Rabies Home > Animals With Rabies

Only a few species of animals with rabies are likely to spread the virus to other mammals; however, all mammals can become infected. Animals that most commonly transmit rabies include raccoons, skunks, and bats. Domestic animals, such as cats, cattle, and dogs, can also get rabies. Wild animals are more likely to become infected than domestic animals; however, rabies in domestic animals greatly increases the risk in humans.

Rabies in Animals: An Overview

Although all species of mammals can become infected with the rabies virus, only a few species are best able to spread the virus to other mammals. The animals that most commonly transmit rabies to other animals include:
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
  • Foxes
  • Coyotes
  • Bats.
Domestic animals can also get rabies. Cats, cattle, and dogs are the most frequently reported rabid domestic animals in the United States. Only mammals get rabies. Birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish do not get the disease.

Wild Animals With Rabies

Wild animals accounted for 93 percent of reported cases of rabies in 2001. The wild animals in which infection was reported included:
  • Raccoons -- 37.2 percent of all animal cases during 2001
  • Skunks -- 30.7 percent
  • Bats -- 17.2 percent
  • Foxes -- 5.9 percent
  • Other wild animals, including rodents and lagomorphs (e.g., rabbits and hares) -- 0.7 percent.
Outbreaks of infections in terrestrial mammals, such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes, are found in broad geographic regions across the United States.
Small rodents (such as squirrels, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, and chipmunks) and lagomorphs (such as rabbits and hares) are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to cause rabies among humans in the United States. Bites by these animals are usually not considered a risk of infection, unless the animal was sick or behaving in any unusual manner and rabies is widespread in your area.
However, from 1985 through 1994, woodchucks accounted for 86 percent of the 368 cases of rabies among rodents reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Woodchucks or groundhogs (Marmota monax) are often the only rodents that may be frequently submitted to state health departments because of a suspicion of rabies.
In all cases involving rodents, the state or local health department should be consulted before a decision is made to begin rabies treatment.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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