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Animals Treatment Guide

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that can infect humans, pets, livestock and wildlife. Preventing the disease in animals provides the best means of protection to humans.

Under Indiana law, all dogs, cats and ferrets older than 3 months of age must be vaccinated against the rabies virus. State law allows the use of 1-year and 3-year vaccines according to approved label directions. (NOTE: Some localities throughout the state may have stricter local laws.) The vaccine must be administered by a licensed and accredited veterinarian or under the direct supervision of a licensed and accredited veterinarian.

Pet Exposure

If a pet has been bitten, scratched, or in a fight with another aniamal:

  1. Wear gloves to handle the exposed pet.
  2. Wash the wound immediately with soap and running water for at least 10 minutes.
  3. See a veterinarian immediately, even for minor wounds. Vaccinated pets will need a booster dose of rabies vaccine within 96 hours. Unvaccinated animals exposed to a known or suspected rabid animal must be confined for four months or humanely destroyed.
  4. If the biting animal can be captured or confined without risking further injury or exposure, do so. Or contact local animal control authorities for assistance.
  5. Do not destroy the bitten or biting animals. Either may need to be quarantined and observed for signs of illness or tested for the rabies virus.

Learn About Protecting Pets

Who to call?

Human ExposureCounty Health Dept.
State Health Dept.
County Health Departments
Animal ExposureBOAH317-544-2400
Wildlife QuestionsIndiana Department of Natural Resources(877) 463-6367

Veterinarians and Local Health Officials

Updates to Indiana's Rabies Control Program: Veterinary Advisory (28 August 2017)

2016 Compendium on Animal Rabies Control
NOTE: The 2016 Rabies Compendium was adopted by the Board of Animal Health in 2017 with the exception of part 2.

March 1, 2016; Rabies Compendium Changes Memorandum

The Ins and Outs of Rabies

  1. Rabies virus usually enters the dog's body through a bite wound inflicted by an infected animal and then replicates in muscle cells near the entry point.
  2. Over a period of days or weeks, the virus spreads to motor nerves (which regulate movement of skeletal muscles) and then heads for the central nervous system. (Post exposure rabies vaccinations are effective only if administered before the virus reaches nerve cells.)
  3. The virus replicates further in spinal cord nerve cells and then spreads throughout the nervous system causing progressive paralysis and eventually leading to coma and death. When the virus enters the brain, the notorious "mad dog" behavior begins.
  4. If and when the virus reaches the salivary glands (often at about the time the central nervous system), it can be transmitted to other animals.

Signs and Symptoms

Rabies in animals can take a variety of forms, but a common prodromal feature is a change in behavior. Normally docile animals may become aggressive, and vice versa. Animals may next progress through a "furious" phase and then a "paralytic" phase, although not all rabid animals exhibit all of the stages. The appearance of nocturnal animals such as raccoons and skunks during daylight hours and without fear of humans may indicate rabies infection. It is possible for an animal, especially a wild animal, to be infected and not show any obvious clinical signs.

Incubation Period

The incubation period in animals varies. In dogs, it is usually 3 to 8 weeks, although incubation periods longer than 4 months have been reported.

Additional Rabies Information

Guidelines for Pet Confinement

One essential component of effective rabies control is the management of dogs and cats known to or suspected to have been exposed to rabid (or suspect rabid) animal, or to have bitten or exposed a person. Based upon the circumstances involved in the bite and the vaccination status of the animal involved, one of the following quarantine plans will be required at the discretion of the animal control officer involved.

Quarantine Plans

A. Close Observation

  • Animal shall be kept on owner's premises.
  • Owner shall be informed of potential rabies.
  • Owner shall be required to notify enforcing agency of unusual behavior or change in health status of pet.

B. Strict Confinement

  • Animal shall be kept on designated property - in the house, garage, or other escape-proof building or enclosure approved by the local director of health.
  • Animal shall be leash-walked under immediate control of an adult on property designated for confinement.
  • Owner shall be informed of potential rabies and given instructions in writing.
  • Owner is required to notify immediately enforcing agency of unusual behavior or change in health status of pet.

C. Quarantine

  • Animal shall be confined off owner's property in a designated facility, i.e., animal shelter, veterinary hospital or qualified commercial kennel.
  • Strict quarantine on owner premises shall be possible at discretion of animal control.
  • In case of death of quarantined animal, contact local animal control or health official. DO NOT DISPOSE OF ANIMAL

Facility used for quarantine shall:

  • Ensure an escape-proof environment which prevents human and other animal contact.
  • Be verifiable (i.e., subject to unannounced periodic spot checks by the animal control or local health department).
    • Outside cage with double walls (must be sufficient housing to shelter animal from the weather).
    • Indoor cage
      • Since the walls of the main building serve as a second barrier, indoor may be single-walled.
      • An example of a cat confinement pen is shown in Figure 1 although it is recommended that these dimensions be significantly enlarged to provide more comfort for the animal.
      • Some sort of divider system as illustrated in Figure 2 (to exclude positively any human contact) is recommended in very high-risk cases (i.e., unvaccinated animal bitten by known or highly suspected rabies vector).
      • Enclosing part of a basement, indoor porch, or recreation room which has windows available for health department officials to monitor confinement compliance is acceptable.

When the exposed animal is unvaccinated, euthanasia is recommended. Alternatively, the owner has the option of arranging for a 4-month strict confinement. Confinement must be strict because of the special public health risks associated with these animals (i.e., those potentially incubating rabies), and the need to prevent human and other animal exposures from occurring should rabies symptoms develop.