raccoon in pond

Wildlife Rabies Information

Why is wildlife rabies vaccination so important? 

In the United States, populations of raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats maintain the rabies virus in nature. Bite wounds from these species transmit the rabies virus in saliva to unvaccinated pets and other domestic animals. In Puerto Rico, mongooses and bats are the rabies virus reservoirs.

During 2021, five human rabies cases were reported in the United States, three of which involved direct contact with bats.2 In 2019, 4,690 cases of rabies were reported in animals, of which 91% were in wildlife.1

The estimated public health cost of rabies in the United States is $245 million to $510 million annually. This estimate is based on available data on costs associated with the vaccination of companion animals (dogs and cats), national rabies diagnostic testing, and rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). However, the total expenditures on rabies — accounting for associated healthcare costs, animal control measures and time lost from work — is much greater

With RABORAL V-RG®, your local public health officials have the ability to vaccinate raccoons and coyotes against rabies. This indirectly reduces the potential exposure to and infection of pets, livestock and humans.

Frequently Asked Questions About Rabies

What is rabies?

Rabies is an infectious disease of warm-blooded animals, including man. The rabies virus is thought to have originated in bats. The virus survives only in living animals and does not exist in the environment. The virus does not infect birds or cold-blooded creatures such as reptiles and amphibians. Although small mammals, such as rabbits, squirrels and mice, can be infected with rabies, these species are considered a low risk for transmitting the disease.

How does rabies spread?

The rabies virus is most often transmitted to a new host via a bite or scratch wound contaminated with fresh saliva. The saliva of a rabies-infected animal contains virus particles which enter the nerve cells within the bite wound and begin to multiply. The virus then migrates to the central nervous system, infecting the brain, and eventually being excreted via the salivary glands. Globally, bite wounds inflicted by unvaccinated dogs result in more than 60,000 human deaths each year. In the United States and other countries where canine rabies is under control, terrestrial wildlife species (such as foxes, raccoons, and skunks) and bats serve as rabies virus reservoirs. In the US human rabies exposures involving wildlife variants most often occur indirectly through contact with infected unvaccinated domestic species (cats, dogs, cattle or horses) or following a minor bite from a bat and not seeking prompt medical care. The rabies virus can also be spread by aerosol (saliva droplets in the air) in caves inhabited by bat colonies containing infected bats.

Is rabies deadly to humans?

Yes, while extremely rare in the United States, human deaths due to rabies are still common in countries having roaming dog populations. Travelers are often unaware that in certain countries, the risk of rabies exposure, even from what appear to be pet dogs, can be very high. Thus, it is very important to seek out post-exposure treatment at a hospital if ANY animal bites you, especially while traveling outside the United States.

Post-exposure treatments for humans are no longer a series of abdominal injections, and these treatments are very successful in preventing rabies if begun immediately after exposure. Additionally, bat bites are very small and can remain undetected. Handling bats without proper precautions increases the odds of an exposure risk to bat rabies.

Do not touch bats or wild animals that appear to be sick or injured. Call local Animal Control or the Department of Natural Resources to remove them. Do not spread rabies by moving wild animals to new locations. Report nuisance wildlife or other animals to a licensed animal removal service. Capturing and moving wildlife is against the law in many states.

How are humans infected?

In the United States, humans are most often infected by rabid bats. Infected domestic animals including cats, dogs, horses and cattle can also transmit rabies to humans. Vaccinating pets against rabies is important to reduce their risk of being infected, but also indirectly protects humans as well.

What should I do if I suspect a human or animal is infected?

If you or a family member is bitten or scratched by an unknown pet or wild animal, immediately and thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water, and contact your doctor or emergency room for further instructions. All animal bites, including those from vaccinated pets, should be treated seriously and should be reported to a physician. State laws require quarantine and observation of the dog or cat that inflicted the bite and rabies testing of the wild animal, if it is available.

How do I keep my pet safe from infection?

Ask your veterinarian to immunize your dog or cat against rabies, and encourage your neighbors to vaccinate their pets. Laws in each state require regular rabies vaccination of pets. To learn how these laws apply in your state, please contact your local veterinarian.

Report stray animals to local police or animal control officers. Call your veterinarian if your pet is bitten or scratched by a wild or stray animal. Even if your pet is vaccinated, it is important to report potential rabies exposures. Public health officials often require quarantine of vaccinated dogs or euthanasia and rabies testing of non-vaccinated animals.

What can I do to protect my family from rabies and show support for wildlife rabies programs?

The first thing you can do is educate yourself and your loved ones about rabies. Secondly, vaccinate your family’s pets (dogs and cats) against rabies, and encourage your neighbors to do the same. Support responsible pet ownership and rabies control efforts in your community. Report stray animals to local police or Animal Control officers. If your pet is bitten by a stray animal or wildlife, consult with your veterinarian.

For additional information, investigate the Resources page of this website and refer to the USDA National Rabies Management Program to see if your state has an active wildlife rabies baiting program underway. Contact your members of Congress, and communicate your interest and support of wildlife rabies control efforts in the United States.


1 Ma X, Monroe B, Wallace R, et al. Rabies surveillance in the United States during 2019. JAVMA

2 HHS – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC reports increase in human rabies cases linked to bats in the United States. 2022. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2022/p0106-human-rabies.html. Accessed Feb. 1, 2022.


RABORAL V-RG® is a registered trademark of Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health France, used under license. ©2022 Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., Duluth, GA. All Rights Reserved.