Two Wichita County dogs put down after encounters with rabid skunks

Wichita County_The classic story of "Old Yeller" tears at a lot of people's hearts as they remember when the dogs was shot and killed after contracting rabies.  Sadly, it is a real life concern for dog owners in Wichita County.  They have had to put down two dogs after they got into fights with rabid skunks.  Up until Wednesday the confirmed rabies cases only had happened in rural areas, but now a third case of skunk rabies was found in the City of Wichita Falls.

In Oklahoma, Jackson County has reported one case of skunk rabies this year, and the timing could be bad news since the population usually peaks in the spring.  Animal control in Wichita Falls says it has been getting skunk calls almost every day.

Human contact always is the biggest concern when there is concern about rabies.  But, while human beings usually know to steer clear of skunks, dogs are a different animal.  Only being near a skunk isn't really a problem - unless a pet gets bitten or scratched.  "Just being around the skunk - being surprised by the skunk - as long as there's no saliva contact, through a bite or an open wound," said Veterinarian Dr. Larry Chambers.  "If any animal has been bit or scratched by a skunk, then we need to know if the skunk is positive or negative for rabies," said Susan Morris with Wichita Falls Rabies Control.

Unfortunately tests for rabies came back positive for two dogs in Wichita County who had tangled with rabid skunks.  The dogs did not have their rabies vaccinations.  Their owners were faced with either quarantining the dogs for 90 days, or putting them to sleep.  Morris says she doesn't want other folks to have to go through letting a pet go in that way.  "It's heartbreaking and it's sad," she said.  "The most important thing is to vaccinate your animals for rabies."

She says you should be on the lookout for skunks during the day.  Since it's a nocturnal animal if you see them during the day - beware.  "The main thing is they don't show any fear of humans and they're out during the day - that should be a natural instinct for you to say get away," said Morris.

Bats also are a carrier of rabies, so be mindful if you find any dead ones.  if you live in a city you can contact animal control to help catch and remove skunks.  You will need to report bites or scratches on your animals to the health department.  Chambers says that the annual rabies vaccination virtually eliminates any chance of your pet getting rabies - even if it is bitten by another rabid animal.