Rabies in Cattle

Reported Cases of Rabies in Herds Climbing

Signs of rabies in cattle may include choking and bellowing. (DTN/Progressive Farmer file photo Karl Wolfshohl)

Texas veterinarians are reporting more cases of rabies in cattle this summer. This is the second year in a row, cases have trended up in herds. While unusual, rabies in livestock can spread through a herd and pose a serious risk to those working cattle.

What does rabies look like in cattle? Pam Douglas, the infection control coordinator at Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said infected animals exhibit a few common behavioral patterns producers can watch for.

"Anorexia, itching, impaired coordination, lameness, hypersalivation, the appearance of choking, and bellowing are some of the signs of rabies in cattle," said Douglas. Affected animals may also show aggressiveness, have muscle spasms, convulsions and anxiety.

While most people associate rabies with dogs, bats and wild animals, Douglas said it's important to understand that rabies can occur in all warm-blooded animals and it is almost always fatal.

"Rabies is caused by a virus that affects the nervous system and is transmitted by the saliva of an infected animal, usually via a bite or by saliva coming in contact with mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth) or an opening in the skin."

Douglas stressed prevention is key when it comes to rabies, making a yearly vaccination against the virus for all critical. A lesser-known fact is that there is a rabies vaccine for humans, most often made available to people who live in places or have jobs that put them at a high risk of coming into contact with the virus. The vaccine can also be administered to a person after an animal bite if there's the possibility that the animal in question had rabies.

Douglas said people are most often exposed to rabies in terms of cattle when an animal appears to be choking, can't swallow and the producer tries to help them.

"If you are bitten, or saliva contacts your mucous membranes, flush with soap and clean water and consult with your healthcare provider," she advised.