Rabies in Domestic Animals Rabies is caused by a virus fatal to mammals. The virus is present in the saliva of the carrier animal and is spread when an infected animal bites another. While raccoons have been singled out as the major carrier in this outbreak, most mammals, including dogs, cats, skunks, foxes, bats, groundhogs, farm livestock (cows, sheep, goats, horses and pigs), and even humans, can get the disease. Apparently mice, rats, gerbils, hamsters, and a few other small animals do not get nor carry the disease. Birds, fish, snakes, lizards or insects do not get rabies. A neurological disease, rabies affects the central nervous system of the host animal. Symptoms range from listlessness to extreme aggression in farm animals. Symptoms can be very confusing causing the livestock owner to first suspect other diseases. Unfortunately, the only accurate test for rabies is through microscopic examination of brain tissue. This is why the brains of animals suspected of having rabies are sent to state laboratories for confirmation of the disease. Usually humans are not vaccinated for rabies unless they regularly come in close contact with wild animals. The human vaccine for rabies is administered through a series of three intradermal injections. In the few known cases in which people have actually survived rabies without medical attention, permanent brain damage resulted. It is the law in Delaware that all dogs and cats more than six months of age be vaccinated for rabies. Dogs and cats must he vaccinated by a veterinarian or at one of the rabies clinics in your area. Livestock, on the other hand, are not required by law to be vaccinated. Owners must evaluate their own situation and then make a decision. Since livestock is just as susceptible to rabies as other mammals, consider vaccinating livestock if you live in a rabies- affected zone or if there are reports of rabies in your vicinity. If your livestock occupies wooded areas or similar locations frequented by raccoons--the major carrier--or skunks, foxes, and groundhogs, this may be reason enough for a vaccination program. Frequent interaction with livestock by you, your family, or hired help may be further reason to consider their vaccination. If you suspect a problem with livestock, contact your veterinarian. Large-animal rabies vaccine is approved for use in horses, cattle, and sheep. There is a 21-day withdrawal from the time of injection until slaughter for meat, and no withdrawal for milk from animals vaccinated for rabies. Because specifications differ depending on the manufacturer, read label directions and follow them exactly. The cost of the vaccine and the relative value of your animals should enter into this decision as well. Keep in mind that while vaccinations for cats and dogs remain good for three years, vaccinations for larger animals last only one year. Boosters are required annually. It should be noted that fewer than 10 percent of all reported cases of rabies are in farm animals, none so far in Delaware. The determination of whether to vaccinate your livestock is based on many factors. You may want to contact your veterinarian to help you make this decision. Since rabies is harbored in wild animals, it will probably be around for quite some time. You can protect yourself by avoiding contact with wild mammals, living or dead. Avoid any animal exhibiting strange behavior. This is especially important if a wild animal approaches, even if it appears to be friendly. If you are bitten by any animal, consult your physician immediately. If a suspected rabid animal is harassing your animals, consider killing it, being careful not to shoot it in the head. Don't take chances and don't endanger yourself. Use gloves to handle potentially rabid animal carcasses. Deliver the dead animal to the state veterinarian at the Delaware Department of Agriculture; the head will be sent to the Department of Public Health for confirmation of rabies. .