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Animals & Rabies

What animals get rabies?

Drawing of snake, bird, fish with slash mark through each

Rabies is a disease that naturally affects only mammals. Mammals are warm-blooded animals with fur. People are mammals, and so are most of our pets like cats and dogs. Lots of farm animals like cows and horses are mammals, and so are wild animals like foxes and skunks, raccoons and bats. Birds, snakes, and fish are not mammals, so they can´t get rabies and they can´t give it to you.

In the United States today, about 93 of every 100 reported cases of rabies are in wild animals. Raccoons are the most common wild animal with rabies.


Some other common wild animals that may have rabies are skunks, coyotes, bats, and foxes. It would be really unusual for rats, mice, squirrels, or groundhogs to get rabies, but it does happen.

How can you protect your pet?

Man and woman petting their dog

In the United States, rabies is much more common in wild animals than in pets like cats and dogs because most people make sure their pets have had shots to keep them from getting rabies. Almost every state in the United States requires that all pets have rabies shots.

That´s called getting your pet "vaccinated". Just like you might get shots to keep you from getting measles or mumps, your pet can get shots to keep her from getting rabies.

How can you protect yourself from animals with rabies?

It´s important to remember – never feed or walk up to a wild animal. Be careful of pets that you do not know. If you see a stray dog or cat, don´t pet it. And if any animal is acting strangely, call your local animal control officer for help.

What can be done to keep wild animals from getting rabies?


Today, many states are vaccinating animals in the wild to prevent the spread of rabies. Instead of trying to catch every animal and give it a shot, they treat food with a special medicine that works when the animal eats it. The food is put out where animals are likely to find it. Sometimes airplanes are used to get food into places that are hard to reach on foot or with a truck. The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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