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Rabies is a severe, viral disease that can affect all mammals, including humans. Infection results in damage to the nervous system leading to death. Rabies occurs worldwide. In the U.S., wildlife species are the primary reservoir with skunks being the primary reservoir in South Dakota. The virus is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal.

The vast majority of rabies cases reported each year occur in wild animals such as skunks and bats. In South Dakota, the skunk strain and some different strains affecting bats are most common. Domestic animals account for a small percent of the reported rabies cases nationally. In South Dakota, cattle, cats, dogs and horses are the domestic species most often reported as rabid.

There are many steps pet owners and livestock producers can take to decrease the risk of rabies exposure and infection to domestic animals.

  • Keep dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses currently vaccinated for rabies;
  • Vaccinate cattle and sheep if feasible;
  • Keep strays and wildlife (expecially skunks and bats) away from pets and livestock;
  • Do not approach unfamiliar or wild animals or animals exhibiting abnormal behavior; teach children to do the same;
  • Do not keep wild animals as pets;
  • Report stray animals or animals acting unusual to local animal control;
  • Bat-proof your home
  • Do not attract wild or stray animals to your home or yard;
  • Avoid contact with dogs and cats while traveling, expecially internationally.

Contact the Board at 605.773.3321 or your local veterinarian for questions or concerns regarding pet and livestock exposure.

Contact the South Dakota Department of Health at 605.773.3737 or your personal physician for questions or concerns regarding human exposure.

SD Department of Health Rabies Page
CDC Rabies Info