RABIES IN ANIMALS

Animal species vary in the likelihood of having and transmitting rabies. Some animals are low-risk for rabies. These include opossums, shrews, moles, squirrels, gophers, mice, rabbits, rats, and armadillos.

Some animal species in Texas are considered high risk for rabies transmission. These include bats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. When an exposure to a high- risk animal occurs, the animal must be submitted for rabies testing. By testing the animals brain tissue, the risk of rabies can be ruled in or out.

Domestic dogs and cats pose more of a rabies risk than the low-risk species. Even when vaccinated against rabies, dogs, cats, and ferrets are required to be quarantined by Animal Services for 10 days (240 hours) to prove they did not transmit rabies to the human bite victim. Rabies is uncommon in domestic animals, so bites from dogs and cats do not often warrant immediate post-exposure vaccinations. Your physician will be able to coordinate with Animal Services and will determine if post exposure vaccines are required.

DEFINITION OF RABIES EXPOSURE

Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and hot water as a first aid procedure. For all animal bites, contact your physician to determine the need for a tetanus shot, receive proper wound care, and to discuss the risk of rabies exposure. The LRCA will determine need for quarantine or testing options for the biting animal.

Rabies is transmitted only when the virus is introduced into bite wounds, open cuts in skin, or onto mucous membranes from saliva or other potentially infectious material such as neural tissue.

The public and physicians may use the following link to evaluate if an exposure occurred and to characterize the risk from a particular species of animal:

http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/disease/rabies/information/treatment/people/chart/

REPORTING ABNORMAL ANIMAL BEHAVIOR

Animal Control officers should be notified when animals or wildlife appear to be exhibiting signs of rabies. Abnormal behavior or abnormal movement that might indicate rabies includes:
  • staggering
  • falling
  • circling
Animal Control staff will humanely euthanize the wild animal when it may have exposed people or other animals to rabies. Animal Control staff will then send the animal for rabies testing at the Department of State Health Services Laboratory in Austin. Animal rabies test results are typically available with 48 hours. Testing is done Monday through Friday during normal business hours, except for a few national holidays.