fox tests positive for rabies
—NM DEPT. OF GAME AND FISH
A dead fox found in the Beaverhead area of the Gila National
Forest about fifty miles northwest of Truth or Consequences
has tested positive for rabies, prompting the Department of
Game and Fish to reemphasize the urgency for area residents
to vaccinate their pets and livestock against the spreading
The fox, found on April 9, was the first confirmed rabid
fox in Sierra County and the sixth in southwestern New Mexico
this year. The disease was first confirmed in southwestern
New Mexico in 2007, when nine foxes and one bobcat tested
positive for rabies in Catron County. Since then, it has spread
to Grant and Sierra counties. The most recent rabid fox was
found at the far western edge of Sierra County near the top
of a drainage to the Gila River. To date, no rabid animals
have been reported east of the Continental Divide.
Fox rabies has been a problem for several decades in Arizona
and now has spread into western New Mexico. Rabies is a deadly
viral disease that affects all mammals and can be prevented
but not cured. Kerry Mower, wildlife health specialist with
the Department of Game and Fish, said rabies in foxes probably
will continue to be a problem in New Mexico.
“I expect the disease will run its course and eventually
wind down in the coming years, and then we will see [it] cycle
up and down with the fox population,” Mower said. The
current fox population in southwestern New Mexico appears
to be high, he said, adding that cases of canine distemper
also appear to be increasing in the area.
Mower said the key to controlling the disease is to have
a licensed veterinarian vaccinate all pets and livestock.
Area residents can also protect themselves and their animals
by keeping pet food indoors, putting trash out only on pickup
day, and removing bird feeders that may attract foxes and
other wild animals to their property.
The Department of Game and Fish collects protected animals
that are sick or dead and has them tested for rabies if the
animals have been exposed to humans or are considered a potential
health risk to humans.
Here are some guidelines to help protect yourself and your
family from rabies:
• Stay away from wild or unfamiliar animals. Do not
attempt to feed, approach, or touch wild animals (alive or
dead). Teach this important message to your children. Rabid
animals may show no fear of people and may seem friendly or
• Pets should be up-to-date on rabies vaccinations
and wearing current license tags on their collars.
• Horses and other valuable livestock should be considered
for rabies vaccination to protect them from wild rabid animals
that may attack them.
• If you or a loved one are bitten by an animal, or
come into contact with an animal’s saliva, wash the
exposed site immediately with soap and water. Be sure to report
the bite to local animal control and seek medical care as
soon as possible.
• Keep pets on a leash at all times.
If your cat or dog has been bitten or scratched, call your
pet’s veterinarian, even if the wound appears to be
• If you see a sick or dead wild animal, or a wild
animal acting abnormally, report it to the New Mexico Department
of Game and Fish at (575) 532-2100 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00
p.m. weekdays, or anytime at (505) 827-9376.
For more information about rabies, call the Department of
Health at (505) 827-0006 or visit: http://www.health.state.nm.us/epi/rabies.html.
Not a stroke: vestibular disorder can occur
Strokes are rare among dogs. Less rare is a syndrome called
“Vestibular Disorder.” It used to be called “old
dog vestibular syndrome,” but it can happen to dogs
of any age, as well as to cats—and humans.
Vestibular syndrome is a disorder of the balance mechanism
of the inner ear; it is not a brain event. Its most common
form has no known cause, no warning signs, and appears—and
disappears—abruptly, with no treatment other than good
nursing, within a few days to a couple of weeks.
It happened to Chabeli, my five-plus-year-old border collie,
in early March. One minute, she was active and normal and
busily outwitting me, the next, she became unsteady, staggered,
and fell; her eyes were tracking rapidly side to side, and
she was clearly terrified, as was I. She couldn’t walk,
she reacted to food as if it were attacking her; she ate absolutely
nothing for six days. I later learned she was experiencing
extreme dizziness and nausea—severe motion sickness—from
a total inability to orient herself spatially.
Since Chabeli’s symptoms appeared at night, I phoned
an emergency vet clinic. After hearing the list of symptoms,
they suggested a likely vestibular problem and wanted to see
her immediately. I asked what they could do for her; they
said they would sedate her and watch her for a few days.
I stayed home, partly because I couldn’t carry my frightened
and uncoordinated forty-five-pound girl to the car, and partly
because the proposed treatment seemed a little like waking
a hospital patient to give her a sleeping pill. I spent the
night on the couch with my two dogs’ beds close, massaging
Chabeli to calm her and giving her water by hand every hour
to make sure she stayed hydrated.
By the following day when I got her to our veterinarian,
I had read extensively about vestibular syndrome on the Internet
and could thereby refrain (barely) from panic when the vet
Home again, I resumed my nursing routine. Over the next several
days, Chabeli occasionally propelled herself outside by lurching
and staggering, then—frightened again—lay motionless
and depressed for hours.
On the sixth evening, she unexpectedly wobbled to the kitchen
at dinnertime and wolfed down a bowl of food; afterwards,
she grabbed her favorite ball and began teasing me to play.
Watching her sway slowly leftward, I sadly declined, resisting
her engaging smile.
But the next morning, a week from the onset of the symptoms,
Chabeli was completely normal again! Surprise! Joy! Unutterable
I’ve since related Chabeli’s incident to friends,
both local and distant, and began hearing similar stories
in return—some involving crippling vet bills, two in
which vets suggested euthanasia. Their responses made me want
to share the story more widely.
I’m not a vet, and of course you should take your pet
to the veterinarian. (Vestibular problems can indicate serious
disease.) Your vet may prescribe steroids or antibiotics or
something for motion sickness or anxiety, but no medication
is known to hasten recovery. Some vets naturally want to do
testing to find or rule out a cause for the symptoms; those
of us with limited resources might wait a week or so before
allowing an MRI or CAT scan. If your dog is diagnosed as having
had a stroke, consider getting a second opinion.
SYMPTOMS OF IDIOPATHIC (NO KNOWN CAUSE) VESTIBULAR SYNDROME:
• loss of muscular control (ataxia)
• rapid eye movement, usually horizontal (nystagmus)
• motion sickness and possibly frothy yellow vomit
• circling and head tilt