Man bitten by rabid pet donkey

2013-03-07 10:26

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Durban - A Shongweni man's life is in serious danger after his pet donkey bit him - and then tested positive for rabies.

Dave Smith must now endure an anxious few weeks before knowing if ongoing treatment has successfully combated the infection.

Although symptoms of the viral disease can rear up years later, the first month or so is usually critical.

“Life’s a terminal illness,” a chipper Smith said on Wednesday, after being bitten a day earlier.

His left thumb remains heavily bandaged where Milo sunk his teeth into his flesh, opening up the bone.

Donkey unwell

Smith said they noticed on Monday that the donkey - hand-reared as a pet for the last 18 years - had left his morning snack untouched.

Thinking he may have escaped from his paddock, Smith went in search, checking the fence line at the same time. He found Milo lying down, looking unwell.

“He was displaying the typical signs of colic, like indigestion. I got him some water, which he drank.”

Smith said he nursed Milo to his feet and the animal, rather unsteadily, went with his owner to a paddock closer to the farm house.

Checking on him the next morning, Smith said: “He was lying down, his eyes were glazed, he was tired and breathing heavily.”

Smith filled a cooldrink bottle with water and fed this to Milo, who guzzled it. With a refill in hand, Smith offered the water to Milo once more.

“As I put it to his mouth, he lunged with his head and locked his jaws on my thumb.”

Despite his best efforts, Smith could not prise them open and had to wait for Milo to eventually release him. That’s when he realised the severity of the wound and feared his pet was infected with rabies.

Smith cleaned the wound, notified the vet and shot off to hospital in Hillcrest. While he was receiving treatment - the better part of a 200ml injection into his thumb - the vet had called the animal pound and an employee arrived to check Milo, and decided to put him down.


The carcass was taken to Pietermaritzburg and, about three hours later, test results returned positive for rabies.

Smith faces continuous treatment for the next few weeks.

“The doctor told me I could have it [the rabies virus incubating] for five years - it’s a scary thing.”

While sad at losing Milo, and seeming unperturbed by the risk to himself, Smith said he wanted to warn people that animals do not have to show typical symptoms like a foaming mouth to be rabid.

“Foaming at the mouth is one of the symptoms, but only one. There is no fixed demeanour.”

Rabies is a viral infection transmitted by animals and attacks the brain. Survival is not likely if untreated. The earlier the treatment, the better the chance of survival.



Read more on:    durban  |  animals  |  rabies

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