“Infected wildlife will filter into populated areas in search of food and water during times of drought and this has been driving the elevated number of rabies cases in pet populations in the Carlsbad area. As warm, dry weather settles back in across the state, we are going to see more of this kind of activity and are encouraging all pet owners statewide to make certain pets are vaccinated each year,” Nichols said.

Officials say it is unusual to recommend vaccination of all horses and livestock, but vaccines for them do exist. Nichols suggests show animals and breeding stock are of most concern, but says all farm animals are at risk.

Those who work with horses and livestock are encouraged to watch for early signs of animal infection and are reminded to wash their hands and to wear protective gloves as possible.

In addition to the rabies outbreak in New Mexico, health officials say the number of rabies incidents is on the rise across the Southwest. In Texas last year, samples of tissue from 1,018 animals tested positive for the disease, the most since 2008, representing a 30 percent increase over 2010 when Texas had the most cases in the United States. Already this year 211 cases of suspected rabies have been reported in Texas, among them a cow, a goat and four horses.

In Kansas, 13 animals have tested positive for rabies since Jan. 1, including four skunks, two bats, two horses, two cows, one cat, one coyote and one raccoon.

“We have a significantly higher number of confirmed rabid animals this year, 13, compared to just four during the same time in 2011,” said Kansas Department of Health and Environment Veterinarian Dr. Ingrid Garrison. “Since 2007, there has been an average of 68 cases of rabid animals a year in Kansas.”

 She says vaccines are available for dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, cattle and sheep.

“People understand the importance of vaccinating dogs and cats against rabies but often forget about vaccinating horses,” Garrison added. “Although vaccination of all cattle and sheep is not practical, we encourage vaccination of valuable breeding stock and show animals.”