It’s smart to take rabies seriously

Earlier this spring, two dogs running loose in Aurora, Colo., killed a skunk, and the skunk later tested positive for rabies. Thankfully, both dogs were current on their rabies vaccinations, but they had to get rabies booster vaccinations and be quarantined at home for 45 days per Tri-County Health Department regulations.

Although rare, rabies is a serious (and typically fatal) 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 virus is typically transmitted by skunks and bats, and occasionally by raccoons, foxes and coyotes.
  • It is usually transmitted by bites from rabid animals (animals carrying the virus).
  • 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.

Rabies has no cure and is considered to be a fatal disease unless the animal has been vaccinated for rabies virus. Due to the gravity of rabies infections, the Dumb Friends League gives a rabies vaccination to all cats and dogs 3 months and over prior to adoption. We provide proof of rabies vaccination and licensing paperwork to our patrons at the time of adoption. 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.

Rabies vaccines can only be given by a licensed veterinarian and usually are administered annually or every three years depending on the vaccination history of the animal. Please discuss a vaccination schedule with your pet’s veterinarian so your cat or dog can be protected from rabies throughout his or her lifetime.