Provincial Rabies Protocol

What to do if your pet bites another pet or person?

Provincial Guidelines for responding when a pet bites a person or another pet

What to do if a companion animal (dog, cat, ferret) bites someone or bites another pet?

If a person was bitten, they need to seek medical attention and advice from their family physician or an emergency health care provider as soon as possible. If a pet was bitten, then the pet owner needs to seek veterinary care for their pet. The owner of the pet that bit the person/pet should communicate with their veterinarian. The veterinarian needs to find out:

  • What the bite circumstances were (when, where, why, how, etc.)
  • Is the animal showing any clinical signs that would be consistent with rabies (behaviour changes, locomotion issues, neurologic changes). If yes, then the animal needs to be seen by a veterinarian.
  • Determine the vaccination status of the animal (when last rabies vaccine was administered, is the animal up to date on their rabies vaccination?), if the animal goes outside, and if the animal has come into contact with or potentially come into contact with wildlife (including bats).

The pet that has bitten (either another pet of a person) is then required to undergo a 10-day observation period. This 10-day period generally takes place in the pet owner’s home and is often overseen by public health inspectors.

During this 10-day period, limiting contact with the pet by using one caretaker to avoid the risk of additional biting and to reduce the risk of possible disease spread to other humans or domestic animals is advised. The pet owner should keep a list of people/pets that came into contact with the pet during the observation period.

Over the 10-day observation period, the caretaker needs to watch for any changes in the pet (clinical or behavioural) and report any concerns to their veterinarian. If the pet does not develop clinical signs or die within the 10-day observation period, it is very unlikely that the pet would have transmitted rabies when they bit. If the pet is physically healthy after the observation period, no further steps need to be taken. It is preferred to hold off on vaccinating the pet during the 10-day observation period (on the rare chance of a vaccine reaction being confused for signs of rabies) unless the pet was potentially exposed to rabies within a short time frame from the bite.

In some extreme cases, if any of the following is applicable to the situation, the observation period can be skipped, the pet can be euthanized, and the pet’s brain MUST be submitted for rabies testing. There is a cost for euthanasia at the veterinarian’s office. There is also a cost for shipping the entire head or body to the provincial lab (it should not be frozen). The cost of shipping is the responsibility of the pet owner, and the shipping also has to comply with the Federal Transportation of Dangerous Good Legislation. The province will cover the cost of Rabies testing itself. In order to save cost, the owner is at liberty to transport the pet after euthanasia to the Provincial Lab in Fredericton.  But before this can be done, the case will be reported to the NB Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and fisheries veterinarians, that will then assess human health concerns and risks. They may enforce a quarantine for 10 days at the owner’s expense if they feel that it is warranted in lieu of testing.

  • The pet had clinical signs consistent with rabies when the bite occurred.
  • The pet cannot be safely observed for the 10-day period without the risk of others being bitten.
  • If another bite occurs during the observation period.
  • If the owner does not want to observe the pet due to the concern of another bite occurring.
  • If you suspect the animal will not be safe/taken care of properly during the observation period.

If the owner is not likely to comply with instructions. (If the observation period is skipped, it is advised to maintain a list of veterinary clinic staff that came into contact with the pet and assisted with the euthanasia).

Quarantine Specifics • Quarantines are overseen by a veterinarian at the NB Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries

  • Quarantine generally takes place at the owner’s residence and is the owner’s responsibility.
  • Limit exposure of quarantined pets to one or two primary care providers; prevent contact with other people and domestic animals. It is advised to maintain a list of people/pets that come into contact with the pet during the quarantine period.
  • Quarantine facility must be reasonably secure to confine the animal, so it is not likely to escape.
  • Other pets in the house must be up to date on rabies vaccines.
  • The pet is not allowed to roam the property freely and can only leave the property muzzled, on a leash, and under control (or in a carrier).
  • The owner must keep records of any further bites or abnormal behaviour and contact their veterinarian and also the Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries.What to do if a person is bitten by an animal that may be rabid?
  • Wash the wound for a minimum of 10 minutes with soap and running warm water. Control bleeding if necessary. Gentle bleeding will help flush the wound. Then, apply disinfectant and seek medical attention.
  • What to do if a companion animal (dog, cat, ferret) is bitten by an animal that could potentially be rabid? Vaccinate the pet within 7 days regardless of vaccination status.
  • If the pet was up to date on their rabies vaccine, no quarantine is needed after it receives this booster.
  • If the pet is not up to date on their rabies vaccination, or if their vaccination status is not known, they should be vaccinated within 7 days of the bite and then boostered within 3 weeks of the bite.

