There’s a Bat in the House



There’s a Bat in the House


I can’t make this stuff up.  And, I figure, if it happened to me it could happen to you.  As a public servant, I feel compelled to tell you this story of horror.


The setting: Spring Brook Elementary, Naperville, IL Classroom 3K

The date: September-ish 2014, Curriculum Night

The characters: The McIntyre Family, another 3K Parent (you know who you are), Mrs. K, a bat

I am sitting in a darkened classroom listening to Mrs. K, Hugh’s 3rd grade teacher, talk about testing, themes for the year, reading lists, and wishing I were back in school.  Can you imagine learning in a place that has a smart board, bring your technology to school day, a library loaded with books, and a climbing wall?! Suddenly, my silenced phone starts vibrating.  I get a text from one of my 14 year old twins.  It reads:  Mom, come home.  There’s a bat in the house.

Me: Really? I’ll be home in the next 30 minutes.  Take the dogs outside for a walk.

Teen: No way.  It is fast and black and scary.

Me: Seriously, just go outside.

Teen: The three of us are in your office.  We are not coming out.

Me (snickering and staring at the phone): K. The presentation is almost over.

Teen: You’ve heard all of this before! Come home!

3K Parent: Do you need to go home?

Me (still snickering): Yea, read this text!

3K Parent: I’ll tell Mrs. K what happened! Let me know if you need help over there.

I walk into the garage and open the door to the house.  The office door is shut and my usually anxious dog that doesn’t poop without double and triple checking the area, is happily crunching food on the family room carpet.  Why do they take a mouthful and deposit it on the area hardest to clean before indulging in each individual kibble?  Meanwhile, a fast, black, and indeed scary bat is doing laps in a figure eight pattern through my family room and kitchen.  Not wanting to tangle with this hideous creature, I call the three boys from the office and we convene in the hallway.  “See?” says my eldest.  “We are NOT going out there”.  I decide to go back into the garage and arm us all with tennis rackets.  One twin is quick to google “getting a bat out of the house”.  This is a really disturbing article for a lot of reasons.  Mostly because a bat in the house almost always means there are really MULTIPLE bats that have made a colony in your attic, walls, or eaves.  Perfect.

We decide to open the back door and turn on all of the indoor lights in case the “lost and disoriented bat” senses the fresh outdoor air.  My oblivious pets continue to munch their kibble despite the obvious chaos.  The kids retreat with their rackets and as yet uneaten dinner to the office after suggesting, as per the website, that I get a towel too.   The bat has now landed on the brick above the fireplace mantle and seems happy to dangle there.

I call the kids back out, hoping for back up and more information provided by Dr. Google.  It seems that bats have a difficult time taking flight from the ground. If you can knock the bat to the ground with a broom or towel, it will be slower moving and vulnerable. Usually a bat on the ground will try and crawl (very slowly) to a wall, then climb up the wall. Its ideal way to take flight is to drop from its perch (or my brick fireplace) a few feet to gain airspeed.  As my mantle is covered in framed family pictures and sentimental tchotchkes, I decide to start throwing wadded up paper towels at the bat, hoping it will fall.  This went very poorly, both because of my aim and the decidedly non-aerodynamic nature of wadded up paper towels.

The smartest of my three kids (I’m not naming names here…) announces, “This is what I have been training my whole life for “and runs to the basement.  He returns with the heavy Nerf artillery and passes weapons to his brothers.  They commence firing at the bat and after multiple near hits, the bat takes a flying disc to its torso and drops onto the mantle.  The kids run screaming to the office.  The dog deposits another mouthful of food onto the carpet.  I duck and cover, using my tennis racket as a shield, and head back into the hallway between the family room and the kitchen.

After a few moments, the bat does indeed scramble back up the brick and takes flight, resuming its figure eight pattern.  As the most senior McIntyre but alas, not the most coordinated, I decide the bat needs a swift racket to the head since it apparently isn’t leaving anytime soon.  Bats are a protected species, dispersing seeds, pollinating flowers, and controlling insect populations.  This is all lost on me and I take several swipes as the bat passes through the hallway.  More concerned about the fast, ugly creature, capable of transmitting rabies, SARS, and (gasp) Ebola, I lurch back in to the hall each time I come close.  Finally, contact.  I overhand serve the bat, which lands on the kitchen table.  Thinking I have killed the bat and we will now need to submit it to animal control for Rabies testing, I call for the kids.

