11-week-old puppy tested positive for rabies in Tyler

Veterinarian Dr. Laura Cauthen said the 11-week-old puppy was a stray and first came in for symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea.
Published: Dec. 28, 2022 at 6:52 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Animal Medical Center of Tyler faced their first case of rabies in a dog last week and were unable to save the animal.

Owner and Veterinarian Dr. Laura Cauthen said, “Rabies is a virus that can affect all mammals. It is uniformly fatal. It is carried through the nerves and it goes to the brain tissue. Some of the symptoms are mostly neurological signs: aggression, trying to bite.”

She said the 11-week-old puppy was a stray and first came in for symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. The puppy tested negative for parvovirus, but then the dog came back showing those neurological signs.

Cauthen said it’s too late once symptoms show. There is no treatment and no test for it without euthanasia. The brain tissue is sent to the state lab for testing which came back positive.

“When I submitted the dog, I thought maybe it was just a false negative on parvo test. Maybe it’s distemper virus. I didn’t really feel strongly that it was rabies, but because we have to be so cautious, I just knew we had to test it, and when it came back positive, we were all just heartbroken,” said Cauthen.

It is not confirmed where the puppy got the rabies virus from. Cauthen suspects it was from a skunk or a bat.

They say no other animals were exposed, but the disease is contagious to humans. Both veterinarians, Dr. Cauthen and Dr. Neely, and two technicians were exposed through the dog’s saliva. The vets luckily had their vaccines, but the technicians did not.

Veterinarian Technician Ashley Stegall said, “In my five years experience as a technician, I’ve never came across a positive rabies case. It’s very rare to see in the veterinarian field.”

The other technician, Lauren Murrell, said, “I initially panicked, obviously, because it’s a scary thing to deal with, and I’m also pregnant, so that threw a loop into it as well. I’ve been doing this for quite some time, and I’ve never come across anything like this.”

Stegall had to receive 8 shots while Murrell received 6. They still need to get their boosters to finish the complete post-exposure treatment. They said they are now doing well.

Cauthen said the best way to prevent it is through vaccines. Dogs and cats can get it as early as 12 weeks. The State of Texas requires they have it by 16 weeks old.

The vaccine is usually received yearly, but once they reach adulthood, Smith County requires animals get it every three years.

“We don’t see it a lot, but it is still out there. It is uniformly fatal, and it is something we can prevent, so definitely keep your pets up-to-date on vaccines. Please be careful when you bring in stray puppies with unknown vaccine status. For sure, if they get ill and suddenly die, it might be something to talk about with your veterinarian. It may need to be tested because it might have exposed other people,” said Cauthen.