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Both wild and domestic animals can carry rabies, and they may be able to transmit the disease even before it’s obvious that they’re ill. Animals infected with rabies often act oddly. A bat may wander out in the daytime or a fox may seem unafraid of humans. Call animal control if you suspect there’s a rabid animal in your area.
More than 90 percent of reported rabies cases in the United States are discovered in wild animals. Raccoons are the most common carriers of the disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes. Other animals often found to have rabies include foxes, bats, skunks and coyotes. Wolves, weasels, badgers, mountain lions and other mammals can also have rabies. Fish, birds and reptiles aren’t mammals, so they can’t carry the disease.
Domestic mammals are at risk for carrying rabies. Among domesticated animals, the disease is most commonly found in dogs and cats, but may also occur in horses, cows, pigs, sheep and goats. Rabies is not common in domestic animals since they are typically vaccinated against the disease, but it does occur.
Cats have rabies about three times as often as any other domestic animal, especially in areas where rabid raccoons are more common, the CDC notes. Pets are usually at less risk of the disease because they’re typically protected by vaccination. Since humans can also get rabies, vaccinating protects both the animals and the people they might otherwise transmit rabies to.
Although they too are mammals, mice, rats, rabbits, groundhogs and squirrels rarely get rabies. When they do, the CDC reports that as with rabid cats, it’s usually an animal from a state where raccoon rabies is prevalent. This includes the East Coast of the U.S., from Florida to Maine.
- Raccoon 12 image by Pat Lalli from Fotolia.com