Colorado Authorities Warn Public of Rabies Risks

"The presence of rabid animals in densely populated areas is troubling," said Jennifer House, public health veterinarian at the department. "Last year, two dogs in Colorado got rabies, so it's essential to make sure your pets are up to date on their shots. This will keep them and the public safe."

With 27 animals so far having tested positive for rabies in Colorado this year, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on March 7 urged people in the state to make sure their pets are up to date on their rabies shots, to avoid stray and wild animals, and to take other precautions against rabies. The number of positive tests indicates many pets, livestock, and people are at risk of exposure to the disease, according to the department.

While rabies is found regularly in Colorado wildlife, especially skunks, and the number of cases rises as the weather warms up, it has occurred earlier than normal this year. "Rabies in skunks is now found routinely along the Front Range and in metro Denver, meaning both humans and pets are at risk for this deadly disease anywhere in the eastern part of the state," CDPHE reported.

"The presence of rabid animals in densely populated areas is troubling," said Jennifer House, public health veterinarian at the department. "Last year, two dogs in Colorado got rabies, so it's essential to make sure your pets are up to date on their shots. This will keep them and the public safe."

During 2017, there were 165 confirmed cases of rabies in animals, including the two dogs.

Rabies spreads primarily through the bite of rabid animals and is usually fatal in humans once symptoms appear. People who have been bitten or scratched by an unfamiliar animal should contact their health care provider and their local public health department immediately, and anyone with a pet that has had contact with a skunk, bat, fox, raccoon, or coyote should notify their veterinarian and local health department.

The department's recommendations to avoid rabies:

  • Never touch or feed wild or stray animals. Don't leave pet food outdoors. If you need help with a sick or orphaned animal, don't handle the animal; instead, contact a wildlife rehabilitator right away. Contact a nearby animal shelter if you encounter a lost or stray dog or cat.
  • Vaccinate your pets. Rabies shots should be given by a licensed veterinarian every one to three years. Don't assume your pet is vaccinated; check records with your veterinary clinic.
  • Leash your dog while walking or hiking.
  • Keep all pets inside at night. Keep dogs within your sight (fenced or on leash) when they are outside during the day.
  • Vaccinate pastured animals annually. Have a licensed veterinarian administer an approved large-animal rabies vaccine.Bat-proof your home.

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