Wisely, I place the racket over the bat on the table.  We watch the stilled bat for a moment before it starts to squirm and squeak.  Still NOTHING from the dogs but screams from the kids.  My eldest runs to grab a beach towel at my command.  Bats, it appears, can go boneless, and this one starts to wriggle its way under the 1 cm space between the racket edge and the wooden table.  Not a moment too soon, I throw the towel over the bat/racket combo and dash the squealing beast out the front door and throw the whole lot onto the lawn.  We stand in the open doorway watching and waiting.  A few moments later, the flying rat crawls out from under the towel and flies away.

This story ended well.  My mother was appalled that I didn’t get the rabies prophylactic vaccine series but I felt pretty confident that neither my kids nor I were bitten and exposed.  The dogs, sensing opportunity, ate the kids’ dinner off of the plates they left in the office while we fought for our lives.  My husband got a big chuckle when he arrived home not 10 minutes later.  I still don’t find the humor in the situation and might have post-traumatic bat disorder.   My kids had the presence of mind to snap a few pictures with their phones to amuse their friends.

The biggest surprise (after finding the bat in the house) was the non-reaction from the dogs.  The dogs are great hunters; we have been gifted with several dead chipmunks, multiple birds, and have tangled with skunks three times (another carrier of rabies).  Luckily, if they had been bitten, we have had them vaccinated for rabies.  As you know, once infected, the disease is fatal and untreatable.  Once exposed to a wild animal bite, an unvaccinated domestic animal that has been bitten or that has received a suspected bite wound of unknown origin must undergo a six-month rabies quarantine. Most often, state law requires that this quarantine be carried out in an approved animal control facility at the owner’s expense. Because the incubation period for rabies is usually less than six months, this quarantine period is meant to ensure that the animal does not have rabies before it is allowed to come into regular contact with humans and other animals again. If an owner is unable to comply with this law or cannot afford to pay for the mandatory six-month quarantine, the only alternative for the pet is mandatory euthanasia and testing for rabies.

Is this likely to happen to you and your pet? No.  Is it possible? Yes.  Is it worth taking the chance? Again, the answer is no.

After sharing this story among my friends, several had “bat in the attic/family room/out of the wall by the fireplace” stories to tell.  One girlfriend had to move out of her home after a colony broke through the ceiling in her bedroom (Oak Park).  Another had a bat crawl out of an air duct vent and circle the room as her infant giggled in an exersaucer (Downers Grove).  I’ve treated countless bite wounds of unknown origin in animals over the years.  Could any of these vaccinated pets have unknowingly been bitten by a bat?

Do I have your attention???? If so, Happy Holidays and may this never happen to you!

A reminder that we will be closed on December 24th-26th, so please place any food orders, prescription medication orders and requests for vaccine records soon.  Does your pet need vaccines prior to grooming or boarding? There is still time!

I hope you have a safe, happy, healthy, and dare I say warm season.  As always, Dr. Lauri Safford, Sarah, and I are truly grateful to be allowed into your homes and privileged to care for your family.  Please visit our webpage: for any Rx or appointment requests and our blog: for more fun reading!

My best,

CDC Report: Ebola and Pets

Questions and Answers about Ebola and Pets

The ongoing epidemic of Ebola in West Africa has raised several questions about how the disease affects the animal population, and in particular, the risk to household pets. While the information available suggests that the virus may be found in several kinds of animals, CDC, the US Department of Agriculture, and the American Veterinary Medical Association do not believe that pets are at significant risk for Ebola in the United States.

How are animals involved in Ebola outbreaks?
Because the natural reservoir host of Ebola has not yet been confirmed, the way in which the virus first appears in a human at the start of an outbreak is unknown. However, scientists believe that the first patient becomes infected through contact with an infected animal, such as a fruit bat or primate (apes and monkeys), which is called a spillover event. Person-to-person transmission follows and can lead to large numbers of affected persons. In some past Ebola outbreaks, primates were also affected by Ebola, and multiple spillover events occurred when people touched or ate infected primates. In the current West African epidemic, animals have not been found to be a factor in ongoing Ebola transmission.

How does Ebola spread?
When infection occurs in humans, the virus can be spread in several ways to others. Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth) with

blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola
objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus
Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats.
Only a few species of mammals (for example, humans, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus.
Can dogs get infected or sick with Ebola?
At this time, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of being able to spread Ebola to people or other animals. Even in areas in Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs and cats becoming sick with Ebola. There is limited evidence that dogs become infected with Ebola virus, but there is no evidence that they develop disease.

