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Rabies in Ontario

By June 9, 2017 February 28th, 2019 Uncategorized

In 2016, there were 288 cases of rabies confirmed in Ontario compared to 24 in 2015. The map identifies areas where positive rabies cases have been found, using information reported by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Cases of raccoon strain rabies were initially confirmed in the Hamilton area. Ontario wildlife officers (had to) blitz parts of Hamilton in an effort to contain the first case of raccoon rabies in the province in nearly a decade after two dogs were exposed to the virus in 2015 after a fight in the back of an animal services van.  This had been the first case of the raccoon rabies strain found in Ontario since 2005. The fox rabies strain hadn’t been detected in Ontario since 2010, while bat rabies remains in small pockets in the province.”

The Ontario government is working closely with local public health units and municipal governments, as well as animal shelters, licensed wildlife trappers, wildlife custodians and animal control services, to manage rabies in wildlife.

Rabies control in wildlife

In response to confirmed cases of rabies, as well as part of planned operations, the Ontario government distributes baits for foxes, raccoons and skunks to eat. ( ) The ministry, which is responsible for wildlife rabies research and management programs in Ontario, said that its bait drop program is one of the most successful rabies control programs in North America.  The bait is a small rectangular packet a little larger than the size of a loonie, filled with the rabies vaccine that is absorbed through the lining of the mouth. Flavored with vanilla, baits immunize most skunks, foxes and raccoons that eat them.  The baits are khaki green with a toll-free rabies information line number stamped on them – 1-888-574-6656.  Animals are immunized against rabies about two weeks after they either chew or swallow the bait. The ministry asks people not to disturb baits if they see them.If you find a bait packet in an area where it shouldn’t be – such as your backyard – don’t open it, the ministry warns. Place a plastic bag over your hand to keep your scent off the bait, then move it to an area, such as a bush, where wildlife may find it.  If livestock or a pet eats one bait packet, they may get an upset stomach but there’s no need to worry, the ministry says. But if they eat more than one, call your veterinarian in Markham.

In Canada, the most common rabies carriers are:

  • raccoons
  • skunks
  • foxes
  • bats

Rabid animals may:

  • lose their fear of humans
  • gnaw at their own limbs
  •  be extremely excited, and aggressive or depressed and agitated
  •  attack objects or other animals
  •  froth at the mouth, have abnormal facial expressions, drooping head, sagging jaw because of partial paralysis
  •  bite at anything

Rabies in the province

Wildlife rabies cases in the province had been reduced by more than 99% since rabies control programs began.  The most important thing we can do is keep domestic dogs inoculated and keep watch for suspicious animal.  At the Animal Hospital of Unionville your cat or dog can be vaccinated as soon as it’s 3 months old and must be kept up-to-date for it’s entire life.  Rabies vaccines used in Canada protect pets from all strains of rabies in North America.  The veterinarians in Markham remind you that you may be fined if your pet is not vaccinated for rabies.


The number of rabid fox cases has dropped significantly over the past couple of decades. Prior to 2016, the last rabid fox reported in the province was in 2009.  However in some areas of the province you will still see warnings such as “if you see a fox or wolf wandering around the community, or if your dog has had contact with a fox or wolf call the Conservation/Bylaw Officer immediately”.


Raccoons can pick up various strains of rabies, but they are most susceptible to the raccoon strain. Until cases were found in December, 2015, Ontario had been free of raccoon strain rabies since 2005.  As of the end of 2016, the number of animals that had tested positive for the disease in the Hamilton area alone had risen to 127 with officials still carefully testing dead animals to ensure the spread of the disease has been contained.


In Ontario, skunks primarily carry the Ontario fox strain. There were no rabid skunks identified in Ontario in 2013. However in 2016 there were 84 cases, 76 of them in the Hamilton area.


Rabid bats accounted for 27 of the 28 rabies cases in 2013 and in 2016, 29 of the 288 cases were bats.  As bats in Canada are insectivores, no efficient way of vaccinating them has yet been found.

Contact with rabies

If you think you’ve been exposed to rabies, see a doctor or contact your local public health unit.

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Dr. Ernst Marsig, veterinarian in Markham

Practicing Veterinary Medicine in Markham for a Long and Happy Life of ALL Your Pets. 

Animal Hospital of Unionville, a veterinary clinic on the north side of Hwy 7, serving all pets in Markham, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Stouffville, and North York since 1966. We are your family vets for dogs, cats, pocket pets (rabbits, chinchillas, gerbils, mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, skinny pigs, etc.), ferrets, and birds (budgies, cockatiel, parrots, amazon, cockatoo, love birds, conures, African greys, finches, canaries, etc.).

Disclaimer: No part of this website constitutes medical advice. Readers are advised to consult with their veterinarian.

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