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PAWS says dog Killua tested positive for rabies. Here's everything you need to know about this disease

By Yoniel Acebuche Published Mar 25, 2024 3:13 pm Updated Mar 25, 2024 8:07 pm

The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) said on Monday, March 25, that dog Killua, who was brutally killed, tested positive for rabies.

Results from a test conducted by the Bureau of Animal Industry over the weekend showed that Killua had rabies. It urged those who "may have been scratched or bitten by the dog to immediately get post-exposure shots," including Killua's fur parent, Vina Arazas, who "hugged the bloodied body of her beloved dog."

This came after the animal-care agency said on Thursday, March 21, that Anthony Solares, the Camarines Sur man who admitted to killing the golden retriever, was not acting in self-defense.

PAWS noted that while the results "may not be accurate" as tests were done five days after the dog was buried, it said that the public announcement was made "to ensure that any bites or scratches will be reported promptly in the interest of public health and safety."

Nonetheless, PAWS stands firm that no person should kill an animal, even if those animals were infected with rabies, saying that there are appropriate methods to treat animals and that only veterinarians licensed by the municipality or city may deal with them.

The agency also said that it will file a case against Solares for animal cruelty. "CCTV footages show that he was the one who chased the dog and even poked Killua while the animal was hiding under a car in order to make it come out so he could beat Killua to death," the statement posted on Facebook read. 

Likewise, the agency is filing charges of Anti Rabies Act or RA 9482 violation for Solares who allegedly engaged in the dog meat trade. According to PAWS, Solares brought the dog to a known slaughterhouse and dog meat cooking area after killing it.

"Solares owns a carinderia business which sells meat viands near the dog slaughter area," PAWS said. 

Atty. John Angel Bautista said in an interview with PhilSTAR L!fe that Republic Act 8485 or Animal Welfare Act as amended by Republic Act 10631, "does not explicitly mention the case of a mad dog, but under Section 6 thereof, in case a dog (or any animal) poses an imminent danger to the life and limb of a person, its killing is not unlawful."

He also said that nothing in the Animal Welfare Act directly ascribes liability to the furparents for not getting the dog vaccinated.

"In my opinion, it may remotely be a case of neglect to provide adequate care. Although a court decision may be needed to test this theory. After all, it's the judiciary's function to interpret the law," he told L!fe.

More than the issue of the Killua's death, rabies, one of the oldest diseases known to mankind, has been a concern in this issue.

Speaking to L!fe, Glenn Albert "Doc Gab" Almera, a licensed veterinarian and the founder of Pet Partner Philippines Inc., said that rabies "is a viral disease that affects the brain of all mammals." It means that humans and other animals can be infected with it.

How does one treat an animal bite?

Almera debunked some common misconceptions in treating rabies, including applying garlic to the wound and sucking the wound by mouth with the hope that rabies will be removed.

"It will not help and will just be another case of transmission," Almera said.

Instead, bitten individuals "must clean the wound with soap under running water first, then they must go to an animal bite center or to the nearest hospital for post-prophylaxis rabies vaccine or any preventive measures against infection."

How is rabies transmitted?

According to Almera, rabies is never inborn. "It can be transmitted by an infected rabies animal through a bite or their infected saliva that may enter the body through wounds or body opening like mouth, nose, and eyes," he told L!fe, adding that "eating infected animals with rabies will also transmit the disease."

Almera also cited some factors that may affect the development of rabies from a bite. He said that the location of the bite is crucial. If it is closer to the nerves and brain, it can transmit the virus faster. Another would be the viral load or the amount of virus entering the body. If there are several bites, the symptoms can develop quickly.

"There is a window time of about 7-10 days of observation for an animal for the diagnosis of rabies. Once a rabid animal shows signs and symptoms, it will only take a few days before it dies," he explained.

What are the signs and symptoms of rabies in humans?

The World Health Organization said that human rabies has the following signs and symptoms:

  • Pain or itching at the site of the bite wound (in 80% of cases)
  • Fever, malaise, headache lasting for 2–4 days.
  • Hydrophobia (fear of water)
  • Intolerance to noise, bright light, or air
  • Fear of impending death
  • Anger, irritability, and depression
  • Hyperactivity
  • At a later stage, the mere sight of water may provoke spasms in the neck and throat
  • The duration of illness is usually 2–3 days but might stretch to 5–6 days or more when receiving intensive care support

When asked if there is any specific treatment for a rabies patient, Almera said, "Unfortunately, rabies can only be prevented, but once it affects the brain, it can no longer be treated."

What to do after one gets bitten?

Almera explained to L!fe that while a 10-day observation period for the dog is important, the person who was bitten needs preventive treatment right away. They should get a rabies vaccine immediately (post-exposure prophylaxis) since rabies is fatal once symptoms develop. He noted that it is "safer" to get vaccinated against rabies even if a vaccinated dog bites you.

"Still safer to get vaccinated, especially if the animal bites you without provocation or if it is a stray animal; even if it is vaccinated, there can be a possibility of vaccine failure wherein the vaccine didn't work or a lapse in vaccination wherein the time interval from the previous vaccination and the day of the incident is too long, and the vaccine is no longer giving protection."

The veterinarian also reminds fur parents or owners of any animal that rabies vaccine can be given to dogs and cats at 4-5 months, then every 6 months or one year after that.

Are pets required to get anti-rabies shots?

According to the Anti-Rabies Act of 2007, pet owners are liable if the pet has not been vaccinated. As per Section 5 of the act, "all pet owners shall be required to have their dog regularly vaccinated against Rabies and maintain a registration which shall contain all vaccinations conducted on their dog, for accurate record purposes" and "maintain control over their dog and not allow it to roam the streets or any public place without a leash."

Pet owners who fail or refuse to have their dog registered and immunized against rabies shall be punished by a fine of P2,000 or shall be liable to pay for the vaccination of both the dog and the individuals bitten by the former.