Rabies is a fatal disease caused by a virus. It is transmitted through direct contact
of infected mammalian body fluids. The disease is usually spread when an infected animal bites
another animal or person. However, rabies can be spread when infected saliva, or other fluid,
enters an open cut, mouth or eyes. The virus enters the bloodstream and travels to the nervous
system where it replicates. The incubation period of rabies can vary depending on the species
of the animal and the location of the infection site. It is common practise to quarantine a
rabies suspect animal for 10 days. If the animal develops signs of rabies or dies within this
period, brain tissue samples are sent to a laboratory for testing. The animal may have to be
quarantined for a longer period depending on the circumstances. It could take several days or
months for symptoms to appear. A positive diagnosis for rabies can be made only by laboratory
examination of brain and salivary tissues after the death of the animal.
What are the symptoms of Rabies?
Early in the disease, slight temperament or behavioural changes may be observed. As
the disease progresses, the animal may become increasingly agitated or excitable, and may try
to eat unusual objects. The animal may develop trouble swallowing and will drool excessively.
Rabid animals are often extremely aggressive. Seizures may indicate the end stage of the
disease. Other symptoms include: staggering, hind-end paralysis, facial convulsions, attacking
their own body parts and loss of fear around humans.
Which animals are affected by Rabies?
All mammals can be affected by rabies, however, some are more susceptible than others.
For example; foxes, skunks, bats, and raccoons are more likely to infected than squirrels,
rabbits, opossums and domestic animals.
What are the procedures if bitten by an animal?
Anyone who is bitten or scratched by a wild or domestic animal should immediately seek
medical attention and report the incident to Animal Services at 905-896-5858 and the Region of
Peel Health Deaprtment at 905-791-7800. Rabies treatments are only effective if started
immediately following exposure. The same procedure goes for pets that have been attacked by
other animals even if your pet has had rabies vaccinations.
Can Rabies be prevented?
Yearly vaccination of dogs and cats is the best way to reduce human and pet exposure.
A vaccinated pet that encounters a rabid animal has a much better chance of being treated than
an unvaccinated pet. Control of stray animals can decrease the spread of rabies. Contact with
wildlife should be avoided and do not keep wild animals as pets! Never attempt to remove or
re-locate wildlife without consulting a professional. Always report unusual animal behaviour to
the Animal Services Centre.
Is Raccoon Rabies different from other Rabies?
No. Raccoon rabies is the exact same disease as the rabies that effects other animals.
Raccoon rabies is a strain of rabies that is spread mainly by raccoons. All other animals can
be infected with raccoon rabies. Since there is a large raccoon population in this area,
precautions and protective measures are being taken to prevent the spread of this strain of the
disease. The Ministry of Natural Resources has implemented a vaccination program to prevent the
spread of the disease by aerial baiting areas known to house large numbers of raccoons. For
more information on raccoon rabies please contact the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources at
The Bottom Line on Rabies...
The incidence of rabies has dramatically declined since the 1980's. We have gone from
several hundreds of cases of rabies being reported each year to only a few. Public education
and preventative measures can go a long way in keeping this disease under control. For more
information please contact Mississauga Animal Services at 905-896-5000 or email our Education