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Rabies: Animal Testing

The information below is for health professionals. Information for the general public about how to handle an animal bite or scratch can be found on our Animal Bite webpage.


Diagnostic Testing

The Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH) is the only facility in the state that performs rabies diagnostic testing on animal specimens. Because of their frequent contact with humans, domestic pets constitute the majority of animals submitted for testing. However, the two primary wildlife reservoirs, bats and skunks, have a much greater chance of being positive for rabies.

More details on specimen submissions can be found on the WSLH website.

Submitters of rabies specimens should note the following:

  • The entire brain, including brainstem, must be submitted. Typically the entire head is submitted. For animals that are squirrel-sized or smaller, the entire animal may be submitted, but larger animals must be decapitated.
  • The specimen must be shipped on cold packs for next day (i.e., overnight) delivery. Do not freeze. The WSLH has special mailing containers available for rabies specimens.
  • Specimens that arrive on Saturdays prior to 12:30 p.m. will be accepted and stored for testing the following Monday unless prior arrangement for weekend testing have been made through the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health, Communicable Disease Epidemiology Section.
  • The fee for the rabies test is currently $194, but the fee can be waived by the local health department if there is a human or domestic animal exposure from a species that is considered a possible rabies reservoir. For owned animals, the owner is responsible for the cost of euthanasia, specimen preparation, and overnight submission.
Last revised July 28, 2021