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Keep rabies shots up to date

We’ve often wondered why so many people who say they care about their pets fail to have the animals vaccinated.

Sure, it takes a little time to load up Fido or Fluffy and pack them off to the vet’s office for regular visits, but it’s certainly worth the trouble to know that your pets are healthy and protected.

If you don’t believe that’s true, consider reports last week that a case of rabies in a skunk had been confirmed in Pilot Point and a suspected case had been reported in Bartonville.

Rabies, as you probably already know, is a preventable viral disease of mammals, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that it’s most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal.

The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the CDC each year occur in wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes, according to information on the CDC website.

Some of those wild animals, however, can come into contact with pets, which can expose our households to rabies. This week’s incidents prompted warnings from Denton County Health Director Bing Burton for residents to vaccinate their pets.

“We encourage people to vaccinate their pets, so the skunks won’t expose the pets and the pets won’t expose the owners,” he said.

The Pilot Point rabid skunk was found in the 1300 block of North Washington Street, officials said. Officials said the skunk came in contact with two dogs, but both dogs were current on their vaccinations. The dogs will be confined, however, during a required waiting period.

In Bartonville, a resident reported seeing a sick skunk that was in the 1600 block of East Jeter Road. The skunk was captured, and authorities said the skunk was likely infected with rabies.

We avoid skunks for the obvious reason, but even if their aroma was more pleasant, we would use caution if we saw one. Wild animals typically avoid humans, and a skunk that approaches may be ill and should be reported.

Unfortunately, our pets can’t call animal control or the local police to report a sick skunk and we may not realize they’ve been exposed until it’s too late.

Skunks are active in spring, and while most of them may be healthy — except for that distinctive aroma we mentioned — it’s tough to know for sure.

That’s why you need to visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up to date.

It’s the humane thing to do for your pet, but it’s also a good safeguard to protect your own health and the well being of your family and neighbors.