Rabies and Animal Bites
Rabies is increasing in wildlife along Colorado's Front Range, placing both humans and animals at risk for this deadly disease.
Rabies is a viral disease that causes severe inflammation in the brain and spinal cord and is nearly always fatal. Rabies is transmitted in saliva through animal bites.
Skunks and bats are the most significant sources of rabies in Colorado, but other wild animals can also be infected. Rabid animals usually show abnormal behavior, such as aggression, confusion, or lack of fear of people.
Dogs, cats, horses and livestock can become infected if they are bitten by rabid animals. Contact with infected wild or domestic animals places you and your family at risk for rabies infection. Immediate medical treatment is required if a person or domestic animal is exposed to rabies.
Who to Contact About Rabid Animals
If you or a family member has been in contact with an animal that could have rabies, seek medical attention immediately and contact your local health department. If you live in Adams, Arapahoe or Douglas Counties, call Tri-County Health Department at 303-220-9200.
- If your dog, cat, horse or livestock animal has been in contact with an animal that could have rabies, seek veterinary attention and contact your local health department: Animal Bite Reporting Form (PDF).
- If you are having other problems with wildlife, then call the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, 303-297-1192.
- If you are having other problems with stray dogs or cats, then call your local animal control agency. They are on-call 24 hours a day.
- Local animal control agency searchable map
Health Care Providers
Protecting Your Family & Animals
The best way to protect your family and animals against rabies is to have your dogs, cats, horses and livestock vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccinating your animals is simple, inexpensive and could save lives. So don't procrastinate, vaccinate!
In addition to vaccinating your pets, horses and livestock, follow these precautions to prevent exposure to rabies:
- Do not feed wild animals. Store household garbage in a secure location; fence or screen vegetable gardens and orchards; and place bird feeders where they are not accessible to other animals. Keep pet food inside and do not leave livestock feed containers open.
- Do not touch or handle wild animals. Most wild animals try to avoid human contact. If an animal lets you get close or pick it up, it is probably unhealthy or dangerous. Teach children to leave wildlife alone.
- Protect your home from wildlife. Close holes around the foundation of your house; cover window sills; screen chimneys and vents; and seal cracks and holes larger than 1/4 inch in diameter. Remove debris on your property that could provide nesting areas for wildlife
- Maintain control of your pets. Keep your cat indoors or attach a bell to its collar to discourage it from hunting. Keep your dog under direct supervision. Do not allow your dog to run off-leash in parks or wilderness areas.
- Spay or neuter your pets. This will reduce the number of unwanted or stray animals in your community.
Do Not Touch Wild Animals!
Orphaned animals are irresistible, but for their own sake, leave them alone and contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife for guidance. Raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats can carry rabies. If you touch them, they may scratch or bite you. If an animal needs to be tested for rabies, even if it doesn't have the disease, it must be killed.