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Home News Rare rabies case strikes Bernalillo County puppy
David Morgan
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Rare rabies case strikes Bernalillo County puppy

September 15, 2023 - Zoonotic Diseases - Disease

SANTA FE – A puppy in Bernalillo County has tested positive for rabies. This marks the first reported case of rabies in a dog in New Mexico since 2013, and the first occurrence in Bernalillo County since 2006. The diagnosis has been officially confirmed through testing conducted by the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) Scientific Laboratory Division

The affected puppy had recently arrived in New Mexico, and it is strongly believed that she contracted the virus in Texas. Fortunately, there is no ongoing risk to the public at this time. 

The affected puppy, however, because of the severity of her symptoms had to be euthanized.

Working diligently alongside the pet’s owners, the DOH has successfully identified all individuals and animals who had contact with the infected puppy. In accordance with established protocols, all six people exposed are receiving the post-exposure rabies shots as a precautionary measure. Importantly, none of the additional animals required euthanasia, as their owners had diligently kept them up to date on their rabies vaccines. These pets have received booster shots and will be monitored closely for 45 days, as mandated by law.  

“Young puppies are especially vulnerable to various infectious diseases, including rabies, parvovirus, and distemper, until they've completed their full vaccine series," said Erin Phipps, DVM, MPH, state public health veterinarian. “It's worth noting that rabies has a prolonged incubation period, often lasting weeks or months from infection to symptom onset, and animals become contagious only after symptoms appear.”  

The puppy in this case showed symptoms typical of rabies, including a lack of coordination, tremors, and aggression. The puppy had not been vaccinated for rabies as she was not yet old enough to receive the vaccine.   

This incident serves as a reminder to residents that, while rabies is relatively rare in our state, animals can contract the disease from local wildlife or while residing or visiting regions of the country where it is more prevalent.  

In accordance with New Mexico state law, rabies vaccination is mandatory for dogs and cats over three months of age and is strongly recommended for other animals such as horses. Vaccinating pets not only safeguards their well-being but also protects you, even if they remain exclusively on your property or are always leashed.  

Rabid wild animals have been known to enter fenced-in yards, and pets can encounter bats outdoors and indoors. Pets that have never received a rabies vaccination and are exposed to a rabid animal are required by law to be euthanized or isolated without any human contact for a period of four months.  

The Department of Health recommends the following to keep you and your family safe from rabies:  

  • Keep your pets up to date on vaccinations, ensuring they wear current license tags on their collar confirming their vaccination status.  
  • If your cat or dog has been bitten or scratched, especially by a wild animal, call your pet’s veterinarian even if the wound is superficial.  
  • Avoid wild or unfamiliar animals. Do not attempt to feed them. Don’t approach or touch wild animals (alive or dead). Teach this important message to your children and always keep a close eye on your kids around unfamiliar animals.  
  • In the event of an animal bite or exposure to saliva, wash the affected area immediately thoroughly with soap and water, and seek medical attention promptly.   
  • Rabies vaccines are recommended for anyone who has direct contact with a bat, or who finds a bat in the room where they were sleeping or where a child was unattended.   
  • Report any exposure or bites to your local animal control and contact the New Mexico Department of Health at (505) 827-0006.  

For more info about rabies see the New Mexico Department of Health website at:

Media Contact

We would be happy to provide additional information about this press release. Simply contact David Morgan at 575-528-5197 (Office) or 575-649-0754 (Mobile) with your questions.

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Un raro caso de rabia afecta a un cachorro del condado Bernalillo