Nov 30, 2010 3:01 PM by Elaine Sheridan
Colorado State University veterinarians say that now rabies vaccinations aren't just for dogs and cats, they are now recommending that livestock be vaccinated for rabies due to an increased number of infected skunks in the state.
While bats have spread rabies in Colorado for many years, rabies spread through other wildlife has typically been more common in Eastern 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.
CSU veterinarians recommend horses and livestock, particularly pet livestock such as horses, llamas and alpacas, be vaccinated once a year, and also recommend vaccination of commercial production livestock in locations where there is high skunk activity.
"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, 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 and 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."
Cases of rabid skunks biting horses or livestock have to date been limited to the area near south Denver and the eastern plains. However, due to the continued spread of the disease in skunks, it is important for anyone in Colorado to vaccinate animals that could be exposed.
Vaccines range in price for different animals. Cattle vaccines are available for less than $5 each, and horse vaccines range from $10 to $15, depending upon the number of animals vaccinated. Rabies vaccinations last for a year.