Recommendations for Precautionary Confinement Period (PCP) for potential rabies exposure of a domestic animal - Dogs

General Information

Purpose of the PCP

If an animal has been exposed to rabies, there is a risk it may go on to develop rabies infection and start shedding the virus in its saliva, at which point it becomes infectious to other animals and people.

When a domestic animal is suspected of having been exposed to rabies, it is the responsibility of the animal's owner or caretaker to keep the animal confined and under observation for the prescribed period of risk. The primary goals of the precautionary confinement period (PCP) are:

  • To rapidly detect any behavioural changes or signs of illness in the animal consistent with rabies infection.
  • To minimize the risk of exposure of people (and other animals) to the confined animal during the period of risk, including the animal's caretaker(s).

Signs of rabies

  • Rabies causes inflammation of the brain. Signs of infection are therefore primarily neurological in nature, but may vary dramatically in from case to case.
  • Behavioral changes in animals are often noted first, and may range from becoming lethargic and depressed, to becoming increasingly anxious or aggressive.
  • Other signs may include reduced ability to swallow (resulting in excessive drooling), abnormal vocalization (strange bark/meow), or incoordination (resulting in wobbling or difficulty walking).
  • Once signs of rabies develop, the disease typically progresses very rapidly (over 7-10 days) and invariably leads to death. There is no cure or treatment for rabies in animals.

Transmission of rabies

  • Animals with rabies are most infectious when they are showing signs of disease (see above). However, they can infect people or animals for a few days before signs of disease develop, so even if the animal looks normal, it is important to avoid contact that could result in virus transmission.
  • Rabies virus is transmitted by contact with saliva. Bites are the highest risk, but licking or other contact of saliva with broken skin or the nose / mouth / eyes is also a possible route of transmission. Virus is not present in urine, feces or blood.
  • Rabies virus does not survive well in the environment, outside of animals or people. Dried saliva (e.g. on toys, food bowls, other surfaces) is therefore not a risk, but the virus can be preserved in the environment by freezing.

Recommendations - Dogs

Limiting contact with people on the property

  • Contact with and care of the dog should be limited to the smallest number of adults possible (ideally only 1-2 people). These individuals are the primary caretakers.
    • Social contact (e.g. petting, play) with the caretaker is still important for the dog's well-being, but high-risk contact (i.e. with saliva, see above) must be avoided.
    • The caretakers are responsible for assessing the dog for any abnormal behaviour or signs of illness each time before they have contact with the animal.
    • When the caretakers are sleeping, the dog must be separated from them by a solid barrier (e.g. door) to prevent unintended contact.
  • Because animal behaviour can be unpredictable, there should always be a solid barrier (e.g. door) between the dog and anyone other than the primary caretakers, including household members who are not primary caretakers, any visitors and especially children.
    • The dog should have a designated primary confinement area (e.g. an enclosed room or area with a solid door, or large crate) where the dog can be kept when necessary to prevent contact with non-caretakers or access to exterior doors (see below)
    • The dog may be in contact with any other pets in the household that are currently vaccinated for rabies. However, rough play or other high-risk contact should be discouraged.
    • If the dog has direct contact with any person other than the primary caretakers, or an animal outside the household, record the person's or animal owner's name and contact information, along with the date and type of contact (e.g. touched, licked, bitten, scratched). All animal-to-human bites must be reported as soon as possible to the local Public Health Unit.

Preventing contact with people off the property

  • The dog must remain on the property at all times unless it requires medical attention at a veterinary clinic (including post-exposure rabies vaccination).
    • The caretakers must inform the veterinary clinic prior to arrival so that precautions can be taken to minimize contact risks. Clinic staff should inform OMAFRA if there is any concern that the animal's clinical signs may be related to rabies infection.
  • The dog should be kept indoors at all times, except for elimination activities.
    • The dog should only be taken out on leash and in an enclosed area (e.g. fenced yard). If no such area is available, then the dog should be double leashed and muzzled if there is any risk of contact with other people or animals while outdoors.
    • The dog should not have direct access to any exterior door or window through which it could accidentally escape, including when people are entering or exiting.

Case Information (OMAFRA File #)

Dog under PCP (for multiple animals, provide information under additional notes)

  • Description (name, sex, age, breed, colour):
  • Date (MM/YY) of last vaccination prior to exposure: __1 yr / __3 yr / __unk
  • Date of post-exposure vaccination:
  • Date of potential rabies exposure:
  • Offending animal suspected of rabies: __bat / __raccoon / __skunk / __fox / __________
  • Status of offending animal: __not tested / __tested unfit / __tested positive for rabies
  • Recommended duration of PCP: __3 months / __6 months (check one)
  • PCP end date:

PCP details

  • Address for PCP:
  • Primary confinement area for dog:
  • Primary caretaker(s) (name and phone # and/or email):
    • X
    • X
  • PCP recommendations provided by: __email / __hardcopy / __verbal / ________________
  • Date of receipt of PCP recommendations by primary caretaker(s):

Veterinary clinic (name and phone #):

Public health unit (name and phone #):

OMAFRA Agricultural Information Contact Centre: 1-877-424-1300

OMAFRA file contact:

Additional Notes (If Required):

Microchip # (if available):

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (revised Jul-2020)


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca