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Perhaps the oldest recognized infectious disease, and quite possibly the first known disease transmissible from animals to people, rabies in humans can be eliminated—but rabies still kills more than 55,000 people each year worldwide.

That’s why veterinarians and public health officials are trying to educate the public, and especially pet owners, about the dangers of the disease and the importance of vaccination.

 “Vaccinating dogs and cats is the best way to protect pets and the public from contracting what is almost always a fatal disease once symptoms occur,” said Dr. Larry R. Corry, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). “By taking this simple step, you help make for a safer, healthier pet, family, and community.”

While rabies is easy to prevent in domestic animals, more work needs to be done here at home to ensure that pet owners are doing all they can in the fight against the disease.

Unfortunately, cats are less likely than dogs to be vaccinated against rabies, and as a result, cat owners are more likely to be exposed to the virus. Research shows that cats are not being taken to the veterinarian for exams and necessary vaccinations nearly as often as dogs. More than one third of cat owners don’t take their cats to the veterinarian, compared to only a fifth of dog owners who don’t take their dogs in. All pet owners owe it to themselves and to their furry friends to make sure they are vaccinated to help prevent the spread of rabies.

In addition to ensuring that pets and livestock are vaccinated properly against rabies, the Health Department recommends these prevention steps:

  • Don’t feed wild animals or allow your pets around them. Be sure to teach children to stay away from wild mammals.
  • Contact your veterinarian if your dog or cat is bitten or scratched by a wild animal, such as skunks, bats, foxes or raccoons.
  • If you suspect you’ve been exposed to rabies, contact your physician without delay.
  • Discuss rabies vaccination of your livestock with your veterinarian. Vaccination should be considered for horses and other equines, breeding livestock, dairy cattle or other high-value livestock.
  • If you observe a wild mammal acting strangely, especially a skunk, or if you find a dead skunk that isn’t on your property, stay away from it. Strange behavior for a skunk would include being out and about during daytime hours.
  • If you must remove a dead skunk on your property, wear rubber gloves or lift the carcass with a shovel or other tool, and double-bag it for the trash.

Additional Resources:
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment:  
General information: http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/dc/zoonosis/rabies/

What You Should Know About Rabies
Click here for a downloadable brochure (PDF format) provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

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