Dear AKC: Recently, two bats came into my house from the attic. There was a large one and a small one which flew around and landed in a few places and then disappeared. Later, I found my cat playing with one of them and it was still alive. The other bat then flew out and landed on me. Then my dog came up and jumped on me where the bat was. I keep the dog up-to-date on her rabies vaccination. Would she be at any risk to rabies if the bat had tested positive? -- Up to Bat
Dear Bat: If your dog is up-to-date on her vaccinations then she should be okay for any exposure. However, if it's been a few years since you got a three-year shot you may want to have your vet give her a "booster shot" just to up the protection. You can check your rabies certificate for the expiration date. Your vet may advise you to get a booster just to be on the safe side.
I'd be more concerned if the dog had the bat in her mouth. Rabies can be transmitted through the bite of an infected animal, through its saliva or through an open cut or wound. Rabies is very unstable outside the host and once the saliva dries its transmission rate drops rapidly. It sounds like you already got a negative test back from the health department. But should you have another visit from the leathery little creatures, there are outfits that can come and capture the bats and sent them off to the health department for you.
Prevention is the Best Medicine If your dog was bit and you suspect rabies you might notice some symptoms such as disorientation, running in circles or aggression but that might not show up until a few weeks later. The best medicine is prevention. Rabies does exist in many other wildlife species such as foxes, skunks and raccoons, so keeping the dog within eyesight during walks in the woods will limit exposure as well. Eating a newly killed or dead, rabies positive animal can also cause problems for your dog even if she is vaccinated. Remember that the vaccine your dog gets whether it is a one-year or three-year booster is the same shot. The only difference is what the vet marks on the certificate as dictated by law. If you allow the rabies certificate to expire, then your dog is only eligible for a one-year renewal. If you renew your shot before the expiration date you can get a three-year certificate. The only exception is with young puppies, their first booster is always a one-year certificate.