Walking the dog can provide good exercise for the owner and the dog. It can also lead to an unexpected dog bite and possible exposure to rabies.
To protect pets and people, pet owners need to make sure their dogs and cats get vaccinated for rabies, said Deb McGraw, director of public health.
With a return to warm weather, more people will be out walking their dogs and this is a good time to get the dog vaccinated for rabies.
A Pratt ordinance provides that dog owners must have their pet on a leash when walking the dog. At home, dogs must be either inside the house or kept inside a confined area outside, such as a yard with a fence around it, if the dogs are loose.
If a dog is known to be aggressive, when the owner walks the dog it should have a muzzle in case someone tries to pet the animal.
Cats can also present a rabies risk. Cats tend to roam freely and people will sometimes pet a stray cat without thinking of the rabies risk.
Getting pets vaccinated is a preventative measure that protects the pet and people as well.
Rabies vaccinations run $15 per dose per animal at the Pratt Veterinarian Hospital, said veterinarian Clinton Skaggs.
Animals have to be over three months old to be vaccinated. Rabies vaccinations are available in a one-year, two-year or three-year form. In each form, animals have to have a booster vaccination every year after the primary vaccination to keep the animal protected, Skaggs said.
Cost of vaccinations is the same for cats and dogs.
If a person is bitten, the animal should be caught and taken to a veterinarian or the Pratt Area Humane Society or if the owner is responsible, the animal can be kept at the home for observation.
The animal is observed for a period of 10 days. If the animal shows no signs of the disease, it is returned to the owner and the person that was bitten does not have to take the rabies series.
Skaggs recently held a dog for observation but it showed not signs of rabies.
The rabies series for humans is cost prohibitive at $1,500. If an animal shows signs of rabies, a doctor has to order the series that is administered through Community Care, McGraw said.
If the animal that bit the person cannot be found, the person should start the series for safety.
Anyone that is bitten to a point that skin is broken should wash the wound and go to the emergency room for treatment. The police will be notified to make an incident report and the animal will be watched for rabies symptoms.
Always note the address or the surroundings of the incident. If the animal runs to a house, write down the address and notify law enforcement.
The Pratt County Health Department sees a lot of animal bites during the year but many more are probably just treated at home and never reported, McGraw said.
"If everyone reported we would probably see a lot more," McGraw said.
Dogs and cats are almost exclusively the only animals that are vaccinated for rabies. Only rarely are horses vaccinated and that is up the discretion of the owner, Skaggs said.
Skunks, raccoons and bats are the natural reservoirs for rabies in Kansas. Animals that get rabies usually get it from bites from one of these three animals.