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Dog playing with a bat - rabies?

Species: Dog
Breed: mixed
Age: Less than 3 mon
My new puppy 7 weeks old has just has a few of his early shots. He was just in the yard playing...after a few minutes I found him playing with a bat that was dead. Can he get rabies? Is there anything we should do? I have to run out for an hour. Thanks...I may have to log back in.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Thanks for your question about Leo. I would highly recommend contacting your local health unit. If you are not sure of the number you can call either your veterinarian or the hospital.

Do you still have the body of the bat? In most areas, the health unit will come out and pick up the bat and test it for rabies.

We used to think that 10% of bats carry rabies. However, just yesterday I wrote an article about a new study that showed that this number is actually less than 1 per cent.

The way that a bat can transmit rabies is through the saliva. So, if the bat had bitten Leo then there is likely a one in one hundred chance that rabies was transmitted.

Rabies is definitely something to take seriously. Leo would not have had a rabies vaccine yet as it is not effective in dogs unless given after 3 months of age, so we wait until that time to give it.

While I think it is extremely unlikely that Leo has gotten rabies, here are some things to look for:
  • Unusual Aggressive behavior

  • Ataxia (i.e. walking like he is drunk)

  • Seizures

  • Lack of appetite

  • Difficulty opening jaw

  • Excess drooling



The symptoms of rabies usually come on within 2-10 days of exposure. So, keep a close eye on him at this time.

If you think there are any of these symptoms then don't take any chances. Please take him to a vet right away. If he is aggressive towards you then you may need to call your vet for help in how to handle him. If a dog with rabies bites a person it can be fatal.

Unfortunately there is no test for rabies that can be done on Leo. The only test is to examine brain tissue which is something that can only be done on deceased animals.

Again, it is very unlikely that he has rabies. Hopefully you can have the bat tested. And if you have concerns then contact your vet right away.

I hope all is well!

Dr. Marie.


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.