Wild animals pose serious, sometimes fatal health risks

May 16th, 2018

Officials urge residents to not pick up stray wild animals or attempt to nurse sick animals back to health

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (05/16/2018) – As warm weather moves into the area, officials would like to remind you of the health risks associated with touching and handling wild animals.

In Indiana, animals like bats, skunks, foxes, and raccoons may spread rabies.  Rabies is a viral disease that infects the brain and spinal cord of mammals, including humans.  It is usually fatal.  Rabies is spread by the bite of a rabid, infected animal.  It can also be spread when saliva of an infected animal enters an open wound or the eyes.  The rabies virus may actually change the infected animal’s behavior so they are more likely to bite.  You should never pick up or handle stray wild animals, even if you believe the animal is sick.  Do not attempt to nurse wild sick animals back to health.  You could inadvertently put your health in danger!

To protect yourself and your family:

  • Avoid animals you don’t know (including loose dogs and feral cats) or those that are wild, sleeping, injured, eating or caring for young.
  • Don’t feed or attempt to touch free-living wild animals.
  • Eliminate any entry points around your home, garage, storage sheds or other areas.
  • Keep pet food away from wild animals, and secure garbage can lids.
  • Make sure your family pet is up-to-date on rabies shots.

If an animal bites you, you should wash the wound with soap and running water and go to a doctor or emergency room if the bite is severe or bleeding.  You should also report the bite to Animal Care and Control.  The animal may need to be captured for testing or quarantine.

If medical professionals determine you were exposed to rabies, the disease can be prevented with a series of shots before any signs develop.  This treatment can prevent rabies; however, is typically very expensive and can cost you thousands of dollars.

Professionals like veterinarians, wildlife workers, etc., are at higher risk of rabies exposure due to their work.  These individuals should receive rabies pre-exposure immunizations.  If a rabid, infected animal bites them, these experts should be re-immunized against rabies.

One of the first signs an animal has rabies is a change in their behavior.  Rabid wild animals may lose their fear of humans, and animals that are active at night might be seen during daylight hours.  They may also have trouble walking or have a “dull” or “vacant” look.

Additional tips to protect your family pets

Your family pet should also be current on heartworm, flea, and tick preventative.

A simple heartworm preventative routine can save your dog’s life.  Mosquitoes transmit heartworm disease.  They become carriers when they feed on an infected wild or domestic dog.  The disease can also be transmitted between dogs, and between pets and wildlife.  Mothers can infect their puppies with heartworm.  A monthly pill is all it takes to protect your dog.

Ticks feed on mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.  They can infect your pet with
tick-borne illnesses like Canine ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Tularemia.  Minimize your pet’s exposure to ticks.  If your pet has been outside, properly check your pet for ticks and promptly remove any.  Use flea and tick shampoos, topical sprays or gels, and/or tick prevention collars.  Please consult with your pet’s veterinarian if you have any questions on how to protect your pet with a proper preventative routine.