RABIES IN WILDLIFE IN NEW BRUNSWICK! Increased in bats which increases risks to cats and dogs in the province. Cases of rabies in wildlife have increased in numbers in the past 3 years in New Brunswick.

This is why there is an increased risk if your pet bites someone or bites another dog. If you call our hospital wanting to euthanize a pet that has just bitten someone or another dog, we will have to alert the proper authorities, document the case and possibly delay euthanasia for 10 days until care has been taken to avoid exposure to other pets/humans and rule out rabies.

The following message is from Dr. James Goltz, Manager of Veterinary Laboratory and Pathology Services for the NB Dept. of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries, with permission to share:

“Last week (January 2018), a person who resides in Sussex Corner found that one of his cats had caught a bat in the basement of his home. While the owner was trying to take the bat from the cat, the bat bit him on the finger. The bat was a Big Brown Bat, and it tested positive for rabies. The person who was bitten is receiving post-exposure rabies prophylaxis. The cat and its two feline housemates were all up to date on their rabies vaccines but were re-vaccinated after the incident. Consequently, there is no need for these animals to be quarantined since the boosters were administered within 7 days of the incident.

Most of the rabid bats that have been found in New Brunswick have been in the St. John River valley. This is the first one that I’m aware of in the Sussex area. Domestic animals with bat variant rabies have been found elsewhere in the province, e.g., at Balmoral (near Dalhousie) in a cat in 2012 and at Rogersville in a horse in 2004, so bat variant rabies could occur anywhere in the province at any time. In 2017, 6 rabid Big Brown Bats were detected in New Brunswick, the most rabid bats ever in the province in a single calendar year. Four of these were from Fredericton, one was from Keswick Ridge, and one was from Greenfield (near Florenceville). Each of two of the rabid bats detected in 2017 had bitten a person, and one had been in contact with a dog.

While several species of bats (e.g., Little Brown Bat, Tricolored Bat and Northern Long-eared Bat) have had dramatic population crashes associated with White Nose Syndrome, Big Brown Bat populations in New Brunswick are doing very well, possibly because of climate change. This species used to be very rare in New Brunswick and seems to be much less susceptible to White Nose Syndrome than the other species of bats that hibernate in the province. Big Brown Bats often overwinter in homes and public buildings, especially in attics.

Please consider this [email] a friendly reminder that rabies can occur in bats anywhere in New Brunswick at any time of year. Please also remind dog, cat and ferret owners to keep rabies vaccines for their pets up to date, even for those pets that are always or mostly kept indoors. Bats are very adept at entering human dwellings, so pet owners must not be complacent. Also, when rabies vaccines are up to date, there is considerably less risk that domestic animals that have been exposed to rabid animals will have to be quarantined, saving the owners inconvenience and anxiety.”

Dr. Goltz also adds as a reminder that” anyone who has been bitten by a bat or any other wild animal should wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water and promptly seek medical attention.”

The bat variant of rabies has been around a long time, so this is not a surprise, but with more cases being documented, it is good to be kept up to date and aware of any changes. When we receive any bat species for care here at AWI, we follow strict protocols of handling, care and documentation.

The province of New Brunswick has recently set up an improved system to respond to reports in which there has been human or domestic animal contact with a bat. Such reports are to be directed to New Brunswick’s Telecare Line (811). Calls received by this line will be assessed, and any incidents of human or domestic animal contact will evoke a response to retrieve the bat, provided the animal is still available. Under the new system, the first responders will be Rabies Response Operators; these are licensed private Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators who are vaccinated against rabies and have expressed an interest in retrieving specimens for rabies testing. If no Rabies Response Operator in the local area is available, then provincial forest rangers will respond.