Results are available the same day for samples received before 11:30 am.

Submissions for Rabies Examination

Please use the VDL Rabies Examination Submission Form when submitting samples for rabies virus testing.   Provide a complete history and indicate clearly if human exposure is involved.  The absence of a complete history may delay the rabies examination until the laboratory can compile and verify the necessary information. 

Information to be provided includes:

  1. Name of submitting veterinarian or physician.
  2. The species of animal submitted and any pertinent description.
  3. The name of the person making the request or the name of the person exposed.
  4. Human exposure: please indicate clearly if human exposure is involved, the date of exposure and route of exposure.

Rabies Specimens

The entire euthanized animal, chilled (not frozen), should be delivered by private carrier.  Alternatively, submit the intact head, properly sealed to prevent leakage, and identified as a rabies suspect.

To safely prepare a rabies head:

  1. Remove the head by disarticulation of the occipito-atlantal joint.  Gloves, face, and eye protection are recommended for this procedure.
  2. Refrigerate and package in a leak-proof container with refrigerant packs.
  3. Deliver by private or commercial carrier with the package identified as "Rabies Suspect".
  4. Rabies suspects should be euthanized prior to delivery to the VDL, only in exceptional cases and with prior notice should a live animal be submitted.

Note: A complete cross-section of both the cerebellum and the brainstem submitted as fresh, refrigerated tissue are required for valid rabies testing per the CDC guidelines.

Rabies Test Procedures

  1. Results are available the same day if received before 11:30 am.  Samples received after noon may be tested on the next business day.
  2. After-hours submissions to the ISU Vet Diagnostic Lab can now be placed directly in a refrigerator located inside the VDL submission door foyer.  Click here for complete instructions.
  3. Emergency and weekend rabies test service for animals that have potentially exposed humans is provided by the University Hygienic Laboratory (800-421-4692) in Iowa City. The UHL is a state-codified lab for rabies testing and provides 7 days/week, 24 hours/day service for rabies testing at no charge. For the State Hygenic Lab Rabies submission form and more specific info, see their website at http://www.shl.uiowa.edu/kitsquotesforms/rabiesslip.pdf.

Additional test requests (if rabies testing is negative)

If additional testing is requested, it will not be performed on a rabies suspect case until the rabies examination is completed. This will usually cause a one-day delay. For this reason, it is important that the carcass and tissues be handled correctly if the differential diagnosis includes agents in addition to rabies virus. This includes assuring that a complete cross-section of both the cerebellum and the brainstem submitted as fresh, refrigerated tissue. Representative portions of adjacent tissue can be submitted in formalin but do NOT submit an entire ½ of brain in formalin.

Rabies Reporting

  1. Rabies results will always be reported the same day tested.
    • Samples received before 11:30 am: results are available the same day after 4:30pm. They will be sent to the submittor via email, fax or phone per the submission form request.
    • Samples received after 11:30 am: may be tested on the next business day.
  2. In all cases, a final report will be provided to the submitter as specified on the submission form.

Rabies Results

  1. Negative
  2. Positive
  3. Inconclusive rabies results: results are reported “inconclusive” when as per CDC guidelines any of the two parts submitted are incomplete or missing and the Rabies result is Negative.
  4. Unsuitable rabies results: cases are reported as "unsuitable" when autolysis is evident and the FA test result is negative.

Rabies Disease Links

For more information on rabies including prevention, control, epidemiology data, etc, please check the following websites:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 

ISU Center for Food Security and Public Health Rabies information

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics - Bat Rabies

IA Dept of Public Health - Rabies information

Rabies Resources Manual - For Veterinarians, Animal Control and Law Enforcement


VDL rabies submission form

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 

IA Dept of Public Health - Rabies homepage