected animals also show sudden changes in behavior. Dogs that have been usually friendly and outgoing may suddenly go into hiding in the dark.

How is Rabies Transmitted?

Rabies is transmitted from animal to animal or animals to humans through the animal’s saliva. When an infected dog bites another dog or a human, its saliva is deposited into the bite wound and so this begins the infection with rabies.

Can I Get Rabies From Being Scratched By My Dog Or Cat?

Again, only animals with rabies can transmit rabies. If your pet is rabies-free, you cannot have rabies from being scratched by your pet. But to answer the question above, yes, one can be infected with rabies from rabid dogs or cats because these animals may also lick their paws, transmitting saliva into the scratch wounds.

Do All Dogs and Cats Have Rabies?

Although all dogs and cats can be infected with rabies, it is not true that all of them carry rabies. An animal has to get bitten by a rabid animal first in order to contract rabies. It is also not true that puppies have “stronger levels of rabies” in their saliva as believed by many. This is a myth.

How Do I Prevent My Pets From Contracting Rabies?

Rabies can be easily prevented through vaccination. Puppies and kittens can be vaccinated as early as three months of age. In the Philippines, annual vaccination against rabies is recommended. Fortunately, at Marikina City, the strict drive to prevent stray dogs from roaming the streets plays a huge role in the control of rabies cases in the city.

Annual rabies vaccination for pets against rabies.

Lastly, remember to talk to your vet about it. Vets incorporate rabies vaccine with the core vaccination program needed by your pet and could give you important advice on how to prevent other diseases that may affect your pet. Also, the city government of Marikina conducts pet registration and annual vaccination programs against rabies every month of August at a very minimal fee.

Why I Opened My Veterinary Clinic In Marikina City

veterinary clinic in Marikina City

I live in Antipolo City and conversations with clients sometimes lead to asking me why I opened my veterinary clinic in Marikina City. I could answer with a really short one like, “because I couldn’t find a sweet spot to open up a clinic in Antipolo City”. But in every story, there is always a preceding story.

I was an OFW for four and a half years. I used to work as a Veterinary Technician in Hong Kong and I had the privilege to work side by side with veterinarians from the UK, US, South Africa, and Australia. The work was really challenging at first but as time passed by, I really felt that I had to move on and go and start my own business. I was so seized with entrepreneurial seizure that I was willing to start any business that I could put my hands into.

Finally I came home last June 2015 and believe it or not, I did not have a concrete plan on what business should I put up and how to start. I attended a seminar and came up with starting a mushroom production business. The first venture was such a failure that I wasted so much time and money for three months, growing mushrooms rather unsuccessfully.

After some soul-searching, it hit me square in the face to open up something that I already know how it works, and since I am a licensed veterinarian, why not open up a veterinary clinic instead? Truthfully, I tried to avoid the veterinary industry and I thought I would never practice being a vet again because I thought that I lost all my confidence from lack of practice in the last four and a half years of being abroad.

But by God, being a vet was all I ever cared about since graduation from college and I know I am already equipped with the knowledge solid enough to open up my own practice. It was some major decision to make, not only because I am starting another business but also because I had to face my own fear if I can still be a competent vet.

And so the rest was history. I started to look for shops available for rent in Antipolo City. I was able to find some, but if the place was good, the rent was very expensive. And if the rent was affordable, it was not suitable for a vet clinic business. I was starting to lose hope and so I thought I would try searching at Marikina City — which was the closest city next to Antipolo.

As I was walking along Shoe Avenue in Sta. Elena, Marikina City, I saw a vacant shop with a “for rent” sign printed on a streamer hanging by the front of the vacant unit. The traffic was great, and although the place was still unfamiliar to me, I felt that it was perfect for a veterinary clinic. Well, if I couldn’t open a vet clinic in Antipolo at this time, I don’t mind opening a veterinary clinic in Marikina City. Fortunately, the shop was still available for rent during that time.

After negotiations with the rent and few weeks of renovation works, there it is, the business that God has willed for me. The clinic formally opened last January 2016 and after a year  and 8 months of operation, we still continue to grow with new clients coming in almost every day since we opened. Most of our clientele come from the neighboring households who are quite happy to have a nearby veterinary clinic to go to.

Though majority of our clients come from Marikina City, still, some clients come from outskirts of Marikina like Cainta, Antipolo, Pasig, Quezon City and San Mateo, Rizal.

 

How Regular Grooming Improves Your Dog’s Overall Health

dog grooming

To some pet owners, dog grooming may be done to pamper their dogs but for the most part, grooming helps to promote a dog’s overall quality of life. In a veterinary clinic, grooming may seem just another small add-on service but most vet clinics in the Philippines offer grooming services for the reason that regular grooming helps keep pets healthier and happier.

A typical grooming session lasts 1-2 hours, depending on whether the dog is easy to handle or not. If the dog is quite difficult to handle, it may take up to three hours for it to be completed. It is a job that must be handled with utmost care and cannot be rushed, as rushing it may result in lousy work or even cause injury to the dog.

Dogs especially long haired breeds will require regular grooming more often than short haired breeds primarily because their hairs grow very long and are very prone to matting. Unless you can devote one to hours everyday brushing and combing your dog’s hair, your dog must get a hair cut every two to three months to avoid hair matting issues.

A small tuft of matted hair will attract and entangle surrounding hairs into the area until it grows bigger and bigger, so it is quite important not to allow mats of hair to even start forming. I have seen dogs covered with matted hair all over the face and body with carpet-like consistency and this can become painful as it creates a hair pulling effect (“sabunot”) on the skin of the dog.

An extremely matted dog.

When your dog’s hairs become so matted, it will also lead to skin irritation and will encourage commensal bacteria on your dog’s skin to overgrow and cause obvious local bacterial infections. The skin involved in these areas look red and crusty.

Sometimes its worse than that. Sometimes matted hair will also be so soaked with feces and urine and believe it or not, sometimes we find garbage materials such as plastic and electrical tape tangled up with the matted hairs. You would think that these things really shouldn’t happen but somehow some owners find a way to make it happen.

Next to the skin and coat, the ears must also be cleaned and plucked if there is so much hair growing into the ear canal. The reason hairs are plucked from the ear canal is to provide adequate ventilation into the ears. When there is poor ventilation inside the ear canal, moisture is trapped and may predispose the ear environment to bacteria and yeast infection. These ears often have foul smelling discharge from them and will need to be treated.

Chronic ear infection in a dog’s ear.

When it comes to the nails, these things grow constantly when left uncut for months. Dogs with very long nails cannot walk properly and may feel discomfort  as they walk. Also, sometimes the nails, especially the dewclaws (the extra digits located on the forelegs, sometimes may also be seen at the hind legs) may grow in such a way that they get buried all the way into the surrounding integument, causing wound and local tissue inflammation.

An overgrown nail making its way into the surrounding tissue of the paw.

Fortunately, all these things are avoidable through regular grooming. Don’t wait until you see matted hair and smelly ears and overgrown nails bother your dog. Our dogs deserve pampering as much as we do, but more importantly, they also deserve tiptop preventive healthcare and attention.