Rabies Update 2016

As of July 5, 2016, there have been 85 positive rabies cases in wildlife in Arizona . Most of the cases of rabies in Arizona are in the southern counties (90%) including Cochise, Pima, and Santa Cruz. One horse died from rabies in Arizona this year from Santa Cruz county.  Many people do not want to vaccinate their horse because “their horses don’t go anywhere”.  Although rabies is rare, there still is a chance a rabid bat could fly onto ANYONE’s property. Most of the positive cases in Arizona were bats or skunks, with a small percentage being in bobcats, coyotes and foxes.

If an animal (horse, dog, cat, livestock) is bitten or otherwise exposed to a rabid animal, it must undergo an extended quarantine. For dogs or cats that are not currently vaccinated for rabies  which are exposed to a rabid animal,  according to state regulations, must either undergo a 6 month quarantine at an animal control center or veterinary  clinic (at the owner’s expense) or be euthanized.  If they are currently vaccinated and are exposed to a rabid animal, an immediate rabies vaccine must be administered and a 45-day home quarantine is required.

Rabies is a virus which affects the nervous system. The disease is usually contracted from a bite or saliva contaminating an open wound. In Arizona, skunks, bats and foxes are the most common carriers of this virus. In both of these cases, the viruses were the gray fox variant of rabies.  Wild animals which could carry the disease in Arizona include foxes, skunks, bats, coyotes, javelina, coati, and raccoons.  The incubation time can vary from weeks to months before clinical signs appear. Since rabies affects the nervous system, the most common sign is behavioral changes. In horses, signs can include fever, depression, lameness, wobbly gait, muscle fasciculations, or anorexia. These symptoms will quickly progress over the next 5-7 days until death. There is no treatment, only prevention. Once an animal shows clinical signs of the disease, it is almost always fatal.

We are recommending that your horses are vaccinated for rabies, especially if you trail ride, travel, or go camping with your horses.  You can call our clinic to set up an appointment to have your horses vaccinated. Foals can be vaccinated if they are older than 3 months. Boosters are recommended annually for horses. The AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) now recommends rabies vaccine as one of the “core vaccines”. If you would like to have your horse vaccinated, please call for an appointment. Cost is $22 for an annual vaccine for horses. If you need your dog or cat vaccinated, please call your local small animal veterinarian.

If you see a wild animal acting unusual, neurologic, or aggressive, please call the Arizona Dept of Health at 602-364-4562. Do not approach any wildlife acting unusual or aggressive. Humans are also susceptible to this fatal disease if bitten.