Clearwater County dog tests positive for rabies

Publish Date

An unvaccinated Clearwater County dog tested positive for rabies on January 6, 2023, approximately two months after possible exposure to a skunk. In mid-November 2022, a skunk was seen jumping toward the dog and hovering around an outdoor food dish. The skunk was shot by the owner as it ran from the scene, was discarded, and never tested for rabies.

At the end of December, about five weeks after the skunk encounter, the dog seemed more reserved than usual. On December 30, the owner believed the dog was choking and put their hand in its mouth, but couldn’t see anything in its throat. They took the dog to their veterinarian because it could not swallow and was drooling excessively. The veterinarian recalled no neurological signs during the exam, and did notice frothing in the mouth. Tests for Lyme and Anaplasmosis came back positive. The owner reported seeing neurological signs the next day and the dog died overnight. The next morning the owner remembered the skunk encounter and brought the deceased dog back to the veterinarian for rabies sample collection. Samples were submitted to the University of Minnesota Diagnostic Laboratory on January 4.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health investigated to assess possible exposures and make recommendations for other animals on the property. There were five other dogs; three who were unvaccinated, and two who were overdue for their rabies boosters. The unvaccinated dogs are under a six month quarantine and the dogs overdue for their rabies vaccinations are under a 45 day observational period. Other animals on the property were not considered exposed to the rabid dog.

The Minnesota Department of Health interviewed the owner and veterinarian involved and recommended post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment for the owner and their exposed family. The MDH did not recommend PEP for the veterinarian because of previous rabies vaccination and the veterinarian wore gloves during the initial exam and used additional personal protective equipment (coveralls, gloves, eye protection) during the rabies sample collection procedure the following day.

This is the first reported rabies-positive domestic dog since 2018. Companion animals should be currently vaccinated against rabies to prevent infection.

If you have questions about suspected or confirmed rabies exposure to domestic animals call 651-201-6808.

If you have questions concerning rabies exposure in people, please contact the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-5414.

All dogs, cat, ferrets, and horses should be currently vaccinated against the rabies virus. In the event an animal is exposed or potentially exposed, pets should receive a rabies vaccination booster within 72 hours of exposure.