Montana’s first case of rabies serves as vaccination reminder
• Rabies is endemic to Montana, and can be found state-wide.
• Skunks and bats are the most common carriers of rabies in Montana (see the rabies distribution map)
• Under Montana law, counties are quarantined for 60 days when rabies is diagnosed in a terrestrial animal such as a dog, cat, skunk or fox. During the quarantine, all dogs, cats and ferrets must be vaccinated a minimum of two weeks prior to any travel outside the county.
The state’s first rabies quarantine of 2014, issued last week for Big Horn County, should serve as a good reminder for pet owners to review vaccination records for their dogs, cats and ferrets.
“It’s that time of year,” said assistant state veterinarian Dr. Tahnee Szymanski. “If your pet hasn’t been vaccinated recently, or if you aren’t sure, contact your veterinarian and get it taken care of now.”
Based on statistics from the past three years, rabies generally makes an appearance in early spring, then the number of reported cases increases until a peak in late summer.
“We see rabies year-round, but it’s much more common in the summer when the potential for pet/wildlife interactions is highest,” Szymanski said. “The number of reported cases peaks in July, August and September, when we have four to five times as many cases as we do at any other time of year (see attached chart of rabies cases by month).”
If you’re going to be outside enjoying the great Montana outdoors with your pets, or if your pets spend any time outdoors – even in a fenced yard – it’s prudent to vaccinate. Vaccination is inexpensive and effective, and could save you from having to make tough decisions regarding your pet, as non-vaccinated animals or those past due for vaccination must either be euthanized or placed under a strict six-month quarantine if exposed to a known or suspected rabid animal. F
–Montana Department of Livestock
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