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Vet clinic: Pet ownership comes with responsibilities

Spc. Summer Palmer, Fort Rucker Veterinary Treatment Facility, holds on to Dixie prior to the dog receiving a vaccination at the veterinary treatment facility. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Spc. Summer Palmer, Fort Rucker Veterinary Treatment Facility, holds on to Dixie prior to the dog receiving a vaccination at the veterinary treatment facility. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: March 21, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 21, 2014) -- Military Families’ four-legged counterparts take the stresses of military life in stride, but there are things people can do to make sure their furry Family members are well taken care of.

There are a host of factors to consider when taking on the responsibility of bringing a pet into the home, especially on a military installation, said Capt. Janas Gray, Fort Rucker Veterinary Treatment Facility officer in charge.

“An animal is a huge responsibility financially, physically and emotionally,” she said. “They require medical attention, exercise and lots of love. All pet owners and future pet owners must be responsible in taking care of their animals to ensure the health of not only their pets, but their entire Family.”

Families bringing pets on the installation are required to have their pets registered at the Fort Rucker Veterinary Treatment Facility within 72 hours of arriving, and all pets are required to be current on their vaccinations, especially rabies vaccinations, and must be micro-chipped, she said.

“This is to protect the Soldiers, their Families and their pets,” said Gray. “Rabies vaccinations are absolutely one of the most important vaccinations your pet should receive.”

Only cats, dogs and horses are allowed as pets on post, and there are certain breeds of dogs that are not allowed, specifically in the housing areas. These include Pit bulls, Bull Terriers, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Chows, wolf hybrids, as well as crosses of any of the listed breeds.

Cats and dogs should receive their first rabies vaccination as early as 12 weeks of age, she said. They should receive a rabies booster one year from the initial vaccination and then every three years thereafter as long as they are not late in receiving the vaccination.

Horses kept on the installation are also required to have an annual rabies vaccination.

“Keeping your pet vaccinations current is important not only to keep your pet from getting rabies, but also to provide a barrier of protection for the entire Family if your pet should be exposed to a rabid animal,” said the VTF officer in charge.

Rabies can be transmitted through a bite or scratch from a rabid, warm-blooded animal, said Gray, and the animals best known to spread the virus include raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes and bats.

General symptoms of rabies include sickness, having problems swallowing, having trouble moving, and, in some cases, even paralysis, she said. Some animals may act mad – biting at everything and drooling excessively, and some animals may act timid or shy. A wild animal may move slowly and allow humans to get close while acting tame, but Gray urges people to avoid any wild animals they encounter.

If people come across an animal they suspect has rabies, they should immediately report it to military police. Additionally, Gray suggests that people report all stray animals to local animal control or military police in order to have them safely removed.

“They may be unvaccinated and could be infected with the disease,” she added.

“If you are bitten by any animal, period, have someone help you wash out the wound for five minutes with soap and seek immediate care from your physician,” said Gray. “If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately.”

Rabies is particularly dangerous because of its potential to be fatal to both humans and animals, she said. The disease travels from the site of the bite or scratch and attacks the brain and spinal cord.

Because of diseases like rabies, the stray population must be controlled to prevent its spread, as well as the spread of other diseases.

Fort Rucker officials warn that people PCSing from the installation to not abandon their animals.

“This allows the stray population to expand, and more animals will be exposed to wild, rabid animals, which will put civilians, Soldiers, their Families and their pets at risk for the potential of being exposed to rabies through a bite or scratch,” said Gray. “If it is known well in advance that they will be unable to take their pets to their next duty site, they should start early finding their pet a good home.”

Furthermore, people shouldn’t allow their pets to roam, risking the chance of them getting lost or encountering wild animals, she said. Pets that are unsupervised are subject to be picked up by military police as strays.

This article was originally published at http://www.army.mil/article/122338/

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