Friday, January 31, 2014

What to do if your dog or cat is bitten or scratched by a bat?

This is Jingle, who by the way HASN'T been bitten by a bat...he was just at a party I went to recently.
Exposure of Australian pets to bats is a big deal, as both microbats and fruit bats (aka flying foxes) can carry the deadly Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV).

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has released guidelines for post-exposure prophylaxis for dogs and cats bitten or scratched by bats. 

The prevalence of ABLV in the general bat population is round 1 per cent, but that shoots up to 30 per cent in the sick bat population. Unfortunately, sick bats are more likely to come into contact with domestic animals because they have impaired abilityto fly and may not be alert enough to evade potential predators. They are also more likely to sustain injuries or get caught in fences.

ABLV can be transmitted to domestic animals (and we shouldn't forget, also humans - but this post is about pets) via bites or scratches, or through eating infected bats. Therefore if your pet is bitten it is important to seek veterinary attention.

The Nobivac Rabies vaccine is cross-protective against ABLV. It is used by AQIS certified veterinarians in Australia, but any veterinarian can apply to the Chief Veterinary Officer for emergency use which is permitted under a permit.

The testing of bats can be difficult for a range of reasons. Owners are NOT encouraged to capture live bats due to the risk of being bitten themselves. Dead bats must be handled with care. Those without a head (gory but true - many animals will eat this part) can't be tested as brain tissue is required.

A bat flies over the city. Bats are beautiful creatures, but should only be handled by experienced, vaccinated handlers.

What is the post-exposure protocol?

According to current NSW DPI guidelines, any exposed pet should be vaccinated as soon aspossible following suspected exposure. All animals must be microchipped prior to vaccination.

On the day of the first vaccination, serum is also obtained and sent to the State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for antibody testing.

A second vaccination is administered on days 5-7, followed by a second serum sample on days 28-35. This should demonstrate an anti-rabies antibody titre of >2 IU/ml. For 60 days following exposure, animals must be closely observed for any signs of illness (e.g. neurological signs, aggression, sudden behaviour changes), and only restricted contact permitted. Unrestricted contact may be permitted in vaccinated animals after 60 days.

The full protocol for veterinarians is outline here.

Jingle holds court at the party. Again, he's never been exposed to a bat - but he is gorgeou and doesn't mind posing for the camera, two criteria for featuring on SAT.