A fox in Virginia. An otter in tony Boca Raton, Florida. Seven rabid foxes in Oregon. A coyote in Colorado. Just scanning the news this morning for rabies reports filled the screen, and the reports come from coast to coast.
But you don't have to worry, because your animals' vaccinations are all up to date. Right?
One of the most heartbreaking articles I've read lately was a report from Michigan that suggested that the large number of horses who died from mosquito-borne Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) this fall were vulnerable because their owners had tried to save money by scrimping on vaccinations.
When there is a disease outbreak in the area, vaccinations are not just a good investment--they're a necessity.
Colorado is the latest state to issue an alert to horse owners of the critical importance of rabies vaccinations for all horses, as well as other livestock and household pets. And the finger of blame this time is pointed at the lowly little skunk. Apparently the incidence of rabies in skunks in Colorado is alarming.
While bats have spread rabies in Colorado for many years, rabies spread through other wildlife has typically been more common in Eastern US states. Over the last several years, more skunks in Colorado have become infected, which has resulted in an increased infection rate and risk of infection to livestock and horses. Experts point to habitat changes and human movement of wild animals that spread the disease into areas previously uninfected.
"While livestock or horses contracting rabies is still uncommon in Colorado, it is extremely important - now more than ever - to work to prevent animals from contracting the disease," said Dr. Bruce Connally, left, a veterinarian with Colorado State University's equine section. "It's important because, if an animal is exposed to rabies, the symptoms can be difficult to distinguish from other illnesses, and while it is being diagnosed, the animal and people exposed to it are at risk of contracting the disease."
Wounds from a rabid skunk bite may not be visible or easy to detect on livestock or horses, and symptoms of rabies mimic other more common illnesses and could be confused with regular colic or a foot or leg injury. Rabies also can enter the body through cuts or scratches. Rabies can be spread to people through contact with saliva or bodily fluids.
"A rabies bite to an animal that has not been vaccinated is invariably fatal," Connally said. "The animals -- horses and livestock -- will die. If you value them, invest in a vaccine."
Signs of rabies in animals include:
- Changed or altered behavior
- Acting nervous or agitated
- Vicious, unprovoked attacks
- Excessive salivation and difficulty swallowing
- Roaming or separation from the herd
- Unusual sexual activity
- Abnormal vocalizations
- Ascending paralysis, normally beginning in the hind limbs
- Signs of colic such as lying down more than usual or getting up and lying down repeatedly, rolling, standing stretched out, repeatedly curling the upper lip, pawing the ground and kicking at the abdomen
- Self mutilation
- Sensitivity to light
Whether you live in Colorado or another state, the issue of rabies vaccination carries with it some legal ramifications that you might want to investigate in your state or community. For instance, a rabies vaccination administered by a non-veterinarian may or may not be deemed legal in the eyes of the law some states, or in some species. In Colorado, for instance, it is apparently accepted by the state for horse owners to vaccinate their animals, but not for dog and cat owners. This might be an issue if your dog bit someone, for instance, and you claimed it was vaccinated for rabies but did not have a certificate of vaccination from a veterinarian. Be sure to check with your state or county to find out your local laws, and know your responsibility as an animal owner.
Thanks to Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine for assistance with this article.Photo of Dr. Connally mirrored from the CSU web site.
by Fran Jurga | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com
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