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Humane Society of
Wayne County, New York

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This page was last modified on Sunday November 18, 2012

Wildlife and Pets Don't Mix

My last column talked about the hazards that domestic pets can pose to wildlife, particularly during this time of year when wild babies are exploring their world. Even though our pets can pose to be a danger to wildlife, conversely, wildlife can be a serious health hazard to our domestic pets. Wildlife does not have the benefit of modern veterinary medicine, as do our pets. There are no regular check ups, vaccinations, flea control products, or parasite control for wild animals. Below are a few examples of the many dangers that can result when our pets are exposed to a wild animal.

Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that can affect the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) of any kind of mammal, including humans. Animals that are infected with rabies spread the disease through their saliva and brain matter. A pet can be exposed to rabies through the bite of an infected wild animal. Untreated, rabies is fatal. The law requires that a licensed veterinarian vaccinate all domestic pets against rabies. Harboring an unvaccinated animal can result in a substantial fine. If your pet encounters a wild animal that you suspect is carrying rabies, your veterinarian should examine your pet and administer a rabies booster as soon as possible after exposure.

Mange is a dermatological condition that can be caused by three different kinds of mites, which cause three different kinds of mange. These mites burrow under the skin, which causes itching and irritation. This itching and irritation results redness and hair loss in the effected area. The mite that causes Sarcoptic Mange in animals is the same mite that causes scabies in humans. These mange carrying mites can be transmitted to your pet through contact with a wild animal. Your veterinarian can diagnose and successfully treat mange.

Tapeworms are internal parasites that attach to the host's intestinal lining. Fleas are a common source of tapeworm infection. However, tapeworms are also transmitted to pets by rabbits, rodents, and sheep. Your pet can contract tapeworms by eating a dead infected mouse, rabbit, or other rodent. For infection to occur, the tapeworm must be ingested through the digestive system. A sure sign that your pet is infected with tapeworms are the visible eggs that cling to you pet's anal area and are passed in your pet's feces. These eggs look similar to grains of rice that may be white or yellow in color. Although there are over-the-counter dewormers available at many pet stores, your veterinarian can provide proper and effective treatment.

These are just a few of the many hazards that wild animals can expose our pet to when they come in close contact. The best treatment for any of these conditions is of course, prevention. Keep your pet safe and away from wildlife. Please do not let your roam freely unsupervised.