“My dog would never do that….” by: Gerald Brenner

Working in the veterinary field, I have encountered hundreds of pet owners who claim that their dog or cat would “never” bite anyone. “My dog would never do that, he (or she) knows better!” claimed a pet owner who I posed the question, “Does your dog mind strangers or has he been known to bite?” Then as I proceed to examine their dog, the dog snaps at my hand(s) or face. Luckily, I know better but I still get a kick out of proving these “experts” wrong that their dog, is still an animal, and animals are capable of biting. Just because your dog or cat likes to wear a shark costume and ride around on a Roomba, doesn’t mean they’re not capable of biting and leaving more damage than just bite wounds. So, where am I going with this you ask? What does this have to do with Public Health, Health Risks, or Health Communication in general? Try all three!

Even though it is rarely reported and hardly found in the United States, Rabies is still a major public health concern that is often overlooked. To bring you up to speed, Rabies is a zoonotic, acute, viral disease that affects the central nervous system. Merriam-Webster.com (2016) defines “zoonotic” as a disease communicable from animals to humans under natural conditions; also defines “acute” as very serious or dangerous: requiring serious attention or action. Chernet and Nejash’s article (as cited in Blackmore, 2014) mentions that “once symptoms of the disease develop, it is invariably fatal and deadly viral disease that can only be prevented but not cured.” Depending on the species, presentation of symptoms can range, though generally we are talking days to weeks.

Now let’s forget the statistics and definitions; everyone (for the most part) knows about Rabies and what it is capable of. Can we all agree on that? Ok, good! My opinion to why this is a health risk: simple, a breakdown in public health communication. As an advocate for veterinary medicine, it is our job to inform the public and pet owner’s about this deadly virus and why it is important to properly vaccinate our pets. Since there is no anti-virus to protect us, prevention is key. The breakdown of communication results from the following, a.) Veterinary professionals are poorly educating the public or pet owners of proper vaccination protocols and the risks of animals who lack vaccination or b.) pet-owners de-value or ignore the professional advice, and fail to get their animal vaccinated because of cost or think “this is never going to affect my animal!”

Even though it is rare, Rabies is still being reported throughout the U.S. every year. All it takes is a bite from an infected, fox, raccoon, bat or any other wild mammal. Pet owners often feel that all of these vaccines that veterinarians recommend are just “money-makers” or ways for the veterinary practices to keep client’s coming in every year. Unfortunately, when their pets’ aren’t vaccinated and affected by these viruses that are highly-preventable; it is often too late for the veterinarian to save these furry family members. Treatment of suspected rabies cases can involve 10-day quarantines and even worse, euthanasia with the head sent off for laboratory testing of the brain if the pet was involved in any bite cases during the suspected rabies time-frame.

In summary, this deadly virus is very preventable. Veterinary professionals need to make sure they’re communicating properly with their pet owners on the risks that their pets and the public face, if their animals go without vaccination. Pet owners need to trust their veterinary professionals, vaccinate their pets properly and know that any animal can bite, and if infected, make a very bad day for the person who got bit. In the long run, the $15-20 Rabies vaccination is hands down the cheaper and safer route rather than risking a deadly virus upon you, your pet, and or the public.

By: Gerald Brenner

“Zoonosis.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2016.

“Acute.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2016.\

Balcha Chernet and Abdela Nejash (2016) Review of Rabies preventions and control, International J. of Life Sciences, 4(2): 293-301



6 thoughts on ““My dog would never do that….” by: Gerald Brenner

  1. I find this helpful. I might admit that I would think it was unnecessary for my my dog to get his shots every year and think of it as a way for the vet to make money. But yes now I agree with it. I do wish my vet might have communicated better about why it is so important and then it might not seem like such a hassle.
    -claire greve


  2. I worked with dog trainers for several years, and have seen these dogs accomplish amazing, incredible things. And the first rule of being around these ‘amazing, incredible’ animals is to remember that they are, in fact, animals. You can train a dog to do several incredible things, but you can not train them not to be a dog. So if I don’t trust these high level, highly trained working animals that I spend hours a day with, there is no way I’m going to trust your poorly-trained pet who has known me for a few moments. And so many people tolerate poor behavior from their pets, especially is they’re small. Small dogs in particular have the worst temperament of the majority of animals out there because they’re owners don’t acknowledge the threat these animals pose because they’re ‘cute’.

    – Jennifer Brees


  3. At the end of the day your dog should not have a precedence over the health of your neighbors and if a dog is infected with rabies or some other disease he should be immediately put down or quarantined. Just like owning a car, home or a gun, the owner needs to be responsible for their property and not doing so should be considered negligence.

    Grant Moss


  4. Thinking about animal health is a unique way to apply the topics learned in class, especially since as you mentioned, our pet’s health can directly impact our own health. I enjoyed your story about working with pet owners claiming that their dog would never bite a human, because even though their pet may never bite them, the owner, animals have personalities too and will look to defend themselves if they feel as though they are being threatened or in a unfamiliar circumstance. I’m sure if I was a dog and a vet was feeling me all over, preforming tests and administering vaccines, I would feel pretty threatened too, since I wouldn’t know what is going on!


  5. My dad also works at vet clinic, he’s a vet tech so he’s often the one handling the animals. I really appreciate your post and I’m especially glad you mentioned the who “my dog would never bite” situation. I have heard so many stories of how wrong this can go. Its also so important to keep your pets up to date on vaccination not only for their health but for the health of the people and humans that interact with them

    Victoria Obermeyer


  6. To be honest I never even thought about getting my pets vaccinated except the one time when you get them adopted or when they’re born. Now that I think about it, it would probably be a very good idea especially for my dogs since they like to go outside and explore.

    Josh Obermeyer


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