There’s a Bat in the House – Now What?
June 21, 2016
Every summer we get a handful of calls about potential rabies exposure for pets, but for some reason I am fielding more than usual. In Minnesota, the species of concern for rabies exposure are skunks and bats. Generally, skunks are easy to avoid. The most common scenarios involve a bat getting in the house; either a pet owner comes home or wakes up to a live bat in the house or find that a pet has caught a bat. It isn’t common knowledge what to do in this situation, so let’s review!
Bats are problematic because they can and do enter our homes (including condos and apartments!) accidentally. Also, our native bats have very small teeth, making it difficult to tell if anyone was even bitten. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) therefore recommends any encounter be treated as a potential exposure.
What should you do in this situation? The biggest mistake that people make is throwing a dead bat away or letting a live bat outside. You should keep or capture the bat for rabies testing, which is done at the diagnostic laboratory at the University of Minnesota. MDH has tips for capturing bats on their website at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/rabies/rabies.html. Also, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health has a rabies hotline at 651-201-6808 for any further questions.
In case of pet exposure, if the animal the pet was exposed to is available for testing and tests negative, no further action should be needed. If the animal is not available for testing, in the state of Minnesota a pet whose vaccine is up to date must have the rabies vaccine boosted within 3 days of exposure and be kept confined (home quarantine is typically acceptable) for 45 days for observation for any signs of rabies. It is very important to ensure that your pets’ rabies vaccinations are kept up to date unless there is a medical contraindication, because pets who have never been vaccinated for rabies may be required to be euthanized and tested. Pets who have had rabies vaccine but are not up to date are treated on a case by case basis; often they are re-vaccinated and quarantined for a much longer period of time (up to 180 days), but may be euthanized.
In case of human exposure, call the rabies hotline and your doctor.
As usual, if you have any questions please feel free to call the clinic and speak to one of the doctors!
-Karen Christopherson, DVM CVA