A warning to pet owners in East Texas. Over the past few weeks, health officials have seen cases of rabid skunks attacking animals. One of them happened last week at a home off Highway 80 and Hickory Road in Big Sandy. A dog was attacked by the skunk and had to be put to sleep when tests for rabies came back positive. The dog's owner told KLTV 7 News today, he doesn't want anyone else to go through that experience.
"It was very sad to let her go. She was a very good dog, a very good dog. Probably the best dog I ever had," said Brian Lambert, Missy's owner. Two months ago, he got Missy from a kennel, where she had lived for five years. "We assumed that she had been vaccinated being from a kennel but she wasn't."
On Thursday, his four young sons were playing in the yard when they saw a skunk. Lambert ran outside when he heard the boys yelling. "It looked like the skunk had jumped on her and latched on to her and bit her. She had two marks on both sides of her hind legs and one on the top of her back. You could actually see just a little bit of blood. It wasn't very deep, but it did hurt the skin," said Lambert.
Dr. James Wright is with the Texas Department of State Health Services. He says rabies symptoms vary from case to case. But generally, they include loss of appetite, a change in personality, and staggering.
Dr. Wright says if you come in contact with an animal you believe could have rabies, do not touch it. If it's attacking one of your pets and you need to shoot it, he says you should never shoot it in the head. "That will destroy our ability or greatly hamper our ability to test that animal for rabies," said Dr. Wright.
Dr. Wright says unfortunately there's no treatment for rabies, so the only way to protect your pet is to get it vaccinated. Dr. Wright says although every warm-blooded animal can carry the rabies virus, the most likely cases in East Texas involve skunks and bats. According to last year's Department of Health records, the counties with the highest number of rabid skunk cases in our area were: Bowie, Cherokee, Lamar and Morris counties. Combined they saw a total of nearly 40 cases.