Table 1

Rabies postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) guide

Dogs, cats, and ferretsHealthy and available for 10-d observationPEP should not be initiated unless animal develops clinical signs of rabies*
Rabid or suspected to be rabidStart PEP immediately
Unknown or escaped
Skunks, raccoons, foxes, bats, and other carnivoresConsider rabid unless proven negative by laboratory testsStart PEP immediately
Livestock, rodents, lagomorphs (rabbits and hares), and other mammalsConsider individuallyBites of squirrels, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rats, mice, other small rodents, rabbits, and hares almost never require PEP unless behaviour of animal was highly unusual
  • * During the 10-d observation period, consult a veterinarian and the public health department if any sign of illness develops in the animal that might be consistent with rabies. If it is determined that the animal is exhibiting clinical signs of rabies, the exposed victim should be started on PEP and the animal should be immediately euthanized and sent for testing to confirm the diagnosis. Consider starting PEP immediately if the bite wound is to the head and neck region.

  • If a bat is found in a room where someone was sleeping unattended or where the person sleeping was an infant, a child, impaired, or mentally challenged, risk of exposure should be assumed to be high, and the local public health unit should be contacted.

  • If available, the animal should be euthanized and tested as soon as possible. Holding for observation is not recommended. Discontinue PEP if laboratory test results of the animal are negative for rabies.

  • Adapted from the Canadian Immunization Guide, 7th edition, and the Guidelines for Management of Suspected Rabies Exposures.1,3