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What Percentage of Dogs Have Rabies? What Statistics Say

Written by: Chelsie Fraser

Last Updated on July 4, 2024 by Dogster Team

Rhodesian Ridgeback dog sick with vet

What Percentage of Dogs Have Rabies? What Statistics Say


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

In recent decades, rabies has become an increasingly rare illness in dogs in the United States, mainly due to large-scale vaccinations and mandated rabies vaccines for domestic animals. That said, while it may be rare in North America, it’s quite common in other parts of the world, like Africa and Asia. Not only does it affect dogs, but it also accounts for approximately 59,000 human deaths each year.

Rabies is a virus that can cause severe brain inflammation. It’s most often spread through a bite from an infected animal. While it may not be common in the U.S., having only a 0.03% of positive results on rabies tests, the virus still exists and must be protected against. So, how common is it? How many dogs have rabies?

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What Percentage of Dogs Have Rabies?

Domestic animals including dogs, cats, horses, and cattle account for approximately 9% of all recorded rabies diagnoses in the U.S. About 0.3% of animals tested for rabies test positive, and this number hasn’t changed over the last 5 years.

dog with overflowing saliva
Image By: Anant Kasetsinsombut, Shutterstock

How Many Dogs Have Rabies?

Since rabies is a disease that primarily affects wild and stray animals, it’s impossible to know exactly how many animals have it. There are approximately 70 million stray dogs in the U.S. Any dog that is picked up by a rescue organization or animal control agency that tests positive for rabies is immediately euthanized to prevent the spread of the disease.

The Center for Disease Control reports approximately 5,000 cases of rabies each year. About 90% of these cases are from wildlife. Between 60 and 70 domestic dogs get rabies each year, and approximately 250 cats are diagnosed. The primary carriers of the rabies virus are foxes, bats, skunks, and raccoons.

excessive drooling of irish setter dog
Image By: Reddogs, Shutterstock

What Animals Are Most Likely to Catch Rabies?

The main spreaders of the rabies virus are wild animals. Which wild animals are the culprits varies based on your region.

On the west coast and the central United States, bats and skunks are the most infected species. The East Coast sees more rabies incidents with raccoons. In Alaska, arctic foxes have the highest incidence of disease, and mongooses are primarily responsible in Puerto Rico.

Nationwide, bats are the most common species diagnosed with rabies. They account for approximately 33% of reported cases. Raccoons account for 30.3%, skunks are 20.3%, and foxes are 7.2% of cases.

Vet checking on dog's eyes
Image Credit By: Mikhail Nilov, Pexels

How Many Humans Get Rabies in the U.S.?

Rabies is incredibly rare among humans in the U.S. There have only been 25 cases of rabies within the last 10 years. As this averages to about one to three cases per year, it’s not a virus that you should be particularly worried about. However, since it is contracted primarily from wild animal bites, you should maintain caution when interacting with wild animals.

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Final Thoughts

In developed countries like the United States, rabies is extremely rare. This is primarily due to mass mandatory vaccination campaigns against the virus. Most rabies transmissions occur through wild animals, with bats being the most common species affected.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Zontica, Shutterstock

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