Is It True That All Skunks Have Rabies?

For some reason, people often assume that all skunks have rabies. This just isn’t true. While all skunks can contract rabies, they don’t automatically have it. They must contract the disease from another infected animal, in much the same manner that everyone else gets it.

Skunks are one of the most common carriers of rabies but not all skunks have the disease. According to the Center for Disease Control, or the CDC, approximately twenty-five percent of the skunks in the United States carry the rabies virus. Bats are actually the most frequently reported carrier of rabies.

Skunks and Rabies

What makes rabies so dangerous in skunks is the way it manifests itself. Skunks may carry the disease for weeks or even months before they begin to exhibit any symptoms. During this time, the animal typically behaves normally. Rabies can also be passed down to offspring so many skunks are born with the disease.

To further confuse things, healthy skunks are commonly seen foraging during daylight animals. While they are more active at night and typically classified as nocturnal, skunks are often active during the day. This is especially true in the spring when they are birthing and caring for their young.

Identifying a rabid skunk can be difficult in the early stages of the disease. However, it does become easier as the disease progresses. Rabid skunks tend to act more aggressively than their healthy counterparts and a normal routine is virtually nonexistent.

Skunks with rabies do not act afraid of humans, so they may be eerily approachable. They also tend to salivate excessively, leaving a mess in their path. Other symptoms of rabies in skunks include paralysis, listlessness and muscle tremors. If you come across a skunk that exhibits any of these symptoms, then stay away from it!

Skunks Carry Other Diseases

Skunks carry many different diseases that can be transmitted to humans and other animals, including household pets. Some of these diseases can be debilitating or fatal. Here are the five most common diseases transmitted by skunks.

Distemper is an illness that is spread among animals through contact with the urine of an infected animal. It is commonly contracted by dogs and cats. It is often fatal, but the good news is that there is a vaccine for it.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that is transmitted in various ways. It commonly presents with flu-like symptoms and can result in jaundice. This infection can also cause jaundice and organ failure resulting in death.

Other common illnesses spread by skunks include zoonoses, canine hepatitis and intestinal roundworms. Skunks should only be handled by experienced professionals, if at all!

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