Domestic pets can also get rabies

(Placerville, CA) – The El Dorado County Department of Animal Services reminds residents to keep pets up to date on rabies vaccinations and notify Animal Services immediately of any animal bite to a human or pet . Last week, Animal Services identified a family pet, a house cat, that tested positive for rabies. “While we don’t often see cats, dogs and other pets with rabies due to strong local rabies vaccination programs, it’s important to emphasize that any mammal can be exposed,” said El County Animal Services Chief. Dorado, Henry Brzezinski. “Rabies can be fatal to both animals and humans, so keeping pets up to date on rabies vaccinations, including cats, dogs and livestock, is critical.”

According to Brzezinski, the cat was not vaccinated against rabies and is believed to have been exposed while wandering outside his residence in the 4700 block of Viking Road in Greenwood in mid-June 2022. Animal Services identified rabid skunks in the Greenwood area. in the past and most recently identified a rabid skunk near the family’s home in mid-May 2022, when the family’s dog had contact with the skunk. (The dog was not up to date on his rabies vaccination, so he was vaccinated and is being quarantined for six months at his home in a double enclosure. He is currently showing no signs of illness.) When the cat died suddenly at home, the owners took it to the vet, who then suggested that the cat be tested for rabies due to the presence of a recently identified rabid skunk near the house. The family and veterinarian’s office consulted with Animal Services regarding any further action needed regarding his possible exposure.

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Rabies is endemic in all 58 California counties, including El Dorado County. Animal Services identifies rabid animals each year, although there have been no reports of rabid domestic pets in El Dorado County for at least the last 10 years. State data reports from the California Department of Public Health show the following domestic animals identified with rabies from 2014 through 2021 in various California counties:

2021: 1 Humboldt cat

2020: 1 cat Amador; 1 dog San Joaquin

2019: 1 Fresno cat; 1 Tuolumne cat

2017: 2 Amador dogs; 1 Trinity dog; 1 Sacramento cat

2016: 3 cats: 1 Contra Costa, 1 Humboldt, 1 Sacramento; 3 dogs: 1 Amador, 1 Butte, 1 Humboldt

2015: 1 Mendoza cat; 1 Monterey cat

2014: 2 cats: 1 Amador, 1 San Joaquin; 1 Sacramento dog

In 2021, Animal Services identified a total of 11 animals (three bats and eight skunks) that have tested positive for rabies in El Dorado County. Between the months of March and June 2022, a total of seven rabid animals (six skunks and one bat) were found in El Dorado County. Two rabid skunks were found in Placerville, two in Garden Valley, one in Georgetown and one in Greenwood. The rabid bat was found in Somerset.

Rabies is a virus that is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal, usually through a bite to its victim. It is usually fatal to pets and humans if left untreated soon after exposure. While any mammal can become infected with the rabies virus, bats, skunks, and foxes are the animals that most commonly spread the virus. Comprehensive vaccination programs in the United States have meant that rabies among domestic pets is now rare.

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To prevent the spread of rabies:

  • Maintain current rabies vaccinations for dogs, cats, and livestock.
  • Keep the property free of trash, stored birdseed, and leftover pet food to avoid attracting wildlife.
  • Keep pet doors closed at night to keep wild animals out of the house.
  • Never approach, pick up, feed, or interact with unknown dogs, cats, or wild animals.
  • Do not approach an animal that appears sick or aggressive. Report it to Animal Services.
  • Do not touch a dead animal with your bare hands.
  • Call Animal Services if a domestic or wild animal shows signs of rabies (such as staggering, confusion, lack of fear, or aggressive behavior).
  • Notify Animal Services immediately if a person or pet is bitten or exposed to an animal suspected of rabies.
  • Maintain your property’s attic, foundation, and ventilation system to ensure they are properly sealed to prevent wildlife infestation.
  • Notify Animal Services immediately if you find a live or dead bat in your room.

For more information on rabies or Animal Services, visit www.edcgov.us/animalservices. To contact Animal Services by phone, call (530) 621-5795 in Diamond Springs or (530) 573-7925 in South Lake Tahoe.

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