What Should I Do If My Pet and I Encounter a Deceased Bat?

Due to recent stories in the news about rabies, the team at Van Isle Veterinary Hospital have been getting several calls from concerned pet owners about vaccinating their pets. The most common question is, “What should I do if I encounter a deceased bat or believe my pet has been exposed to a deceased bat?”

When it comes to rabies, there are particular reasons why we recommend vaccinating, even for pet’s who only live here in the Comox Valley.

Rabies is a viral disease that exists worldwide and is transmitted by bite wounds or saliva. It affects the nervous system of mammals, including humans. Humans can contract the rabies virus from a dog or cat, and as per the BCCDC website, dogs are responsible for most of the human cases worldwide. Once symptoms start to show, death is certain. It is why it is important that we are made aware of its existence and do our part as responsible pet owners to keep our area “low risk” by vaccinating our pets. Although the prevalence of rabies on Vancouver Island is considered low, we recently had a rabies positive bat identified from the Denman Island area after being sent to the BC Centre for Disease Control last week. It is not a common finding for Vancouver Island (present in less than 1% of our bat population) but a good reminder that rabies can be found here and this is not a new virus to the Island.

Rabies is only present in our bat population here on Vancouver Island (<1%) and in the rest of BC. We thankfully don’t have rabies in raccoons, skunks or foxes like the rest of Canada. However, there is still a risk, as illustrated in 2003 when a BC resident died of rabies from contact with a rabid (infected) bat and the most recent tragic death reported this past month on Vancouver Island. It’s a serious and deadly disease that can affect both pets and people, which is one of the reasons we often bring it to your attention.

The BC Centre for Disease Control has great information for the public on steps to take when handling a deceased bat as well as living with bats. Remember, bats play an important role in our ecosystem. However, as with all wildlife, we need to respect some of the dangers they can impose when we encounter them. You should never pick up or touch a deceased bat before contacting public health or the BCCDC for proper handling and disposal instructions. The BCCDC website also lists what is recommended for booster vaccinations, if you are concerned that your pet has been exposed to a deceased bat. Typically, in most cases, it is recommended that your pet’s rabies vaccination be boosted after exposure, even if vaccine status is up-to-date. A booster vaccination is recommended within seven days of exposure.

Another serious reason for discussing rabies vaccination is that should your animal ever bite someone, you could be asked to provide proof of rabies vaccination as this is a zoonotic disease. In these scenarios, if your pet is not up to date on its rabies vaccination, you may be asked to quarantine your pet. It can be a stressful time for both the pet and pet owner, which could have been avoided had your pet been vaccinated against rabies.

Prevention is the best medicine, and by keeping your pets’ rabies vaccination up to date, you are helping to keep the prevalence of rabies in our beautiful area of Canada low. If you have any questions, give us a call at 250-334-8400.

Written by: Van Isle Veterinary Hospital