Raccoon Rabies Outbreak in Hamilton


My dog had been in a fight with a raccoon. Should I be concerned about rabies? What do I do?

Raccoon Rabies 

With the recent cases of raccoon rabies found in the Hamilton region (now 33) rabies is certainly a concern.

The first thing that you should do is avoid touching your dog with bare hands as there could be saliva from the raccoon on your dog.

Secondly, phone your veterinarian. Whether or not the raccoon has rabies, your dog with need antibiotics and possibly stitches for any bite wounds. Your veterinarian will ask you questions regarding the incident and perform a risk assessment. This is done to decide on what the likelihood of the raccoon having rabies is.

There are four elements that your veterinarian will look at while performing a risk assessment.

1) The category of exposure. Was it just a touch or light scratch or was it a bite? Did saliva from the raccoon come in contact with mucous membranes?

2) The offending species. Was it a reservoir species know to harbour rabies such as a raccoon, bat, skunk or fox or wildlife less likely to be carrying rabies?

3) Local rabies epidemiology. Is the area where the incident took place known to have rabies in the last 2-3 years?

4) Offending animal behaviour and circumstances of the event. Who initiated the fight? Was the raccoon behaving abnormally or was it just unlucky and was surprised by the dog?

Ideally if the raccoon is available, it can be tested for rabies. Often this is not possible and this is where the risk assessment comes in.

The next important question is whether your dog is up to date on its rabies vaccines. This will determine what happens next.

Regardless of when your dog was last vaccinated, if it tangled with a raccoon it should have a booster rabies vaccine within 7 days.

There are three main categories for post-exposure management recommended by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).

1) If rabies vaccine is up to date: a booster given within 7 days, and monitor for 45 days. If the dog did not receive a booster within 7 days, a three-month precautionary confinement is recommended.

2) If rabies vaccine is not up to date: booster within 7 days, a 3-month precautionary confinement is recommended. If the dog did not receive a booster then a 6-month precautionary confinement is recommended.

3) If never vaccinated: booster within 7 days and a three-month   precautionary confinement is recommended. If no booster within 7 days, a six-month precautionary confinement is recommended.

Rabies Vaccine Recommendations:

In Ontario pet owners are legally required to keep dogs and cats over three months of age vaccinated for rabies.

The first booster vaccine for rabies is due 12 months after your pet’s initial vaccine. After that the rabies vaccine is due every 1-3 years depending on the vaccine used.

What about the raccoon?

If the raccoon is injured and suffering or is a threat to people of animals, contact the local animal control authority or police. If animal control deems the raccoon to be a possible rabies case then it can be tested so that authorities can warn the public of rabies in the area and treat your dog appropriately.

Exposure of a Person

If you think that you may have been exposed to rabies via a bite or saliva, contact your doctor of the local Public Health Unit. If the risk is significant, rabies antibodies can be administered immediately followed by a series of vaccinations over the following 2 weeks.

Dr Brian Laing has completed the OMAFRA Rabies Response Training Module and is available to answer questions at email: tcahstouffville@rogers.com

For more information:

http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/food/inspection/ahw/rabies.htm#6 (good comprehensive government site about rabies)



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