What is Rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease, that affects the brain and central nervous system, and can be spread to mammals (including people and animals- both wild and domestic) through contact with saliva or nerve tissues from an infected animal.
The most common way rabies virus is transmitted is through a bite or scratch from a rabid animal. Rabies can also be spread when infected saliva or nerve tissue comes in contact with an open wound or is introduced into a mucous membrane like the eyes, nose or mouth.
In most cases, once symptoms appear, rabies virus is almost always fatal. Symptoms of a rabid animal may include:
trouble walking or standing
change in vocalizations
behavioral changes (aggressive, quiet/depressed, unusually friendly)
The main animals that transmit rabies in Ontario include: bats, skunks, raccoons and foxes.
For more information about rabies in Ontario please visit our Rabies Resources webpage.
Rabies can be prevented with vaccination. In cases of human exposure, if a vaccine is given before symptoms appear, the disease can be prevented from progressing.
In animals, routine preventative vaccinations for rabies can keep both your pet, family and community safe from rabies by providing immunity to the disease.
In most areas of Ontario, under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, Regulation 567, animal owners have a legal obligation to maintain rabies vaccinations for their animals. Dogs and cats that are 12 weeks of age or older must be vaccinated. Livestock such as horses, sheep and cattle are required to be vaccinated if they have contact with anyone other than their regular caretakers. Vaccine boosters every one or three years (depending on manufacturers guidelines) are required to maintain immunity levels.
Need a Veterinarian?
To learn more about vaccinating your animals for rabies, or to determine what you should do if your pet has come into contact with another animal that may have rabies, contact your veterinary healthcare team.
If you do not currently have a regular veterinarian, and would like to find one in your area, to book an appointment with please click here.
If you would prefer to speak with a telehealth veterinarian by phone please click here.
Who To Call When?
Have you or your pet come in contact with an animal that potentially has rabies? Have you seen a wild animal that looks like it may have rabies? Please consult the following infographic to determine who to call when.
Need to find the phone number for your local Public Health Unit? Click here for a listing of Public Health Unit contacts.
What is the OAVT RRP?
The Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians Public Health Rabies Response program (OAVT RRP) is a program managed and coordinated by OAVT RRP staff in joint partnership with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC).
The OAVT RRP provides the service of specimen collection and shipping to the federal Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) laboratories for rabies testing. These specimens are from cases involving potential human exposure to rabies caused by animals.
This much-needed rabies surveillance program utilizes the skills of Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVTs) in the process of specimen collection and shipping throughout the Public Health Unit (PHU) regions across the Province of Ontario. Animal specimens tested include wildlife, livestock, companion animals and zoo animals.