We track a few different diseases, both for research and for general education, including rabies. The maps below provide an overview of rabies in dogs, cats and horses in the US in 2017. It’s not a complete representation of cases, since we don’t have access to everyone’s surveillance data. It’s compiled through monitoring various reports and new articles. Looking at published reports from the past few years, I’d guess we get ~30-40% of cases. However, while it’s not a 100% capture of rabies cases, the maps still show a few noteworthy things:
- Cats are the most commonly infected domestic animal when it comes to rabies. That is probably because of a combination of large numbers of roaming cats and relatively poor rabies vaccine coverage.
- Most rabies reports that we found were from the eastern US. Whether that’s a reflection of more disease, more surveillance or more widespread reporting si unclear. It could be a combination of all of those.
- Rabies was much less common in dogs than in cats, but the risk in dogs can’t be ignored since they are more likely to be household pets than cats (since many of the infected cats are feral) and that means there’s probably a much greater chance of human exposure.
There are a number of things can be done to reduce the risk of rabies exposure, and limiting roaming of pets and their contact with wildlife are important. However, it’s virtually impossible to completely prevent rabies exposure risk, so vaccination is critical. Rabies vaccination is cheap and highly effective, and still underused.
More information about rabies can be found on the Worms & Germs Resources – Pets page.