has been facing a major rabies problem in the past few years. Most
of the outbreak can be linked to raccoons that were brought into
the region--unfortunately, some of the animals were incubating the
disease and exposed native raccoons.
caused by a virus fatal to mammals. The virus is present in the
saliva of the carrier animal and is spread when an infected animal
bites another. While raccoons have been singled out as the major
carrier in this outbreak, most mammals, including dogs, cats, skunks,
foxes, bats, groundhogs, farm livestock (cows, sheep, goats, horses
and pigs) and even humans can get the disease. Apparently mice,
rats, gerbils, hamsters and a few other small animals do not contract
nor carry the disease. Birds, fish, snakes, lizards or insects also
do not contract rabies.
disease, rabies affects the central nervous system of the host animal.
Symptoms range from listlessness to extreme aggression in farm animals.
Symptoms can be very confusing, causing the livestock owner to first
suspect other diseases. Unfortunately, the only accurate test for
rabies is through microscopic examination of brain tissue. This
is why the brains of animals suspected of having rabies are sent
to state laboratories for confirmation of the disease.
are not vaccinated for rabies unless they regularly come in close
contact with wild animals. The human vaccine for rabies is administered
through a series of three intradermal injections. In the few known
cases in which people have actually survived rabies without medical
attention, permanent brain damage resulted.
The law requires
all dogs and cats more than six months of age to be vaccinated for
rabies. Livestock, on the other hand, are not required by law to
be vaccinated. Owners must evaluate their own situation and then
make a decision. Since livestock are just as susceptible to rabies
as other mammals, consider vaccinating livestock if you live in
a rabies-affected zone or if there are reports of rabies in your
vicinity. If your livestock occupy wooded areas or similar locations
frequented by raccoons--the major carrier--or skunks, foxes, and
groundhogs, this may be reason enough for a vaccination program.
Frequent interaction with livestock may be further reason to consider
their vaccination. If you suspect a problem with livestock, contact
your veterinarian. Large-animal rabies vaccine is approved for use
in horses, cattle, and sheep. There is a 21-day withdrawal from
the time of injection until slaughter for meat, and no withdrawal
for milk from animals vaccinated for rabies. Because specifications
differ depending on the manufacturer, read label directions and
follow them exactly. The cost of the vaccine and the relative value
of your animals should enter into this decision as well. Keep in
mind that while vaccinations for cats and dogs remain good for three
years, vaccinations for larger animals last only one year; boosters
are required annually. It should be noted that fewer than 10 percent
of all reported cases of rabies are in farm animals. There are many
factors involved in deciding to vaccinate your livestock; you may
want to contact your veterinarian to help you make this decision.
is harbored in wild animals, it will probably be around for quite
some time. You can protect yourself by avoiding contact with wild
mammals, living or dead. Avoid any animal exhibiting strange behavior.
This is especially important if a wild animal approaches, even if
it appears to be friendly. If you are bitten by any animal, consult
your physician immediately. If a suspected rabid animal is harassing
your animals, don't take chances and don't endanger yourself. Use
gloves to handle potentially rabid animal carcasses.
from the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, 1999