Scratches or bites should be reported to the Public Health Unit at 519.352.7270. Throughout the course of the disease, the virus can only be transmitted 3 to 10 days prior to death. This time is known as the period of communicability.
There are two forms of rabies:
- Furious rabies is most common, this form of rabies causes a major change in the infected animal's behaviour and the animal becomes aggressive toward people or other animals. People who are infected with furious rabies will show symptoms of hyperactivity, confusion, hallucinations and more.
- Paralytic (Dumb) rabies, causes the infected animal to become placid and sometimes immobile. People who are infected with this form become paralyzed slowly.
Both forms of rabies have similar symptoms, such as drooling or froth at the mouth due to paralysis of the throat muscles. There is also the tendency for the infected animal to drag itself around as it loses motor function.
Other signs of rabies:
- Some animals may become depressed and retreat to isolated places.
- Wild animals may lose their fear of humans.
- Normally nocturnal animals may be active during the day.
- There may be signs of paralysis such as abnormal facial expressions, drooping head, and weakness in the hind limbs, sagging jaw, or heavy drooling.
- Rabid animals may gnaw and bite their own limbs or they may attack objects or other animals.
Symptoms of Rabies:
- Similar to flu like symptoms including fever & headache
- Itching or discomfort near the bite
- Difficulty Swallowing
What to do if you suspect rabies
A rabid animal may be very excited, bite at anything, foam at the mouth or may be aggressive towards objects or animals. If you suspect that an animal is rabid, or you think that your animal has been exposed to rabies, you need to contact:
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
(District Veterinarian - formerly known as Dept. of Agriculture Canada Office)
10 Centre St, P.O. Box 669
Chatham ON, N7M 5K8
- Telephone: 519.436.3145
- Monday – Friday: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
After hours and on weekends, an answering machine will receive information.
If it is a wild animal, stay away from it. Rabies is a reportable disease. If you suspect that an animal is rabid or you think that your animal has been exposed to rabies, you are required by law to report it. Call the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Office at 519-436-3145.
Handling dead rabies suspect animals
- Do not touch the animal with your bare hands.
- All suspect cases of rabies must be reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Health of Animals. Although only specimens from dead suspect animals that have had known or suspected contact with humans, pets or livestock will be collected for testing.
- Contact with a rabid animal can be direct through a bite or a scratch or indirect if the saliva of an infected animal enters a mucous membrane or an open cut or wound.
- If you must handle the animal, wear gloves, take two new, clean garbage bags and place one inside the other. Turn the bags inside out over your hands and arms to protect them from touching saliva. Manoeuvre the bag around the dead animal until the animal is in the bag.
- Tie the bag closed.
- Use a shovel to dispose of the carcass by burial or incineration, once the authorities have removed the head, if required.
- Isolate the dead animal from humans, pets and livestock.
Keep the carcass in a cool spot.
- Seek medical attention for humans who have had contact with the dead animal.
- Contact the health unit who will consult with you and your physician about appropriate treatment.
- Seek veterinary attention for animals that have had contact with the dead animal.
- Contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Health of Animals to arrange pick up of a specimen of the dead animal for rabies testing. It takes 6-24 hours to get the results of the testing.
- Dispose of the remaining carcass by burial or incineration.
If the rabies test is positive, CFIA's Health of Animals will advise you about quarantine of livestock and pets that have been in contact with the rabid animal.
- Public Health Services distribute post-exposure vaccine as necessary.
Handling live rabies suspects animals
For animals that are showing possible signs of rabies:
- Keep humans and other animals away from the suspect animal.
- Contact animal control in your area. If there is no animal control service, contact the Ministry of Natural Resources or local police.
- If possible, keep track of the animal's location.
- The landowner is responsible for containment of the suspect animal. Landowners should arrange for an agent to manage the situation, i.e. a pest control professional, a licensed trapper or an animal control officer.
- It is important that when the animal is destroyed that the head is not damaged because the brain of the suspect animal is what is needed for testing.
- All suspect cases of rabies must be reported to Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Health of Animals. Although only specimens from the dead suspect animals that have had known or suspected contact with humans, pets or livestock will be collected for testing.
Specimen pick-up and submission required
All specimens for rabies examination will be picked up and submitted for rabies diagnosis by full-time Canadian Food Inspection Agency staff (formerly known as Dept. of Agriculture Canada staff) at 519-436-3145. Owners should not remove the head from a suspected rabid animal nor should specimens be removed from the property or submitted to provincial Labs for rabies diagnosis.
Destruction of rabies suspect animals
Neither the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Office nor the Ministry of Natural Resources are responsible to destroy any rabies suspect animal. The CFIA informs callers that they are only responsible for taking and submitting specimens once the animal is dead.
In cases where assistance is required, contact the Animal Controller for your area. For a list of Animal Control Workers, please use the Pet & Animal Directory on the right.
Under extreme and immediately life threatening emergencies, the Ministry of Natural Resources will respond to requests for assistance if manpower is available.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency Office informs callers that the Inspector will only take a sample and it is their responsibility to dispose of the carcass (after the sample has been taken). It is the responsibility of the owner or the person in care or in charge of the animal to dispose of same on his own property, by deep burial or burning. All disposals of carcasses should be carried out in consultation with Canadian Food Inspection Agency Staff. Except in cases of very small animals (bats, squirrels, mice etc.) where the whole carcass is submitted.