Rabies

  • Is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) of warm-blooded animals (mammals) – such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, and bats
  • It’s fatal to animals and humans, if not treated
  • It’s spread from the saliva of an infected animal to another animal or human through a bite, contact with an open wound or with a mucus membrane (mouth, nasal cavity, eyes)
  • It causes brain damage
  • Animals can be infectious for days before showing any signs of the disease
  • Ontario has a successful rabies control program that has greatly reduced incidents of rabies
  • Report stray or strangely acting animals to the Humane Society at 613-725-3166 or By-law Services by calling 3-1-1
  • If you are bitten or scratched, report it to Ottawa Public Health by calling 613-580-6744 or 3-1-1 after business hours. Seek medical attention immediately.
  • Information on teaching children to prevent dog bites
  • Find out more on bats and raccoon rabies

What are the symptoms of rabies in animals

An animal will show signs of rabies from 3 to 12 weeks after infection. The following are examples of suspicious behaviour:

  • Wild animals seem friendly or tame
  • Normally nocturnal animals are active during the day
  • Wild animals do not run away when approached by a human or domestic animal
  • Animals’ normal instinctive self-preservation is contradicted by their actions
  • Animals exhibit signs of excitement, meanness or aggressive behaviour
  • Animals with paralyzed hind legs or drooping heads
  • Pets seem to have a hard time walking, eating or drinking
  • There may be froth at the mouth
  • May attack objects or other animals

What are the symptoms of rabies in humans?

Symptoms usually appear three to eight weeks after the bite, but sometimes they can appear as soon as five days afterwards. They may also take seven years to appear.

Early symptoms are:

  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Slight fever
  • Cough and sore throat
  • Increased saliva and tears
  • Headache
  • General malaise

As the disease progresses, symptoms include:

  • Hyperactivity and violent behaviour
  • Confusion
  • High fever
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irregular breathing
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Slight or partial paralysis
  • Excitation and hallucinations
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Hydrophobia (fear of water)

Prevent rabies

  • Don't let your pets roam free, especially at night when nocturnal animals like foxes, skunks, bats and raccoons are out
  • It is mandatory to have your dog or cat regularly vaccinated against rabies. The vaccine protects against all strains of rabies. By vaccinating your pet, you are also protecting your family.
  • Avoid animals that act strangely
  • Appreciate wildlife from a distance. Never feed or handle wild animals, especially those that appear aggressive or sick.
  • Teach your children not to approach animals, even if they seem friendly
  • Never keep a wild animal as a pet
  • Take measures to stop raccoons and other wildlife from moving into your house, garage or garden
  • If you see a baby animal that appears to be orphaned, leave it alone. Chances are its mother is nearby. Even if she is not, the possible danger to you outweighs the good you might do for the animal. Instead, notify:
    • The Rideau Valley Wildlife Center at 613-258-9480
    • The Ottawa Humane Society at 613-725-1532
    • The Ministry of Natural Resources at 613-258-8214
    • Check the Ontario Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Network

Rabies exposure and treatment

  • If you have been bitten or scratched by a possibly rabid animal, contact your doctor or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.
  • Immediately wash the affected skin area thoroughly with soap and water. If saliva from the animal is on your clothing, wash it immediately in hot soapy water.
  • All dog and cat bites should be seen by a doctor and reported to the City.
  • Rabies is deadly, so all bites and scratches from a suspect animal must be reported.
  • The patient, doctor or hospital must report the incident to the Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744.
  • When bitten by a dog, it is important to obtain the name and address of the owner.

There is a Rabies Post Exposure Prophylaxis vaccine (RPEP) which is administered by a doctor in five doses. The vaccine is highly effective at preventing rabies if given as soon as possible following an exposure. Most deaths due to rabies occur in people who fail to seek medical attention. If you are receiving treatment for rabies, you cannot give it to anyone unless you actually become sick with the disease.

Pet exposed to rabies

  • Don't handle your pet because there may be fresh saliva from a rabid animal on its coat
  • Isolate your pet
  • Contact your city's animal-control agency, humane society, local Canadian Food Inspection Agency office or your veterinarian

More information:

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources