Skunks infected, rabies vaccine recommended for livestock, pets

Rabies virus
Rabies virus (Photo credit: Sanofi Pasteur)

According to veterinarians at CSU, livestock, horses and pets should be vaccinated against rabies. The widely available and inexpensive vaccine can protect these animals from the disease, which has infected an increasing number of skunks statewide.

All mammals, including humans, can be infected with rabies and it is almost always fatal in animals.  Most animals die within 10 days of signs of infection, though signs are usually not present for two to three weeks after exposure. Infected humans can be treated within 7 days of exposure, the sooner the better. According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, signs of rabies include:

  • a change in the animal’s behavior
  • nocturnal animals like skunks, raccoons and bats may
    be out during the day
  • staggering or trembling
  • unprovoked attacks
  • apparent weakness or injury
  • agitation and excitement
  • paralyzation and fear
  • sometimes rabid animals do not show any signs of illness before death from rabies

Contact with animals thought to be infected with rabies should be avoided. If an animal is thought to be infected, a veterinarian should be contacted to diagnose the animal and prevent the disease from spreading.

“Symptoms of rabies can be difficult to distinguish from other illnesses, and you risk exposing animals and people while animals are being diagnosed,” said Dean Hendrickson, director of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State in a press release. “The danger is especially high this year, and generally speaking, while it’s rare for livestock or horses to contract rabies in Colorado, it is extremely important to work to prevent animals from contracting the disease.”

Vaccines are available fore cattle, horses, sheep, and household pets. Alpacas and llamas may be vaccinated with a sheep or cattle vaccine. Vaccines tend to run from $5 to $25 depending on the number and type of animals being vaccinated.

For information on human rabies illness, go to http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/dc/zoonosis/rabies/. In Larimer County, go to http://larimer.org/health/ehs/rabies.htm. For pet vaccines see http://www.fortcollinscatrescue.org/fccr_vaccine.shtml