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State veterinarian encourages pet owners to vaccinate their animals

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health reminds pet owners to vaccinate their animals against rabies, and to make sure to keep the vaccinations up-to-date as warm weather sets in.

Typically, summer and early fall are peak times of the year for human and pet interactions with wildlife, as wildlife movement increases and people and their pets enjoy more time outdoors. This increases the likelihood of interactions with wildlife reservoirs for rabies, such as skunks and bats. In 2009, nearly 50 percent of skunks tested in Minnesota were positive for the rabies virus.

Rabies vaccination is an easy and inexpensive way to protect both animals and the people who have contact with them. Dogs, cats, and ferrets older than 12 weeks should be vaccinated for rabies. Frequent reports of bats within homes should remind owners to vaccinate indoor cats also. Contact your veterinarian to make sure that your animal has been vaccinated and that the vaccination is current.

"The rabies vaccination for pets is extremely effective," said Dr. Bill Hartmann, Minnesota Board of Animal Health Executive Director and State Veterinarian. "In order to prevent humans from being exposed to rabies we must make sure that our pets are protected."

Rabies exposure occurs most commonly through a bite of an infected animal. If you think you or your pet may have been exposed to rabies by a wild animal, contact your veterinarian to have the animal tested.

Follow the recommendations below to reduce the chance of you or your animal being exposed to rabies:

--Dogs, cats, and ferrets older than 12 weeks should be vaccinated for rabies and kept current on the vaccine as recommended by your veterinarian.

--Animals too young to be vaccinated (younger than 12 weeks old) should be kept inside, or away from stray or wild animals.

--Do not approach or feed wild or stray animals.

--Wild animals showing abnormal behaviors such as aggression or fearlessness should be reported to local animal control officers.

--If your pet has contact with a wild animal, especially a skunk or a bat, report it to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health at 651-201-6808 or to your veterinarian. The Board of Animal Health investigates rabies cases and recommends vaccinations and quarantines as necessary.

--If you are bitten by an animal, contact your physician and the Minnesota Department of Health at (651) 201-5414.

For more information on rabies, visit the Board's website at