15 treated after Vt. puppy tests positive for rabies - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

15 treated after Vt. puppy tests positive for rabies

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Julie Tillson Julie Tillson

"She was spunky and she was adorable and just full of it. And the cat wasn't really impressed with her, but they were making friends," Julie Tillson said.

Tillson and her family adopted Scarlet the pup as a 9-week-old to fill the hole in their heart left by the death of their previous dog, Buck.

"Bought toys for her, took the old dog's bed right over-- she fit right in," Tillson said.

But last Friday, the cute mutt they picked up at a New York shelter fell ill. Tillson took her to the vet day after day after day.

"Seemed to be worse, was constantly scratching herself, couldn't get comfortable, she was going around in circles," Tillson said.

Scarlet grew sicker and sicker until Monday, when Tillson made the painful decision to put her down. The pup bit Tillson the day before, so the law required an autopsy afterward to check for rabies.

"I said that's a good idea, never in a million years, ever expecting it to come back positive," Tillson said.

Vermont state health spokespeople say this is the first case of rabies in a domestic dog since 1994.

"So, this is very, very rare. Although we do have the rabies virus here, it mostly afflicts wild animals," said Megan Stearns, the director of communications for the Humane Society of Chittenden County.

Scarlet was too young to receive a rabies vaccine, but experts say those considering adoption should ask about the animal's medical history and how it got to the shelter.

"They should ask the adoptive agency what measures they've taken to evaluate the overall health of the animal," Stearns said.

It's unclear where Scarlet picked up the neurological disease, but the upstate New York shelter initially gave Tillson paperwork indicating the dog had received the rabies vaccination. They called her within hours of the adoption to say they'd provided paperwork for a different dog.

Now, Tillson, her family, her friends, and every animal that came in contact with the pup is receiving medical attention, as well.

Rabies treatment for those exposed involves multiple shots over a 14-day period. Tillson say all of those getting care do have health insurance, but it's not clear how much if any of the treatment will be covered.

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