Animal Diseases

Rabies

NEW!!  Rabies Control Training

A Rabies Control Training Session will be held Tuesday, November 18, 2014, at the Great Wolf Lodge & Conference Center, 1400 Great Wolf Drive, Wisconsin Dells, 53965, from 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. The course fee is $55.00, which includes training and exam materials, a morning snack, and lunch. Registration fees are non-refundable. Attendance is very limited.

This course is open to any personnel interested in rabies control methods and procedures. The course provides basic information on rabies control laws, including animal quarantine procedures, animal observation skills and rabies specimen submission. The course also provides certification upon successful completion. Certification is required for trained observers for local alternative rabies control programs approved by WDATCP under Wisconsin Administrative Code Chapter ATCP 13.

Register Online

General Rabies Information

Rabies and Bats

What is rabies and how does it spread?

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system. It is transmitted from infected animals to other animals and humans. The exposure is nearly always through a bite, but rabies can also be transmitted if a rabid animal scratches a person or if its saliva comes into contact with broken skin.

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Which animals commonly carry the rabies virus?

All mammals are susceptible to rabies. In Wisconsin, skunks and bats are the most likely animals to carry the rabies virus, although rabies also has occurred sporadically in dogs, cats, foxes, raccoons and livestock.

How can rabies transmission be prevented?

There are many ways that you can prevent the transmission of rabies, some of which are:

  • Vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets, and other animals against rabies.
  • Enjoy wildlife from a distance.
  • Do not let pets roam free.
  • Cover garbage cans securely and do not leave pet food outside.
  • Prevent bats from entering your home. If you find a bat in your home, follow the instructions below to catch the bat.

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What are the signs of rabies in animals?

Signs of rabies are difficult to detect in wild animals because initial signs are subtle.  A family pet might exhibit the following initial signs:

  • Abnormal behavior
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Scratching at the bite
  • Sound of the bark changes

As the disease progresses more noticeable signs begin to emerge, including:

  • Agitation
  • Dilated pupils
  • Craving unusual things
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness

Finally, the virus begins to have severe effects on the central nervous system and the animal will show signs of paralysis, such as:

  • Inability to swallow
  • Throat paralysis
  • Choking
  • Dropped lower jaw
  • Excessive drooling and foaming saliva
  • Changes in gait or how they walk

As the paralysis spreads throughout the animal's body, they become unable to move.  The result is a progression from seizure to coma to death.

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What will happen if my cat or dog bites someone?

Whether your dog or cat is vaccinated or not, Wisconsin state law requires that any dog or cat that bites a person is quarantined for 10 days so that it can be observed for signs of rabies. The processes and outcomes of individual situations will vary based on the details. The following are general guidelines for each situation:

Unvaccinated Dog or Cat

  • An officer will order the animal quarantined for a period of at least 10 days after the bite.
  • Within 24 hours the dog or cat must be delivered to an isolation facility for the 10-day observation period.
  • The dog or cat will be held under strict isolation and examined by a licensed veterinarian on the first day, last day and one day during the observation period.
  • If no signs of rabies are exhibited, the quarantine is released.
  • If signs of rabies are detected, the animal is humanely euthanized and the brain submitted for rabies testing.
  • Owner pays all costs incurred in connection with the quarantine.

Vaccinated Dog or Cat

  • An officer will order the animal quarantined for a period of at least 10 days after the bite.
  • Vaccinated dogs and cats may be quarantined on the premises of the owner if the animal is kept in strict isolation or in the home and walked on a leash by a responsible adult.
  • The dog or cat must be examined by a licensed veterinarian on the first day, last day and one day during the observation period. These are the only times the animal can leave the owner’s premises.
  • If no signs of rabies are exhibited, the quarantine is released.
  • If signs of rabies are detected, the animal is humanely euthanized and the brain submitted for rabies testing.
  • Owner pays all costs incurred in connection with the quarantine.

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What if I don’t want to quarantine my dog?

State law indicates that you can be fined between $100 and $1,000 or imprisoned for up to 60 days or both for failure to comply with a quarantine order.

For more detailed information, please download our brochure entitled “Rabies Bites!

Where can I find the law?

A full copy of the law can be found here: Wis.Stats.Sec.95.21.

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RABIES AND BATS

Bats, the flying critters that are commonly demonized in horror movies and ghost tales, are actually quite beneficial to our ecosystem here in Wisconsin. Contrary to popular belief, bats are not blind, they are not rodents or birds and they won’t suck your blood. Instead, they are a major predator of night-flying insects and pests that cost farmers billions of dollars annually. In addition, studies of bats have contributed to medical advances including the development of navigational aids for the blind.

Though only a very small percentage of bats are rabies carriers, they are still the most common cause of animal to human transmission here in the United States. Rabies is a deadly virus spread to people from the saliva of infected animals usually through a bite.

More awareness of the facts about bats and rabies can help you protect yourself, your family and your pets as well as clear up any misunderstandings about bats.

Most importantly, if you know you have been bitten by a bat or have come in contact with infectious materials such as saliva from a bat, wash the affected area thoroughly and get medical advice immediately.  Waiting until you show signs and symptoms of rabies is almost always fatal, but if treated quickly enough, anti-rabies treatments are very effective. Several thousand people are successfully treated each year after being bitten by rabid animals. Those that die from the disease usually are those that didn’t seek medical attention.

It is possible for bat bites to go unnoticed especially if the recipient is sleeping when bitten, a small child who cannot express themselves well, or is mentally or physically impaired in some way. Bats have very small teeth that may leave marks not easily seen. Pets can acquire the rabies virus through a bat bite as well.

Whenever possible, the offending bat should be captured and sent to a laboratory for rabies testing since that is the only way to confirm the presence of the virus. To safely capture a bat, you must use precautions to ensure that you are not the next recipient of a bite.

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How to catch a bat

  1. When the bat lands, approach it slowly, while wearing leather work gloves and place a box, coffee can or plastic food container over the bat.
  2. Slide the cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside.
  3. Tape the cardboard to the container securely and punch small holes in the cardboard, allowing the bat to breathe.
  4. Contact your local health department or animal control authority to arrange testing.

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Preventing rabies

  • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. Love your own, leave other animals alone” is a good principle to teach children.
  • Wash any wound from an animal thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.
  • Have all dead, sick or easily captured bats tested for rabies if exposure to people or pets occurs.
  • Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools and other similar areas where they might contact people and pets.
  • Be a responsible pet owner by keeping vaccinations current for all dogs, cats and ferrets.
For more detailed information, please download our brochure entitled “Bats and Rabies: A Public Health Guide.”

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