The institution of mandatory dog vaccination programs has halted the natural spread of rabies among domestic dogs, which are no longer considered a rabies reservoir in the United States. Nonetheless, around 60 to 70 dogs and more than 250 cats are reported rabid each year. Nearly all these animals were unvaccinated and acquired rabies from wildlife (such as bats, raccoons, and skunks).
During 2018, domestic animals accounted for 47.2% of all animals submitted for testing, but only 9% (n = 362) of all rabies cases reported, representing a decrease of 9.3% compared with the number reported in 2017.
Sixty-three rabid dogs were reported in 2018, representing a 1.6% increase from the 62 reported in 2017. Most of the rabid dogs were reported from Texas (15), Puerto Rico (13), Georgia (7), Pennsylvania (5), Colorado (4), North Carolina (3), and Virginia (3). However, the percentage of dogs tested for rabies that were positive (0.3%) did not change compared to the mean percentage for the previous 5 years.
The number of rabid cats decreased by 12.7% from 276 in 2017 to 241 in 2018. The percentage of cats tested for rabies that were positive (1.1%) was similar to that of the previous 5 years.
A total of 33 rabid cattle were reported in 2018, representing a 8.3% decrease from 2017. Thirteen rabid horses and donkeys were reported in 2018, which is equivalent to the number reported in 2017. Of the domestic animals that underwent variant typing in 2018 (41%), all were infected with a variant from a wild animal.