Rabies Information for Pet Owners
Although the majority of rabies cases occur in wildlife, pets and other domestic animals can be infected with rabies if they are bitten by rabid wild animals. Protecting your pets from rabies is extremely important, especially given the substantial amount of contact humans have with their pets.
Protect your pet
- Visit your veterinarian on a regular basis to keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets, and dogs.
- Maintain control of your pets. Keep cats and ferrets indoors and don’t leave dogs outside unattended.
- Call your local animal control to remove all stray animals from your neighborhood since these animals may be unvaccinated or ill.
Frequently asked Questions
What wild animals get rabies?
Any mammal can get rabies. Throughout the United States raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, and coyotes most commonly contract the disease. Squirrels, rabbits, mice, rats and other small rodents rarely die of or transmit rabies.
In Minnesota, the skunk rabies strain and several different strains affecting bats are the most prevalent. The CDC publishes a report, entitled Rabies Surveillance in the United States available at www.cdc.gov.
What should I do if my pet (cat, dog, or ferret) is bitten by a wild animal?
If your pet is bitten or scratched by a wild animal, the wild animal should be submitted for rabies testing. Specimens can be submitted to the MN Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory with the assistance of your veterinarian. Please contact your veterinarian or visit www.vdl.umn.edu for specific instructions. If the wild animal is not available for testing, contact your veterinarian or the Minnesota Board of Animal Health for advice.
What should I do if I am bitten by an animal?
If you are bitten by any animal you should seek medical attention immediately. If you are bitten by a domestic animal that appeared healthy at the time you were bitten, the animal can be confined and observed by its owner for 10 days (some municipalities may require that the animal be confined and observed in a designated facility).
If the animal appeared ill at the time it bit you or becomes ill during the 10 day confinement period, it should be evaluated by a veterinarian for signs of rabies. Wild animals that bite people should be euthanized and tested for rabies. Please contact local animal control for assistance in capturing a wild animal. Contact your physician and the Minnesota Department of Health for additional advice.
What should I do if I come in contact with a bat?
You cannot get rabies from contact with bat guano (feces), blood, or urine, or from touching a bat (bats should never be handled). If you are bitten by a bat, or if saliva from a bat gets into your eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound, wash the affected area thoroughly and seek medical attention immediately. If you awaken and find a bat in your room or in the room of an unattended child, or if you see a bat near a mentally impaired or intoxicated person, seek medical advice and have the bat tested.
Whenever possible, the bat should be captured and sent to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for rabies testing.