Rabies is a viral disease that almost always results in death. The rabies virus is usually transmitted in the saliva of an infected animal, through a bite or scratch wound. The animals in Canada most often proven rabid are wild terrestrial carnivores (e.g. raccoons, skunks, and foxes), bats, cattle and stray dogs and cats. Keeping your pet(s) vaccinated is the best means of creating a protective barrier between wildlife and humans.
All dogs, cats and ferrets over three months of age in Ontario must be immunized against rabies and re-immunized in accordance with the certificate of immunization issued. All horses, cattle and sheep intended to come into direct contact with members of the public must be immunized against rabies. Visit our Rabies Clinic page to learn about low-cost rabies vaccination clinics.
If you have been exposed to a rabid, or suspected rabid, animal:
- Immediately and thoroughly clean and flush (for 15 minutes) the wound with soap and water. This step is probably the most effective procedure in the prevention of rabies.
- Contact your primary health care provider, as soon as possible, who may recommend post exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
- PEP may be delayed or discontinued if either the animal is available for observation (i.e. 10-day isolation period) or post mortem tests indicate the animal is rabies free.
- Always report an animal bite or scratching incident to your local Public Health unit.