4 Paws and a Tale Rescue pleads with pet owners to vaccinate as rabies cases surge on the KZN South Coast

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Residents on the KZN South Coast are being called on to urgently vaccinate their dogs and cats against rabies as there have been a number of positive cases reported in the area the past few weeks. Nicky Koekemoer of the non-profit organisation, 4 Paws and a Tale Rescue, said that they were carrying out a vaccination campaign and had already heard of incidents of humans coming into contact with rabid dogs.

“We went out and vaccinated 20 street dogs this morning, and are desperately pleading with people to vaccinate their animals and seek immediate medical attention if they have any interaction with a suspected rabid animal,” explained Koekemoer. “People must insist on rabies treatment, even if the medical staff are unwilling, because there is a lot of misinformation around rabies which is highly contagious. Even if a person is not bitten, the saliva can get into an open wound and infect the individual.”

She said there have been four positive cases of rabies in Craigieburn and another four possible cases, as well as positive cases reported in New Haven, Scottburgh, Kelso and Amandawe where the rabid dog bit a number of residents. Koekemoer said there were possibly two more cases in Pennington.

“We are calling on the authorities to get vaccination campaigns underway as a matter of urgency, as this is becoming an epidemic,” continued Koekemoer. “Residents must also note that even animals kept on a property can come into contact with infected wandering animals along the fence line so it’s really important that all pet owners ensure their animals’ vaccinations are up to date.

“We’ve noticed that, with the arrival of lockdown regulations, even people who would regularly vaccinate their pets are failing to do so. With recent cases of rabies reported on the KZN South Coast, it’s vital that pet owners take responsibility. There is no cure for rabies.”

She encouraged pet owners to keep animals away from street-facing locations where they’re more vulnerable to passing dogs; and to secure the property so that there is no chance of exposure to potentially rabid dogs.

What is rabies?

Rabies is a highly contagious, fatal viral disease that can be transmitted through the saliva of dogs to other animals, as well as humans. There are two strains of rabies:

1. Furious Rabies

Infected people will be hyperactive and excitable and may display erratic behaviour. Other symptoms include:

– Insomnia

– Anxiety

– Confusion

– Agitation

– Hallucinations

– Excess salivation

– Problems swallowing

– Fear of water

2. Paralytic Rabies

This form of rabies takes longer to set in, but the effects are just as severe. Infected people slowly become paralyzed, will eventually slip into a coma, and die.

What are the signs of rabies in dogs?

It’s important to note that some dogs may not show symptoms of rabies, so it’s important not to interact with any unknown dogs. However, some of the indicators of rabies in dogs are:

– Lethargy

– Fever

– Excessive drooling

– Sensitivity

– Erratic behaviour

What do you do if you come into contact with a rabid animal?

If you’ve been bitten or even licked by a suspected rabid dog, you must thoroughly clean the wound with disinfectant and seek urgent medical care. You will then be given a series of injections to stop infection, including rabies vaccine to prevent you from getting the disease. If left untreated, the rabies infection will be established. Rabies is an incurable disease and, left untreated, is fatal.

“Vaccination of our pets is the only way to prevent the spread of rabies,” said Koekemoer. “We need to all be responsible pet owners to protect one another.”

4 Paws and a Tale Rescue is a Scottburgh-based animal care NPO that feeds, shelters and provides medical care for stray animals. The team of volunteers is committed to prevent abuse of animals, and works to re-home rescued dogs and cats to loving homes around KwaZulu-Natal. To find out more about 4 Paws and a Tale Rescue, visit www.4pawsandatalerescue.co.za or call Nicky on 084 626 5508.