Here in the United States, are our dogs and cats at risk of becoming sick with Ebola?
The risk of an Ebola outbreak affecting multiple people in the United States is very low. Therefore, the risk to pets is also very low, as they would have to come into contact with blood and body fluids of a person with Ebola. Even in areas in Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs and cats becoming sick with Ebola.

Can I get Ebola from my dog or cat?
At this time, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of being able to spread Ebola to people or animals. The chances of a dog or cat being exposed to Ebola virus in the United States is very low as they would have to come into contact with blood and body fluids of a symptomatic person sick with Ebola.

Can my pet’s body, fur, or paws spread Ebola to a person?
We do not yet know whether or not a pet’s body, paws, or fur can pick up and spread Ebola to people or other animals. It is important to keep people and animals away from blood or body fluids of a person with symptoms of Ebola infection.

What if there is a pet in the home of an Ebola patient?
CDC recommends that public health officials in collaboration with a veterinarian evaluate the pet’s risk of exposure to the virus (close contact or exposure to blood or body fluids of an Ebola patient). Based on this evaluation as well as the specific situation, local and state human and animal health officials will determine how the pet should be handled.

Can I get my dog or cat tested for Ebola?
There would not be any reason to test a dog or cat for Ebola if there was no exposure to a person infected with Ebola. Currently, routine testing for Ebola is not available for pets.

What are the requirements for bringing pets or other animals into the United States from West Africa?
CDC regulations require that dogs and cats imported into the United States be healthy. Dogs must be vaccinated against rabies before arrival into the United States. Monkeys and African rodents are not allowed to be imported as pets under any circumstances.

Each state and U.S. Territory has its own rules for pet ownership and importation, and these rules may be different from federal regulations. Airlines may have additional requirements.

Can monkeys spread Ebola?
Yes, monkeys are at risk for Ebola. Symptoms of Ebola infection in monkeys include fever, decreased appetite, and sudden death. Monkeys should not be allowed to have contact with anyone who may have Ebola. Healthy monkeys already living in the United States and without exposure to a person infected with Ebola are not at risk for spreading Ebola.

Can bats spread Ebola?
Fruit bats in Africa are considered to be a natural reservoir for Ebola. Bats in North America are not known to carry Ebola and so CDC considers the risk of an Ebola outbreak from bats occurring in the United States to be very low. However, bats are known to carry rabies and other diseases here in the United States. To reduce the risk of disease transmission, never attempt to touch a bat, living or dead.

Where can I find more information about Ebola and pet dogs and cats?
CDC is currently working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and many other partners to develop additional guidance for the U.S. pet population. Additional information and guidance will be posted on this website as well as partner websites as soon as it becomes available.

Infectious Diseases in Our Pets

Infectious Diseases: A Dangerous Increase in the Chicagoland Area
I am often asked, “Do I really need to vaccinate my pet? She stays indoors except for brief, supervised periods on the deck or on the screened-in sun porch”. I also hear, “Our dog never has exposure to raccoons. He is only goes outside to urinate and defecate”.
Consider the following statistics and decide for yourselves whether safe, effective preventatives and vaccines make sense for your pets. Remember, it only takes one animal bite or walk through damp grass harboring bacteria to expose pets and humans to potentially fatal disease. Common carriers of infectious diseases include raccoons, deer, rodents, and skunks; as the human population increases and we move into these animals’ territories, so does our exposure to the pathogens they carry.
• The percentage of positive raccoons with leptospirosis (a potentially fatal and zoonotic disease in humans and animals alike) in Cook County has increased from 34% to 43% and raccoon population has increased
• Analysis from the Veterinary Medical Database shows that dogs less than 15 pounds are more likely diagnosed with leptospirosis since they are less likely to be vaccinated
• Greater than 40% of coyotes necropsied are infected with heartworm
• Skunk rabies has been reported in Texas and Missouri. A cow has tested positive for fox rabies in southern Illinois; both the skunk and fox populations have doubled in 2013 and 2014.
• 70% of skunks and raccoons exhibiting neurologic abnormalities in Cook County were positive for Distemper at necropsy
• 63 bats tested positive (or 4%) for Rabies in Illinois in 2012. Over 40,000 each year receive rabies post-exposure prophylaxis treatment. Bat bites can be tiny and often go unnoticed.

It is also important to recognize the flaws in reporting of animal disease; veterinarians lack the support system of our human counterparts. The CDC only requires veterinarians to report cases of rabies, not all communicable or zoonotic disease incidences. How much do we underestimate the actual presence of rabies, leptospirosis, heartworm, and other parasitic or infectious diseases in our midst?