Rabid dog discovered at VC shelter

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There has been one case of rabies confirmed in a 6-month-old dog at the Valencia County Animal Shelter.

The dog, which had to be euthanized to confirm the virus was present, began exhibiting symptoms on Nov. 14, said Shelter Director Erik Tanner.

Tanner said the New Mexico Department of Health was contacted immediately.

“In the time I’ve been here, this is the first case of rabies in a dog I’ve seen,” Tanner said. “We’ve had some cases in bats.”

The dog, which was picked up in Isleta after harassing livestock and killing chickens, most likely contracted the virus shortly before it was brought to the shelter, Tanner said.

“Rabies starts showing symptoms about 10 days after exposure. The dog had been at the shelter for nine days,” he said.

The shelter was closed last Friday and Saturday for business, but reopened Tuesday.

Tanner said the virus is spread through saliva, typically a bite. It can be spread when saliva from an infected animal comes in contact with an open cut or mucus membrane, such as the mouth or eyes, but it is very difficult to spread that way, Tanner said.

Because of the high parvo rates in the county, the shelter already has a segregation system in place for new animals, so staff could keep animals possibly exposed to the infected dog separated from most of the adoptable population, the director said.

“We will probably lose around 12 animals that will have to be put down due to exposure. It’s not the greatest scenario, but considering how much worse it could have been, it’s the best we can do,” Tanner said. “We need to err on the side of caution.”

Tanner said one employee will receive a post-exposure vaccination since he had been playing with the dog before it showed symptoms.

Health department personnel were on site Monday, Tanner said, and were happy with the precautions being taken to protect both the shelter staff and the public.

According to a health department press release, no known people or other animals were bitten by the dog while it was contagious. But the department is talking to the dog’s owner, the shelter’s staff and volunteers who walked other dogs there to look for potential exposures.

The dog had not been vaccinated against rabies.

“The rabid dog was in the adoptable pet area of the (shelter) on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week. It was a black labrador/German shepherd cross, about 6 months old, and had a white heeler mix in the same kennel with it. Though there is a solid gate at the front of the kennel, it is possible to reach over the top and have contact with the dog,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, the department’s public health veterinarian, in the release.

“Anyone who was in the adoptable area during this time and had contact with this particular dog should call the health department to discuss potential exposures.”

According to health department statistics, there have been nine other rabies cases confirmed in the state as of Oct. 4 — six bats, two skunks and a fox.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.