NORMAN — The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry cautions livestock owners to be aware of rabies symptoms and stay up-to-date with vaccines. Unusually aggressive behavior in cattle or other herd animals may be a symptom of rabies infection.
“With isolated cases of rabies arising annually, both veterinarians and their clients should be aware of vaccine protocols,” State Veterinarian Rod Hall, D.V.M., said.
Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vast majority of cases reported each year occur in wild animals like skunks, bats, coyotes, raccoons and foxes. A dog or livestock animal can get the disease by being bitten or scratched by an infected wild animal.
Infected livestock may become aggressive toward humans and other animals and exhibit an unusual amount of drooling. Saliva around the mouth may appear thick and foamy. Infected animals may become hypersensitive and react violently to even slight sounds or movements.
Hall described a case involving a large goat herd where a doe began showing likely rabies symptoms. She was euthanized and then tested positive for the disease. The owners spoke of seeing a skunk near one of the doe’s newborn kids and believed the skunk killed the kid. Two weeks after the doe tested positive, one of the farm dogs became aggressive toward some of the goats, other dogs and the owner. Investigation determined that the guard dog’s rabies vaccination was not current and the dog was rabid.
The importance of properly vaccinating dogs and farm animals is a topic veterinarians should continually share with clients. Vaccinations of dogs and cats are best performed by a veterinarian.
In cases involving dog and cat bites, the Oklahoma Department of Health considers pets not vaccinated by a veterinarian to not be vaccinated. Although vaccinating an entire livestock herd may not seem economical, Hall encourages livestock owners to at least vaccinate show animals or animals they will be near for extensive periods of time.
“Although it’s very common for families to vaccinate their pets, there are also many licensed vaccines that are available for livestock species,” Hall said.
For additional information about rabies and rabies vaccines for livestock, contact any of the staff veterinarians in the ODAFF Animal Industry Division at 522-6141.
For additional information about human exposure to rabies, go to the CDC website at cdc.gov/rabies.