AUSTIN (KXAN) — A dog confirmed to have rabies spent about three hours at Zilker Park earlier this month, animal public health officials warn. The black-and-white Border Collie mix is 9- to 10 months old and played fetch with its owner near the sand volleyball courts. The dog did not drink from any public watering areas. However, it may have sniffed other dogs with nose-to-nose contact.

The dog was not vaccinated against rabies, according to animal control officials. It started to show symptoms on Feb. 12, several days after the park visit on Feb. 8, and Animal Services determined the dog was infectious when it was at the park.

Officials with Austin Animal Services say the virus can only be transmitted through oral fluids into wounds, cuts, or membranes like the mouth, nostrils or eyes.

The Austin/Travis County Health & Human Services says the dog was contagious and was later put down. Symptoms of rabies can take three- to eight weeks to develop. During that time, the virus travels through the animal’s nerves to the spinal cord and brain, then to the saliva. However, the illness can be prevented after an exposure through one or more vaccinations.

Animal Trustees of Austin offers affordable care and vaccines, including the rabies shot.

“There’s just really no excuse not to have it ,and legally you have to,” said Marissa Kilgore, a vet-tech and manager with Animal Trustees of Austin. “I just kind of thought, ‘Why wouldn’t people get dogs vaccinated?’ There are free clinics. There are low-cost clinics.”

If you think your pet was exposed to this dog, call Austin Animal Services at 311.

Public health officials offered these tips for pet owners:

Signs of animal rabies:

  • First symptoms: change in personality, depression, fever and loss of appetite
  • Signs progress within days to nervous system abnormalities:

    • abnormal behavior, aggression, and/or self-mutilation
    • cranial nerve (dropped jaw, tongue incoordination, difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation)
    • ataxia (wobbly, weakness, paralysis, seizures)

Animal Rabies Prevention:

  • Regular pet check-ups with your veterinarian
  • Current rabies vaccination for your pet

The City of Austin hosts free rabies clinics throughout the year. Check here for dates.