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MDOL Urges Pet Owners to Vaccinate for Rabies


With spring sprung and summer fast approaching, the Montana Department of Livestock is stressing the importance of rabies vaccination to pet owners.


Warmer weather means an increased presence of wildlife, said Dr. Tahnee Szymanski, MDOL staff veterinarian, which increases the potential for wildlife-pet interactions.


“It’s the time of year when we typically see the number of positive cases increase, so people need to make sure their pets are current on rabies vaccinations,” Szymanski said. “If you aren’t sure, contact your local veterinarian.”


If a pet is not vaccinated for rabies and is exposed to an infected or potentially infected animal, tough decisions must be made. At that point, the owner must decide between euthanizing the pet – which is recommended by the Compendium on Rabies Prevention & Control – or placing the pet in a long-term quarantine (six months).


Pets that are exposed but current on vaccinations need only a booster vaccination and home observation for 45 days. Recommendations for exposed pets not current on vaccinations are made on a case-by-case basis.


Montana has had one case this year where an unvaccinated bitch and four of her puppies were euthanized after being exposed, which also resulted in multiple human exposures.


“Because of the seriousness of the disease and the strict guidelines for exposed animals, vaccination is critical,” Szymanski said. “It’s an inexpensive way to safeguard your pet from rabies.”


In Montana , most rabies is found in skunks and bats, although any mammal can get infected, carry the disease and infect other animals. The disease is spread by bites or when infected saliva comes into contact with open wounds or mucous membranes. Rabies is always fatal once the onset of symptoms appears.


Szymanski said any animal showing strange or unusual behavior – such as nocturnal animals like skunks and bat being out during the daytime – should be avoided and immediately reported to local animal control authorities or their veterinarian.


For additional information, such as what to do if you suspect a rabid animal or are bitten or scratched by an animal of unknown vaccination status, please see the following:


·        Montana Department of Livestock rabies information

·        Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services rabies information

·        Centers for Disease Control rabies information

·        2011 Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control



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