A skunk has tested positive for rabies in Big Horn County, MT. This has led to a 60-day quarantine for all dogs, cats, and ferrets in the county.
When rabies is known to exist in an area, the state veterinarian establishes a quarantine area and which animals are to be quarantined. Big Horn County's last documented case was in 2014. Missoula was under quarantine last November. A cat is Billings tested for rabies two years ago.
This is a good reminder of the importance of vaccinating our pets. Non-vaccinated pets that are exposed to suspected rabid animals must either be euthanized or place under strict quarantine for up to 6 months. If any animal that you are not aware of their rabies vaccine statues bites you or your pet, that animal should be placed in quarantine for 10 days. The quarantine is set for 10 days because a rabies-infected animal can only transmit the disease after clinical signs have developed. Once these signs have developed, the animal will die within 10 days. So if the animal that bit you is still alive after 10 days, it is safe to say that there is no risk to the bite victim. The animal, at this point, should be given a rabies vaccine.
There are many behavioral changes that occur in animals infected with rabies. Personality changes are first noted in animals. Voice may also change. Animals show weakness and have difficulty eating or drinking. Most wild animals infected by rabies move around slowly or act tame. Never approach these animals, call Animal Control for assistance.
Rabies is serious and is out there. It is a viral disease that can infect any mammal and can be transmitted to humans. Because there is no cure for rabies and it is almost always fatal, it is important to take all of this very seriously. Always have your pets up to date on their rabies vaccine.