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Recommendations and Guidelines for Rabies Post- Exposure Management of Dogs & Cats

Recommendations and Guidelines for

Rabies Post-Exposure Management of Dogs and Cats


Effective October 25, 2016, Albemarle Regional Health Services will adhere to the recommendations and guidelines for rabies post-exposure management of dogs and cats specified by the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians in the 2016 Edition of the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control. The provisions of the Compendium are the required control measures pursuant to North Carolina General Statute 130A-197.

Pre-exposure Vaccination and Management

  1. Initial Vaccination

  • Within 28 days, a peak rabies virus antibody is expected and the animal can be considered immunized.

  1. Regardless of age at initial vaccination, a booster vaccination should be administered one year later.

  • An animal currently vaccinated is considered immunized immediately after booster.

Post-exposure Management

Management of an animal exposed to a confirmed or suspected rabid animal.

  1. Dog or cat exposed, which is currently vaccinated for rabies prevention, should first receive a veterinary medical assessment, wound cleansing, and booster vaccination, and kept under owner’s control and observed for 45 days.

  2. Dog or cat exposed, which is NOT currently vaccinated for rabies prevention and is OVERDUE for a booster vaccination, but does have appropriate documentation, should first receive a veterinary medical assessment, wound cleansing, and booster vaccination, and kept under owner’s control and observed for 45 days. If the booster is delayed, the health director may extend the observation time.

  3. Dogs or cats that have never been vaccinated should be euthanized immediately.

    • If the owner is unwilling to euthanize the animal, the animal should be placed in strict quarantine for four months.

    • A rabies vaccination should be administered at the time of entry into quarantine.

    • If animal cannot be vaccinated within 96 hours (four days), the quarantine should be increased from four months to six months.

  4. Exposed dogs and cats that are OVERDUE for a booster vaccination and WITHOUT appropriate documentation of having received a rabies vaccine at least once previously should receive immediate veterinary medical care for assessment, wound cleansing. Consult with health director. Options then include treating the animal as if never vaccinated and placing on quarantine or, prior to providing a booster vaccination, blood samples can be taken, at the owner’s expense, for a lab test to determine if vaccine has in fact been administered previously. Next steps will be determined based on those results.

Management of Animals that Bite Humans

  1. Regardless of vaccination status, a healthy dog or cat that exposes a person should be confined and observed for 10 days from the time of exposure.

  2. Administration of rabies vaccination is not recommended during the observation period so as not to confuse signs of rabies with rare adverse vaccine reactions.

Contact your local Health Department at 338-4400 with questions or concerns.