How to keep your pets safe after 9 rabid bats found in 9 Washington counties

Nine rabid bats have been found in nine different counties across Washington this year. Between June 2023-August 2023 those counties are:

  • Snohomish
  • Spokane
  • Douglas
  • Chelan
  • Klickitat
  • King
  • Walla Walla
  • Columbia

The most recent exposure happened in Snohomish County where a pet owner discovered their dog playing with an infected bat. It is believed all pets exposed to this rabid bat are up to date on their rabies vaccine however, Snohomish County health officials are still working on confirming that.

Without a vaccine or proper treatment, any person, pet, or other warm-blooded mammal showing clinical signs of infection from the rabies virus is almost always fatal.

Here in Washington, only two cases have been identified in the last 75 years. Unfortunately, both of those cases were fatal. Luckily, the rabies vaccine has helped eradicate infections and transmissions across the United States with the country averaging one to seven cases annually.

The rabies vaccine is not mandatory or even recommended for the general (human) population here in Washington, but the recent report of a rabid bat is not an imminent threat to you or your family.

“There’s no indication that there’s an abnormally high number of bats carrying rabies at this point,” said Snohomish County’s Health Officer, Dr. James Lewis.

Rabies vaccines may not be mandatory for humans, but that doesn’t apply to your pets. In fact, rabies vaccinations for dogs, cats, and ferrets are mandatory in the state of Washington.

Wildlife veterinarian, Dr. Nicki Rosenhagen works part-time with cats and dogs and has heard pet owners using excuses that their pet is “indoor only” thus not needing the rabies vaccine to which Dr. Rosenhagen said, “Yeah but sometimes the wildlife can come to them.”

Bats, rabid or not, have been found outdoors…but they’ve also been discovered in the home, backyard, and even a pile of lumber (where they sometimes roost during the day). Dr. Rosenhagen urges pet owners who have discovered a bat on the ground or in their pets’ mouths to, “contact public health in no circumstance should they be touching those bats with their bare hands, that’s where the contact comes in.”

Rabies vaccines are issued once every one to three years. Make sure to contact your local vet for more information on your pet’s rabies status.