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2013 Rabies Alert


Terrestrial Rabies and Livestock


     For many decades we have had rabies in the bats in Northern Colorado.  The exposure to bat rabies is usually the “dumb form”, where a bat is weak and a cat or dog plays with it and/or eats the bat.  If an unvaccinated dog or cat eats a bat, and we cannot make the animal vomit up the bat for rabies testing, there is a 6 month quarantine outside of the owner’s home (i.e. in a kennel-only facility as a quarantine case, which can be very expensive!)  This is why we are adamant about having this unvaccinated pet be brought in for the vomiting injection; the oral peroxide, etc may not work, and after 1/2 hour the bat may have passed through the stomach of the animal.  A vaccination reminder for rabies is not something to ignore.  A day before the vaccine expires the animal is “ok”, but legally one day after this the animal is not current on the rabies vaccine; many pets that bite are quarantined for this reason.  Throughout history only a handful of people have ever lived through rabies; one should expect to die if exposed and not given the antiserum.  The series of antiserum and/or vaccination injections, etc for a human after a dog bite was $15,000 on average in 2006.  This is the reasons why it is very important to find the animal that bite or exposed the person.  In our area all bats found weak or dead inside the house should be tested, as most of the human rabies cases are from a bate bite the person never felt when sleeping.  The requirement for a rabies vaccination in animals is for the protection of humans, not just the animal. 

     Rabies in the terrestrial animals has been slowly creeping our way.  A decade ago the skunks and raccoons with rabies were in Kansas, Nebraska and states to the east and south.  In 2008 there were two cases of rabies in skunks in eastern Arapahoe County, and 8x cases of terrestrial rabid skunks and raccoons in the eastern and southern part of the state.  Back in 2001 there were 32 animals testing positive for rabies in this state, and in 2007 there were 70x animals that tested positive.  In the last five years a bobcat, a domestic cat, a cow, a coyote, a dog, a fox, raccoons and skunks were the terrestrial species found to be positive, most of the cases are still in bats.  In 2012 there have been positive terrestrial animals (i.e. skunks) found in nearby Weld and Larimer County.

     In the non-aggressive species of animals, such as a bat or livestock, they develop a “dumb form” of rabies.  They act strange and may or may not salivate, which is similar to many other encephalitic diseases and poisonings that we may see.  It is the aggressive, carnivore species which develop the “rabid form” of aggression in the latter stages of the infection.  Since the incubation can be as little as 2 weeks or less in a carnivore, or longer in a herbivore, the animal needs to be quarantined.  A few days after a bite from a rabid animal the treatment is essentially not successful in any species.  At this time it is the skunks you need to be concerned about with your livestock.  Any bloated, down, salivating/choke, colic or “mentally off” livestock are to be considered a possible rabies case until determined otherwise.  We recommend that you separate this animal from the herd or flock and reduce the human handling of this animal; we can provide the gloves, etc.  The only method to ensure the animal does not have rabies is to euthanize it and have the brain tested.  Since the body will be an “infectious-hazardous waste” it cannot be rendered; we recommend that the patient be euthanized and hauled to the CSU State Diagnostic laboratory in Fort Collins if convenient.  Anyone in contact with such an animal or body needs to be notified of the potential problem by the livestock owner.  All people exposed should undergo the anti-rabies treatment, or as directed by your MD.  ALL domestic animals that possibly may have rabies are required to be tested if they die within 6 months of a suspected sickness.  For testing we cannot send parts of the body to the diagnostic laboratory by mail or UPS; direct courier only transport.       

     We will be giving more rabies vaccinations in livestock in our area; since 2004 we have recommended a rabies vaccine to the horses and other livestock we examined.  Before 2012 we felt this vaccine could be given once every 1-2 years until we had a case of terrestrial rabies in our county.  In 2012+ this will be a yearly vaccine.  Rabies vaccines are relatively inexpensive and are labeled for only one year duration in all livestock.  For the $16 livestock rabies vaccine fee, we recommend that this vaccine should be given with other vaccinations at the same time by the veterinarian.  The multiple vaccine discount will apply if the vaccine is given with other procedures; it is more expensive if the rabies vaccine is the only procedure performed.  Even if the patient is a miniature horse, the vaccine dosage is still the double the dose of the amount given to a large dog.  If we dispense the vaccine it we need to know the animal it was given to, such as an expensive bull; the vaccine can be given by the livestock owner but realize the animal will not be recognized as a legally vaccinated animal.  (As noted below owner given vaccines should protect the animal, but the animal still will undergo a 6 month quarantine on the premises.  With the small animal rabies vaccinations the vaccine is also not recognized as being legal if given by the owner).  All mammals on the premises that are not legally vaccinated will undergo a quarantine procedure; this includes dogs, cats, goats, etc.  All animals that are not recognized as being vaccinated may be ordered to be euthanized if they are showing any signs of rabies.  

     If a rabid skunk or raccoon, etc is found on the premises then all unvaccinated livestock will be quarantined for 6 months.  The state health departments will only recognize a rabies vaccine given by a licensed veterinarian.  You should not be alarmed at rabies coming our way; people back east have lived with it for many decades.  Expensive bulls should be considered a candidate for rabies, but for the average cow and small ruminant livestock the rabies will always be an optional vaccine and/or to be given by the owner or by the veterinarian next time on the farm for concerned owners and animals that they care for.  We highly recommend the rabies vaccination to be given by a veterinarian for all horses in a stable situation.  Even if the dead terrestrial rabid animal (skunk, raccoon, fox or coyote) is found a mile away from the barn and the field, and it is part of the premises of that stable, then all non-vaccinated horses will be quarantined there for 6 months; you cannot ride your horse off the premises, take the horse to any shows, trail riding, etc.  When it comes to the law and determining what the requirements for exposure are “there are no grey areas, what will occur is black and white” in the eyes of the enforcement agency.


The Staff at the Nelson Road Veterinary Clinic