A Serious and Deadly Threat

It’s easy to get complacent about a potential problem that never seems to materialize into a real threat.  Now that threat is very real in Palm Beach County.  The newly confirmed case of rabies has been discovered recently in our own backyard of Jupiter, Florida.

Because of this growing threat, it is tremendously important that pet owners have an appreciation of the significance of rabies to human health and safety.  Human exposure is usually from contact with rabid or possible rabid domestic animals.  The most common wild species affected by rabies are skunks, bats, raccoons, and foxes. However, this time it was an otter. Because control of rabies is so difficult in wildlife, vaccinating our pets primarily controls rabies.

Rabies is a virus that attacks the central nervous system.  It cannot be treated with antibiotics or any other medication.  Infection with this virus occurs most commonly when infected saliva from a rabid animal is introduced into an open would or abrasion of either the skin or mucous membranes by a bite or a scratch.

There are two forms of rabies: the furious form, and the paralytic or dumb form.  In an early stage of the disease, vague changes in temperament may be observed.  Pets that are normally affectionate may hide and shun company; others may become unusually attentive and affectionate.  Furious rabies is recognized by restlessness, nervousness, and developing viciousness.  The animal often utters strange cries and hoarse howls because of partial paralysis of its vocal cords.  The eyes are usually staring because of dilation of the pupils.  There does not seem to be any real hydrophobia (fear of water) as there is in man.  Convulsive seizures often precede the appearance of incoordination, which is the first sign of the final stage of the disease.  Rabies is always fatal.

In the dumb form of rabies, paralysis usually appears first in the muscles of the head and neck.  The victim cannot chew its food; it cannot swallow water or does so with difficulty.  Its lower jaw hangs; it cannot close its mouth.  In trying to examine the animal’s mouth for an object that is not there, the animal’s human friends often expose themselves to the disease by scratching their hands on its teeth or getting its saliva into a cut on the hands.

In cats the disease generally takes the furious form and the signs are similar to those in dogs.  Rabid cats are very dangerous animals for humans because of their viciousness and quickness of action.

All warm-blooded animals are vulnerable to infection by rabies.  This includes livestock, which can transmit the virus to unsuspecting owners who attempt to manually relieve an animal that appears “choked”.

The American Veterinary Medical Association does not recommend keeping wildlife as pets.  Since no rabies vaccine is licensed for use in wild animals and since there is no evidence that animal rabies vaccines produce acceptable levels of immunity in wild animals, vaccination is not recommended.

It is imperative that you be sure that your pet’s rabies vaccination is up to date.  In most cases, this should be done yearly.  This is essential for the protection and the control of rabies.  Cats, in particular, are often overlooked when rabies vaccination is considered. It is also a law that all companion animals be vaccinated.  Different public health policies have been established to deal with various kinds of exposure.  These range from quarantine to immediate euthanasia and depend on the vaccination status of the animal. This is another good reason to be certain pets are vaccinated regularly.

If you see any animal acting strangely or aggressively you should stay away from the animal and contact Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control at 561-233-1200.  For wildlife concerns contact the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission via the “FWC Wildlife Alert” app. Download the app onto Apple or Android smartphones or tablets, text 847411 with the keyword “FWC” or call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.
Call your veterinarian today to check on the status of your pet’s vaccines or make an appointment for vaccination as soon as possible.

When Should We Say Goodbye?

Writing about the quality of life of a pet and when it’s time to let them go can be a difficult and emotional topic. However, it’s important to address this issue, as it’s an unfortunate reality that pet owners must face.

When it comes to the quality of life of your pet, there are several factors to consider. These include their ability to eat and drink, mobility, comfort, and overall enjoyment of life. As pets age, they may develop health conditions that can significantly impact their quality of life, such as arthritis, blindness, or cognitive decline.

It’s important to monitor your pet’s behavior and overall well-being regularly. Some signs that your pet may be experiencing a decreased quality of life include a lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed, difficulty walking or standing, loss of appetite, and increased lethargy.

At some point, you may need to consider making the difficult decision to let your pet go. This can be a challenging and emotional decision, but it’s important to prioritize your pet’s well-being and quality of life. Some signs that it may be time to consider euthanasia include your pet experiencing chronic pain, difficulty breathing, or an inability to eat or drink. You should also consult with your veterinarian, who can help you make an informed decision based on your pet’s individual circumstances.

Remember that letting your pet go peacefully and painlessly is an act of love and kindness. It’s never easy, but it’s important to remember that you provided your pet with a loving and caring home throughout their life and that you’re making the decision to prevent further suffering.

Planning for a Possible Hurricane

We are in the busiest portion of our Hurricane Season now. Currently, there is a storm developing in the Caribbean that may affect us in the middle of next week. We must emphasize that we don’t know for certain at this point if we will encounter the storm at all, and hopefully, it will veer away from land altogether.

As always, we recommend being prepared in the event foul weather does come our way. It’s very important to be sure you have plenty of food, water, and medications for your animal family members.

Please contact us as soon as possible for chronic medications, storm-phobia medications, and prescription diets so that we have time to get supplies ready for your critter kids.  Keep in mind, there will be many patients needing things so we must ask for your cooperation and patience as we work to help everyone get what they need. If you are ordering online, please do so right away so there is time for us to review/approve prescriptions and for the companies to ship them to you.

Additionally, we ask that you be certain that your pets’ identifications are up to date – dogs and cats should have an identification tag with a current phone number on their collars. Microchip information needs to be up-to-date with your current contact information and ideally an alternate contact in case you’re unable to reach In an emergency. If your pet is not microchipped, we can provide this service for pets current on their rabies vaccinations. Please call to schedule a nurse appointment.  

If you are in an evacuation zone (know your zone: https://discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/dem/pages/know-your-zone.aspx)  our first recommendation will always be that you keep your pet(s) with you. However, this cannot always happen. If you plan on boarding at Harmony Animal Hospital this is what you need to know.

Hurricane Strength

At Harmony, we will only accept boarders if local meteorologists predict a Category 3 storm or lower. You also must live in an evacuation zone.

You must make other plans for Category 4 or 5 storms because there will be no staff available here to care for your pet. Other Pet Hurricane Shelters may have different requirements.

Keep medical records on hand

Be sure your pet is up to date on all vaccinations and has proof available.  We will not accept unvaccinated animals.  Call us for specific requirements.

Stock plenty of your pet’s supplies

Keep on hand those medications that your pet needs to take on a routine basis including thunderstorm anxiety medications. Please be sure you bring them in their original containers. You will also need to bring your pet’s food and enough bottled water to last your pet for at least three days (one gallon per day per pet). If the power goes out water may not be available.

Other things worth noting

You must call ahead and cannot just show up. This is usually a very stressful time and we need to stay calm and organized.

You must provide us with an emergency contact if the storm becomes a Category 4 or 5

Boarders must be here within eight hours of when the hurricane is due to hit. After that, all of Harmony’s employees will be home caring for their own.