Rabies is a deadly disease with more than 7,000 cases of rabid animals spreading the disease to people nationally each year. The kinds of mammals that potentially carry rabies can vary depending on geographic location.
Rabies is 100 percent preventable in pets that are properly vaccinated. Rabid animals spread the disease to people through exposures to saliva or nervous tissue from an infected animal.
“In most cases, preventing rabies is as simple as ensuring adequate animal vaccination and control.” Rodning, who is also an associate professor in the Auburn University Department of Animal Sciences, said. “It’s important to avoid contact with wild animals and educate people how to eliminate the potential risks associated with exposure to rabies.”
Leaving empty feeding and water bowls outside for a pet can attract stray animals. Garbage can also draw unwanted wildlife to your home and should be kept firmly concealed.
“Implement reasonable efforts to prevent contact between your pets or livestock and possible carriers of rabies,” Robert Spencer, Urban Regional Extension Specialist, said. “For farmers, woven and electric wire can exclude coyotes and stray dogs from pastures with livestock, and not allowing raccoons, skunks, and opossums to set up in your residency.”
Feral dogs are the most likely route of rabies transmission to people worldwide. Other potential carriers of rabies are skunks, bat and even canine animals are susceptible too. The most prominent source of rabies in Alabama are raccoons and bats.
“If you suspect your livestock guardian or pet has acquired rabies, contact your veterinarian of choice for recommended procedures,” Spencer, said.
In the case of your pet biting someone or yourself being bitten, contact a physician immediately and report it to your county health department. Contact local animal control if the bite was from a stray or wild animal. Also, any pet that is bitten by a stray animal should be taken to a veterinarian immediately to be examined for infection.
Valuable livestock, ferrets, horses and any animal that has contact with people frequently should be vaccinated as well. Allowing a pet to roam freely in an area with wildlife can increase the probability of being exposed to rabies. Wild animals should not be kept in homes as pets.
“Most of these potential carriers are nocturnal and tend to be more active during night and early morning,” Spencer, said. “If you encounter these animals during day time, and their behavior is unusual or aggressive, avoid them, call animal control, and as a last resort euthanize them.”