Health Alert: Rabies in Colorado, 2018

According to the Department of Public Health & Environment so far in 2018, 309 animals from Colorado have tested positive for rabies. Of those, 175 rabid animals were known or strongly suspected of exposing 350 domestic pets, 114 livestock animals, and 115 people. Map of Rabies Positive Tests in Larimer County: 2018

Both dogs and cats are susceptible to rabies and both can pass it to humans. The incubation period can vary from 10 days to one year or longer. In dogs, the incubation period is typically two weeks to four months. Incubation in a cat is generally less than a dog and is typically three to eight weeks. Death usually occurs within 10 days from the first onset of symptoms.

Following a bite from a rabid animal, the disease progresses in stages. In the first, or prodromal phase, the pet undergoes a marked change in temperament. Quiet pets become agitated and active pets become nervous or shy.

Following this stage, there are two recognized forms of the clinical disease.

  • Furious rabies (most common in cats, but can occur in dogs) occurs when the rabid pet becomes highly excitable and displays evidence of a depraved appetite, eating and chewing stones, earth and rubbish. Paralysis eventually sets in and they may be unable to eat and drink. Hydrophobia (fear of water) is not a sign of rabies in pets; it is only a symptom of rabies in humans. In this form of rabies, the pet finally dies in a violent seizure.
  • Dumb rabies is most common in dogs. There is a progressive paralysis involving limbs, distortion of the face and a similar difficulty in swallowing. Owners will frequently think the dog has something stuck in the mouth or throat. Care should be taken in examination since rabies may be transmitted by saliva. Ultimately, the dog becomes comatose and dies.

How do you test for rabies?

There is no test for rabies. The only way to determine if an animal has rabies is to test the brain, which is done through necropsy samples.

Rabies Vaccination

The rabies vaccination promotes the production of antibodies but is only effective if given before the virus enters the nervous system. Rabies vaccine is required by law for all dogs and cats, and their only protection against the disease.


It is important to ensure that your pets are up to date on their vaccines. Contact the experts at Aspen Grove Vet care if you have any questions.

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