Rabies can simply be descried as a disease that affects the central nervous system of mammals. It is basically a prevalent disease among mammals, particularly dogs. As a matter of fact, dogs are known to be the primary transmitters of this disease. Other mammal species can contract rabies if they are bitten by an infected animal. Similar to all species classified as mammals, cows can get rabies as well. Most farmers record a number of cattle bite cases yearly which is a great worry among the agricultural community as this tempers with production and profitability. That being said, it is of the essence for farmers, especially first time producers, to be aware that cows can get rabies and acquire the necessary knowledge on proper cattle management practises so as to prevent its occurrence.

Causes of Rabies in Cows

Rabies results from infection by a neurotropic virus in the family of Rhabdoviridae. The virus is known to cause an inflammation of the brain. As previously pointed out, it is mostly spread by dogs. However, other animals including foxes among other species can also be primary transmitters of rabies. Bats, raccoons, skunks, woodchucks and cats are also said to be at high risk. The rabies virus is often transmitted across mammals regardless of whether they belong to the same or different species. Rabies is carried in the saliva of an infected animal; it enters the body through an open in the skin which is usually when another animal is bit. Though a rare experience, cows can get rabies from non-bite exposure. Examples of non-bite exposure include inhalation of aerosol particles of the virus or when an animal licks the eyes, nose or mouth of an infected mammal. The virus is considered as fragile which stops it from being transferred through contact with feed and water troughs from cow to cow. Additionally, it is also highly unlikely for cows to infect other members of the herd as one bovine biting another is virtually unheard of. Cows can get rabies after which they often experience an incubation phase of approximately 10 days and in rare cases for longer periods of time (3 to 12 weeks). According to experts, the disease travels through the bloodstream where it can be incubated. From then, the virus moves to the brain and this is particularly when clinical signs begin to appear in cows. Note that although cows can get rabies, it does not spread very efficiently and so can be controlled. It is estimated that only 1.2 other animals can be infected by each rabid animal. As such, even in cases of multiple bite victims, some will not contract the virus.

Symptoms of Rabies in Cows

Since cows can get rabies, it is of the utmost importance to have an understanding of how the disease manifests so as to provide relevant and timely treatment. Rabies is indicated by a change in normal behaviour as well as disorientation. Infected dogs therefore tend to wander where there are large herds instead of normally avoiding them. Since cows are inquisitive by nature, they tend to approach such animals thereby getting bit and contracting the virus. A common reaction of the herd in such cases is to scatter which limits the number of livestock infected. This justifies the rare fact of having more than at least 2 cows infected by a single rabid intruder. Cows infected by rabies typically develop a hoarse bellow. Drooling and abnormal swallowing is often experienced. Other signs include depression and weakness or partial paralysis of hindquarters. Within several hours of experiencing symptoms, the cow usually goes down, develops seizures and dies. According to research, paralysis and death normally occur in 12 to 48hours. An essential point to be aware of is that symptoms observed in rabid cows maybe quite variable which makes early detection difficult. To make matters worse, other diseases may mimic some signs of rabies. As such, it becomes necessary for farmers to isolate cows that show signs of rabies.


Do Cows Get Vaccinated for Rabies?

As mentioned earlier, all mammals are susceptible to rabies and so cows can get rabies as well. That being said, it then becomes necessary for farmers to take precautionary measures. It is advisable to remove items that make the farm attractive to stray dogs and other wildlife. This can be achieved by eliminating hiding, nesting as well as roosting places. Animals that demonstrate changes in behaviour, particularly extreme nervousness or aggression, changes in voice or other suspicious signs, difficulty in swallowing or signs of choking should be treated by an experienced veterinarian. Remember to wear protective clothing when handling infected animals as humans are also prone to the rabies virus. Since cows can get rabies, they should be vaccinated so as to prevent exposure to other animals and humans. Unfortunately, it is currently not possible to test for rabies while cows are still alive. The test is conducted as a post-mortem on livestock. As such, it is advisable to vaccinate cows timeously. Upon identifying symptoms of rabies, a veterinary medical professional should be consulted.

Can Cows Transmit Rabies?

Cows can get rabies, however, the chances of them transmitting the disease to other animals is quite low. Cows generally do not bite each other and so are not transmitters of rabies. As previously mentioned, rabies cannot be transmitted through feeding and water troughs.  To add on, it is highly unlikely that direct contact between cows results in the spread of the virus. A common concern is whether cows can transmit rabbit to humans as well. Cows are said to be among the most common domestic animals to contract rabies which puts farmers at risk. It is not possible for cows to spread rabies through bites. Nonetheless, it is possible for cows to spread rabies to humans and other animals through non-bite exposure. Since the disease is found in saliva and neural tissues, cows can get rabies and shed the virus in their saliva thereby infecting other species. It is advisable to vaccinate livestock for rabies timeously. Humans exposed to the virus are also advised to get vaccinated timeously.