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What Pet Owners Should Know about Recent Confirmed Rabies Cases

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently confirmed 26 cases of rabies in the Denver metro area. A total of 32 animals, including one domestic pet, have tested positive for the disease in Colorado so far this year.

What is rabies?

Although rare, rabies is a serious disease for both animals and humans—so it pays for pets to be vaccinated and for pet owners to be vigilant. Here is some important information about the rabies virus:

  • All mammals (including humans) are susceptible to rabies virus.
  • Rabies is deadly. The disease is fatal in animals. It is not fatal in humans if treated in a timely manner.
  • The virus is typically transmitted by skunks and bats, and occasionally by raccoons, foxes and coyotes.
  • It is usually contracted through bites from rabid animals (animals carrying the virus).

What are the signs of rabies in animals?

There are two clinical types of rabies virus, and animals may exhibit the following abnormal behaviors if infected:

  • Furious form: Signs include restlessness, irritability, increased response to auditory and visual stimuli, disorientation, excessive drooling, poor balance, abnormal gait and seizures. Dogs may bark or snap at imaginary objects or kennel bars due to hallucinations, and cats may experience striking or vicious movements when confined.
  • Paralytic form (often follows the furious phase): Animals may become paralyzed or weak in different portions of the body; dogs may have a “dropped jaw” and drool from an inability to control muscles.
  • Rabid wild animals may only display unusual behavior; for example, an animal that is usually only seen at night may be spotted wandering in the daytime.

What should I do if I suspect an animal or person has been exposed to rabies?

  • If you think an animal has been exposed to rabies, you should avoid contact with the animal and immediately contact a veterinarian or animal control to determine the next course of .
  • Immediately contact a physician if a person is exposed to a rabid animal.
  • In both cases, a public health professional should also be contacted.

How can I protect my pet and myself from rabies?

  • Have your pets vaccinated. Rabies vaccines can only be given by a licensed veterinarian. The vaccine is incredibly effective and reliable, pets current on their rabies vaccinations are protected from the virus.
  • Many local municipalities, including Denver and Aurora, require rabies vaccination for all pets and proof of rabies vaccination in order for a pet to be licensed with the city.
  • Reduce the possibility of exposure by not letting your pets roam free. Keep cats and ferrets indoors and supervise dogs when they are .
  • Wild animals should never be kept as pets. Not only is it illegal, but they could pose a threat to caretakers and others.
  • Observe all wild animals from a distance. A rabid wild animal may appear tame, but don’t go near it. Teach children to NEVER handle unfamiliar animals—even if they appear friendly.
  • If you see a wild animal acting strangely, report it to the city or county animal control department.

What else should I know?

Rabies has no cure and is considered a fatal disease unless the animal has been vaccinated for the virus. Due to the gravity of rabies infections, the Dumb Friends League gives a rabies vaccination to all cats and dogs over three months old prior to adoption. We provide proof of rabies vaccination and licensing paperwork to our patrons at the time of adoption.


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