Mention the word flying foxes, or fruit bats, and many people immediately picture a
While bats can carry potentially fatal diseases, these are rare and can be avoided by simply not touching them. It is important that you do not handle any
As a vet, I often get panicked owners calling, worried that their dog has contracted rabies from bats, but this is very unlikely as the true rabies virus, which is endemic to Africa and Asia, is not found at all in Australia. In Australia, flying foxes carry two diseases that can infect humans and pets: Hendra virus and Bat Lyssavirus, but the number of reported cases is very low.
Hendra virus (
Only a small number of horses and two cases of dogs being infected with Hendra virus (
Australian Bat Lyssavirus
Bat Lyssavirus is related to the rabies virus and can lead to severe neurological symptoms. While the virus has been detected in Australian bats, potentially putting dogs at risk, no dogs have fallen ill as a result of contracting lyssavirus disease. As the virus is transmitted via the saliva, a dog can become infected if bitten by an infected bat. To keep your pet safe, it is advisable to keep them indoors at night, especially if you have fruit trees or flowering trees in your garden that may attract flying foxes. It’s also a good idea to keep your dogs under leash control when taking them out for a walk if you are going to pass near a bat colony to prevent them chasing a bat and potentially getting bitten.
Should your dog get bitten by a flying fox, or if you suspect that it may have been, seek professional advice from your vet, who can advise you on the necessary precautions to take to protect your pet from these
The reality is that flying foxes are not pests, but rather a precious and largely misunderstood Australian species. Not only are they are intelligent and remarkable, but these unique animals also help regenerate our forests and keep ecosystems healthy through pollination and seed dispersal. Rather than condemn them, we should appreciate the vitally important ecological services they provide. They are our flying foresters, and without them, our Australian forest cannot thrive.