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Rabies in Ontario: what the public needs to know – an update for 2018

By September 27, 2018 Small Animal

What is the Risk of Rabies in Ontario?

There have been 50 cases of rabies in Ontario since January 2018.  The majority of these are from raccoons, followed by skunks and bats.  Other species that also tested positive include cows, stray cats and red foxes.  There have been over 500 cases of rabies in Ontario in the last 4 years.

There have been 17 cases of fox rabies confirmed in Perth, Huron and Waterloo counties since December 2015.  In that same time period, there have been over 400 cases of raccoon rabies confirmed in Hamilton and surrounding areas. 

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a virus that is spread by infected mammals biting other mammals or transmission of their saliva to an open wound.  The virus travels through the nervous system to the brain where it will causes neurological signs, including changes in behavior, aggression, paralysis and death.  Once signs are evident, rabies is almost always untreatable and fatal.  All mammals (companion animals, livestock and humans are at risk).

 How Can I Protect Myself and My Family From Rabies?

 Vaccinate your pets: make sure your pets are always kept up to date on their vaccinations, even if they are indoor only and don’t interact with other pets.  For example, any indoor pet could be in a scenario where:

  • a cat attacks a bat that enters the home
  • a dog bites a visitor

Rabies vaccination for dogs, cats and horses is a regulatory requirement for our local district health units. 

Only allow your pets outdoors when they are supervised.

Teach your children not to approach wildlife.  Bat proof your home.

Rabies vaccination should be considered for livestock in high-risk areas.  Ask your local veterinarian whether vaccination is recommended for your cattle, sheep or goats.  If livestock go outside or travel to fairs, they are at risk of exposure.  Rabies is a core vaccine for horses.

Who to Call in Case of Potential Rabies Exposure?

1. If you are exposed (bitten or handle) a potentially rabid animal, contact your local Public Health Unit:

  • Perth Health Unit: 519-271-7600
  • Huron Health Unit 519-482-3416

2. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, contact your local veterinarian.

3. If you spot abnormal wildlife and there has been no pet or human exposure,

  • contact a local wildlife control agency for assistance with a live animal
  • contact the MNRF Rabies Hotline 1-888-574-6656 for dead or confined terrestrial wildlife
  • contact the CWHC 1-866-673-4781 for sick/injured bats

Rabies is 100% preventable, but people are still exposed every year, which is why this is still an important issue.  Keep your family safe by talking to one of our team members at Coventry Animal Hospital about rabies vaccination for your pets.

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