dog as rabies vector?
July 20, 2013 9:28 AM   Subscribe

I was walking my dog off leash in a wooded area about an hour ago. From about 100 yards away I saw her playing with and nosing something I assumed to be a dead animal. Yelling "drop it," I headed over to her. She finally dropped it and i saw it indeed was a squirrel -- but not dead, just really sick. The squirrel lay on its side panting heavily while my dog now watched it curiously. My dog could never have caught a healthy squirrel in this woods filled with squirrel-escape-trees, and so I am very sure my dog was playing with an already-sick squirrel that she found lying on the ground.

Question: Although my dog is vaccinated against rabies I am now worried that some rabies virus could transfer from the dog's mouth to my kids when the dog licks them, gets in their faces, and does the typical stuff a family pet will do. I called the vet to inquire about this risk and they referred me to call the city's animal management/shelter line. And animal management told me to call the vet. Then the vet's secretary read me a standard protocol about how to deal with an animal that might have rabies. But my question is NOT will my dog get rabies (she's vaccinated). My question is can she transfer the rabies virus to people after playing with a sick animal. (THe vet did say that squirrels hardly ever have rabies, because they just die after getting bit by a rabid animal, but what if this squirrel had just been attacked and was about to die when my dog got to it.)

Do I need to worry about this? The dog is currently being bathed.
posted by third rail to Pets & Animals (4 answers total)
While it's natural to be concerned about things like this, it's exceedingly unlikely that your dog would pass rabies on to your children. The virus is found primarily in saliva, and a bite is the usual mode of transmission. Assuming the squirrel had rabies (a big assumption), your dog wouldn't have picked up virus unless she really chewed on it enough to bite into nerve tissue.

Keep in mind, too, that this is just what you saw. Your dog likely gets into all kinds of unpleasant things that you don't even want to know about (garbage is very popular!) Dogs carry all manner of interesting bacteria and viruses around with them; unless your kids are allergic to dogs, having a dog in the house can give everybody's immune system a lot of good practice :)

In short: don't worry about it.
posted by rhombus at 10:08 AM on July 20, 2013

The symptoms you describe are the same that I've seen in the late stages of anticoagulant poisoning of squirrels. I think finding a poisoned squirrel is a lot more likely than finding one with rabies.

I wouldn't worry.

The CDC is reassuring on the topic at this page (although a little harsh):
posted by the Real Dan at 10:20 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think the CDC site is pretty reassuring on this. As I read it, the animal really cannot pass it on unless the virus travels up the nerve into the brain and then to the salivary glands. So if your dog does not develop the actual diseae he cannot pass it on.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:06 PM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Here is a very interesting article that just popped up in my newsfeed about the plague in squirrels. I don't know if this is what YOUR squirrel had, but this deserves a deeper read than I've given it.
posted by QuakerMel at 12:11 PM on July 22, 2013

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