by Pam Zubeck
The release also provided these statistics:
El Paso County Public Health is urging residents to keep pets up to date on rabies vaccination after seeing an increase in reports of pets being exposed to bats or other rabid animals.
In 2015, El Paso County Public Health has investigated reports of 17 pets with exposures to animals suspected or known to have rabies. In 2014, EPCPH investigated reports of 5 pets with similar exposures.
Any pet exposed to a wild animal that is not available for testing should be regarded as having been exposed to rabies. The best way to protect your pet and your family from rabies is to get pets vaccinated. Vaccinations should be given by a licensed veterinarian.
All pets should be vaccinated for rabies, even if they are primarily kept indoors. It is also important to keep records of your pet’s vaccinations, especially if you have moved or have seen different veterinarians.
According to the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, unvaccinated dogs and cats exposed to a rabid animal should be euthanized immediately. Unvaccinated pets or livestock puts owners or family members at risk of rabies, which is fatal once symptoms appear.
Rabies is a viral disease that infects the brain and central nervous system, causing brain swelling and damage, and ultimately, death. Rabies is spread primarily through the bite or scratch of rabid animals, resulting in the spread of the disease through their infected saliva. Rabies also can be spread when saliva from an infected animal gets into open wounds, cuts or enters through membranes of the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Preventive medication is available for people known or suspected to have been bitten by a rabid animal. It is important for people bitten or scratched by a wild animal or an unfamiliar animal to contact their doctor immediately.
Take these precautions to prevent rabies:
• Vaccinate your pets against rabies by using a licensed veterinarian. Rabies shots need to be boosted, so check your pet’s records or talk to your veterinarian.
• When walking or hiking with your dog, protect them and wildlife by keeping your dog on a leash.
• Keep cats and other pets inside to reduce the risk of exposure to other domestic animals and wildlife. Keep dogs within your sight (in a fenced yard, or on leash) during the day while outside, and keep cats indoors or in a secure area.
• Contact your veterinarian promptly if you believe your pet has been exposed to a wild animal.
• Do not touch or feed wild animals. Wild animals like skunks and foxes adapt to residential environments if food is available – please don’t leave pet food outdoors.
• If you or a family member is bitten or scratched by a wild or unknown animal, call your doctor and the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region (719) 302-8798.
• Contact a wildlife pest management company for assistance with “bat-proofing” your home. Information is also available at www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/management.
How to recognize sick or diseased wildlife:
• Healthy wild animals are normally afraid of humans. Foxes are active at night but can also be seen out during the day, especially if they are looking for food for their pups.
• Sick or diseased animals often do not run away when spotted by people.
• Wildlife suffering from rabies will often act aggressively and violently approach people or pets.
• However, sometimes rabid animals are overly quiet and passive and want to hide. If they are hiding, leave them alone. Rabid wildlife might also stumble or have trouble walking.
• Report sick or diseased animals to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife at (719) 227-5200.
Reports of Rabies in El Paso County, Colorado
2015: 4 (1 cat, 3 bats)
2014: 10 (bats)
2013: 8 (4 bats, 2 foxes, 2 skunks)
2012: 3 (3 bats)
2011: 15 (5 bats, 1 fox, 9 skunks)
2010: 17 (8 bats, 4 foxes, 5 skunks)
For more information, visit www.elpasocountyhealth.org.