Submissions for Rabies Examination

The ISU VDL offers rabies testing to the general public for a fee. (ISU VDL Fee Schedule)

Requests for emergency rabies testing on weekends and during university holidays must be communicated to the after-hours emergency service by calling 515-290-1969 to get permission for testing and to inform us of the expected arrival of the specimen by mail, UPS, or delivery. Click here for complete instructions.

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. 

Results are available the same day for samples received before 12 p.m. (noon) on regular business days.

Information to be provided includes:

  • The name of the person making the request or the name of the person exposed.
  • The species of animal submitted and any pertinent description.
  • Human exposure: please indicate clearly if human exposure is involved, the date of exposure, and the route of exposure (bite, etc).
  • Name of submitting veterinarian or physician (if available)

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:

  • Remove the head by disarticulation of the occipito-atlantal joint. Gloves, face, and eye protection are recommended for this procedure.
  • Refrigerate and package in a leak-proof container with refrigerant packs.
  • Deliver by private or commercial carrier with the package identified as "Rabies Suspect".
  • 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. There are additional fees for euthanization. 
Note: A complete cross-section (see the photo below) of both the cerebellum and the brainstem submitted as fresh, refrigerated tissue are required for valid rabies testing per the CDC guidelines.

Illustration of a complete cross-section for rabies submissions

Rabies Test Procedures

  • Results are available the same day if received before 12pm. Samples received after noon may be tested on the next business day.
  • After-hours emergency service is available on weeknights, weekends, and during university holidays. 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.
  • The State Hygienic Laboratory at The University of Iowa (800-421-IOWA) offers rabies test service for animals that have potentially exposed humans. For the State Hygienic Lab Rabies submission form and more specific info, see their website online. You will need to work directly with SHL


Rabies Reporting

  • Rabies results will always be reported the same day tested. Please note samples MAY NOT ALWAYS be tested on the same day they arrive.
    • Samples received before 12 pm: results are available the same day by 5 pm. They will be sent to the submittor via email, fax, or phone per the submission form request.
    • Samples received after 12 pm: may be tested on the next business day.
  • In all cases, a final report will be provided to the submitter as specified on the submission form.

Rabies Results

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


Rabies Quick Links

VDL Rabies Submission Form

Center for Disease Control and Prevention- CDC

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics - Rabies