A disease that garners attention this time every year is rabies. Rabies is a very serious disease that, once symptomatic, is fatal. In Mesa County, we usually see rabies in bats during the summer months, so now is the time to make sure you are rabies-savvy and stay safe.
Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the central nervous system. It can easily be spread through saliva and tissue and can be passed between species. It is generally contracted through animal bites and if not immediately treated, rabies can be fatal in animals and people.
In Colorado, rabies has appeared predominately in wild animals, such as bats and skunks. So far in 2017, there have been 41 known cases of rabies in wild animals in the state. Tragically, along the Front Range, two dogs recently contracted the disease. These are the first reported cases in dogs since 2003.
Here are a few ways to protect your pets and yourself.
- Keep your pet’s rabies vaccination up-to-date. In the state of Colorado, the rabies vaccine is required for all dogs and cats, and is available in a one-year or three-year dose. Remember that unvaccinated pets that are exposed to rabies may need to be quarantined or euthanized.
- Stay away from wild animals, both dead or alive. Attempting to rescue or assist a wild animal can be fatal, so if you find a sick or injured animal, call the Division of Wildlife and don’t touch!
- Keep your dogs on a leash when walking or hiking. Watch what they are sniffing and exploring and don’t allow them to eat dead animals they might come across.
- Keep pets inside at night. Many Rabies carriers are nocturnal and may wander into your yard.
- Animal-proof the exterior of your home to discourage wild animals from entering trash cans or other small openings.
If you are concerned that your pet has encountered a wild animal, contact your veterinarian immediately. If you or someone in your family have been bitten or scratched by a dog, cat or wild animal, no matter how small the scratch may seem, contact your health care provider immediately.
If you have questions about keeping your pet or yourself safe during this rabies season, contact Mesa County Animal Services at 970-242-4646 or the Mesa County Health Department at 970-248-6900.