Information about rabies in Ontario, and what to do if you think you’ve come into contact with rabies.

What is rabies?

Rabies is caused by a virus that can infect any mammal, including humans. Birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish do not get rabies. In infected mammals, the virus is found in saliva and can be spread through three main ways:

  • Bites that break the skin
  • Getting infected saliva in an open cut, sore, or other wound
  • Getting infected saliva in the mouth, nose, or eyes

The animals that most often transmit rabies in Ontario are bats, foxes, skunks and raccoons. Once signs of rabies appear, in any animal, the disease is virtually always fatal. A series of vaccinations and treatment with rabies antibodies can prevent infection in humans in most cases if administered soon after exposure.

New Rabies Immunization Requirements

Animal owners should be aware of changes made to Ontario Regulation 567-Rabies Immunization under the Health Protection Act. These changes apply to all of Ontario.

Starting July 1, 2018:

  • Owners must ensure that all cats, dogs and ferrets three months of age or over are immunized against rabies;
  • Owners of horses, cows, bulls, steer, calves, or sheep must ensure that these animals are immunized against rabies unless

• the animals are only accessible by the person(s) responsible for the care and control of these animals or

• where the only time the animal is accessible by persons other than the persons described above is when the animal is at a seasonal agricultural fair including those held by an agricultural society constituted under the Agricultural and Horticultural Organizations Act, unless the animal is part of an interactive display such as a petting zoo.

The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care has provided a Q&A to clarify livestock requirements. If you have further questions, please call your local public health office and speak with a Public Health Inspector. 

More information on:

As a precaution, if bitten or scratched by any animal:

  • Immediately wash the affected area(s) thoroughly with soap and water (first aid). Apply an antiseptic to the wound(s).
  • Seek medical attention from a physician.
  • Notify your local Health Department and provide information to assist in locating and identifying the animal.
  • If the animal is located, a domestic animal (dog, cat, and ferret) is confined for a 10-day observation period to determine if it had rabies virus in its saliva at the time of the bite. Livestock are confined for a 14-day observation period. Wild animals will be euthanized and tested for rabies.
  • If the animal dies during the confinement period, it will be tested for rabies. 

If the animal is not located, the victim will be advised to consult with their doctor concerning post-exposure anti-rabies treatment. Rabies, if untreated, is a fatal disease. 

Immunization: Rabies vaccine

Rabies vaccine protects people after they have been licked, bitten or scratched by an animal with rabies. For more information, click here

Who should get the rabies vaccine?

Anyone who has been bitten, scratched or licked on an open wound or sore by an animal suspected of having rabies should get this vaccine.

Who should I talk to if I have any questions about this vaccine?

Talk to your doctor or call your local public health unit for more information.