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Caring for a client’s animal that may have been exposed to rabies

For clients whose animal has up-to-date rabies vaccinations

Dogs, Cats, and Ferrets

Dogs, cats, and ferrets that are currently vaccinated with a USDA-licensed rabies vaccine should be revaccinated immediately, kept under the owner’s control, and observed for 45 days. If the animal under observation develops any signs of illness, it should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Any illness in an animal under observation should be reported immediately to the local health department. If the animal under observation develops signs suggestive of rabies, it should be euthanized by an animal health professional and its head submitted to a diagnostic laboratory for testing.

Livestock

If up to date for rabies vaccination, livestock that have been exposed to a rabid animal should be revaccinated immediately with a rabies vaccine and observed for 45 days.

Handling and consumption of uncooked tissues from exposed animals could carry a risk for rabies transmission. Persons handling the carcasses and tissues of exposed animals should use appropriate barrier precautions.

State and local public health authorities, state meat inspectors, and the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service should be notified if exposures occur in animals intended for commercial use. Animals should not be presented for slaughter in a USDA-regulated establishment if such animals originate from a quarantine area and have not been approved for release by the proper authority. If an exposed animal is to be custom slaughtered or home slaughtered for consumption, it should be slaughtered immediately after exposure using appropriate barrier precautions, and all tissues should be thoroughly cooked.

Other Animals

Other mammals (those not specifically mentioned above) that have been exposed to a rabid animal should be euthanized immediately. Animals maintained in USDA-licensed research facilities or accredited zoological parks can be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

For clients with animals OVERDUE for booster rabies vaccinations

Dogs, Cats, and Ferrets

Dogs, cats, and ferrets that are overdue for a booster vaccination and that have appropriate documentation of having received a USDA-licensed rabies vaccine at least once previously can be revaccinated, kept under the owner’s control, and observed for 45 days. Any illness in an animal under observation should be evaluated by a veterinarian and reported immediately to the local health department. If the animal under observation develops signs suggestive of rabies, the animal should be euthanized by an animal health professional and its head submitted to a diagnostic laboratory for testing.

In instances where a dog or cat is overdue for a booster vaccination but without appropriate documentation of having ever received a USDA-licensed rabies vaccine, local public health authorities should be consulted to determine the best course of action. Guidance on prospective serologic monitoring in these animals can be found in NASPHV’s protocol [PDF -119KB] referred to in the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control, 2016 [PDF – 259KB], Part I B.5(4b).

Livestock

Livestock overdue for a booster vaccination should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Other Animals

Other mammals (those not mentioned above) exposed to a rabid animal should be euthanized immediately. Animals maintained in USDA-licensed research facilities or accredited zoological parks can be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

For a client’s animal that has NEVER been vaccinated against rabies

Dogs, Cats, and Ferrets

Following an exposure to rabies, dogs, cats, and ferrets that have never been vaccinated against rabies should be euthanized immediately by an animal health professional because there are no USDA-licensed biologics for postexposure prophylaxis in previously unvaccinated domestic animal. The vaccine alone will not reliably prevent the disease in these animals.

If the owner is unwilling to have the animal euthanized, the animal should be placed in strict quarantine for 4 (dogs and cats) or 6 (ferrets) months. A rabies vaccine should be administered at the time of entry into quarantine. Every effort should be made to vaccinate the animal within 96 hours of exposure.

Livestock

In the event of an exposure to rabies, unvaccinated livestock should be euthanized immediately. If the animal is not euthanized, it should be kept under close observation for 6 months. Any illness in an animal under observation should be reported immediately to the local health department. If the animal develops signs suggestive of rabies, it should be euthanized and tested.

Other Animals

Other mammals exposed to a rabid animal should be euthanized immediately. Animals maintained in USDA-licensed research facilities or accredited zoological parks should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Detailed recommendations can be found in the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control [PDF – 259KB].

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