Rabies Testing

Important Notice

Options for Receiving Rabies Test Results

The Laboratory Services Section (LSS) can now offer you the opportunity of receiving all rabies test reports (positive, non-negative, or negative) via Fax or through the LSS Results-Web Portal as soon as the test result reports are completed!

The LSS will continue to telephone you with all positive and non-negative test results. 

It is very simple for you to take advantage of reporting options.

To obtain access to the web portal please go to our website http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/lab/remotedata.shtm and follow the instructions.

To obtain your reports by fax please use the Submitter ID # Request Form found at http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/lab/mrs_forms.shtm and follow the instructions to update your preference for delivery of test reports.

If you have questions, please contact Tiffunee Odoms at 512-776-6275.

All packages transported through a courier (FedEx, UPS, LoneStar Overnight) will be accepted during regular business hours. Specimens submitted to Greyhound Bus Station-Austin will be picked up by laboratory staff as usual. Hand-delivered samples will be accepted only during regular business hours Monday - Friday (7:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.). If you have questions concerning this issue, please call (512) 776-7598. Due to biohazard safety guidelines, the laboratory is unable to return carcasses submitted for rabies testing to owners or submitters.

Submitters are required to notify the laboratory of the shipment of rabies specimens. The toll-free number for notification is (800) 252-8163. This number is available 24 hours a day and allows submitters to leave the shipping information in a message. You can also notify the Laboratory of your specimen shipment via email: Click here to complete a brief Rabies Specimen Notification Form (PDF 253kb). Notification is critical for the laboratory to monitor the arrival of specimens and to be able to notify the submitter if a specimen does not arrive as expected. The number also includes instructions on shipping a specimen and how to reach someone after hours in the event of an emergency. 

An interactive tutorial on submitting rabies specimens is available. Click here to go to the LabGuides: Submitting Rabies Specimens to the Laboratory (383k).  

Specimen Delivery to the Laboratory

The processing of rabies specimens is handled on a top priority basis. The laboratory tests 8,000 to 10,000 animal specimens per year for rabies; procedures are designed to facilitate reporting that is as rapid as reasonably possible for these specimens.

Specimens transported by individuals and delivered directly to the laboratory (see Directions to Lab and Lab receiving on the DSHS Complex map) may be delivered to Specimen Acquisition (Room L-104 of the Laboratory) during regular business hours (Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.). Thirty-minute parking is available adjacent to this location.

Specimens shipped by bus are picked up from the bus station by DSHS personnel. Specimens are routinely picked up three times a day on Monday through Friday and once a day on weekends and holidays (approximately 8:00 a.m. on Saturdays, 1:00 p.m. on Sundays, and 7:00 a.m. on holidays).

Specimens shipped by the various overnight services (Federal Express, UPS, etc.) are accepted by the laboratory in the same manner as specimens delivered by individuals. Please note, however, that these delivery services frequently will not deliver the packages to the DSHS Laboratory on weekends and holidays; they will often hold the package for delivery on Monday, or the next regular workday. This also includes delivery services that say they will deliver on weekends. If a submitter needs to get a specimen to the laboratory over the weekend, the laboratory strongly encourages shipment of the specimen by bus rather than an overnight service.

Specimen Submission Guidelines

Rabies Submission Form G-9

  • Live animals will not be accepted.  
  • Ship only the animal head, unless you are submitting a bat or a very small rodent. We request that bats be submitted intact to allow us to speciate the bats. Have a qualified person separate the animal head from the body as soon as possible after death.  Avoid damage to the brain. If the animal head has been compromised due to trauma or decomposition, the laboratory may not be able to generate a valid result.
  • Fresh brain tissue is acceptable. If only the brain is submitted, the minimum tissue requirements for rabies testing are a complete transverse cross section of the brain stem and tissue from the cerebellum and/or hippocampus. DO NOT FIX BRAIN TISSUE IN FORMALIN!
  • Immediately chill the specimen(s) to between 32º and 45º F. If ice must be used, please double bag it in sturdy plastic bags. Also keep current weather conditions in mind when packing the specimen and provide enough cold packs to keep the specimens cold for at least 48 hours.
  • DO NOT FREEZE!  Freezing may damage the brain tissue and can compromise the test.
  • Due to biohazard safety guidelines the laboratory is unable to return carcasses to submitters.

Shipping and Handling Specimens

Directions for preparing and shipping specimens 

Specimens may be delivered directly to the Laboratory Services Section in Austin, or they may be shipped via bus, overnight carrier, or other means. The Laboratory strongly recommends shipping specimens by bus whenever possible. If you are going to ship a specimen, you must notify the Laboratory using the Rabies Hotline: (800) 252-8163

Turnaround Time and Reporting of Rabies Results

Routine Testing and Result Reporting of Rabies Specimens (Monday through Friday)

  • Specimens received prior to 8:00 a.m. are tested and results are available by 5:00 p.m. the same afternoon.
  • Specimens received after 8:00 a.m. and prior to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday are tested the following morning and results are available prior to noon on that day.

Weekend and Holiday Testing and Result Reporting of Rabies Specimens

  • Specimens received after 8:00 a.m. and prior to 3:00 p.m. on Friday are initially tested on Saturday morning and positive results are reported by noon. Specimen testing is completed on Monday morning and final reports are available by noon on Monday. Submitters may request a preliminary negative report on Saturday by contacting the rabies laboratory on Friday at (512) 776-7595.
  • Routine specimens received in the laboratory after 3:00 p.m. on Friday, or received on Saturday or Sunday, are not tested on the weekend but do receive priority on Monday and results are available by 5:00 p.m. that afternoon.
  • Results for specimens received prior to 8:00 a.m. on skeleton crew days are available by 5:00 p.m. that afternoon. Specimens received later in the day on a skeleton crew holiday receive first priority the next regular work day, and results are available by 5:00 p.m. that afternoon.
  • Emergency testing only on major/federal holidays. You must contact the rabies laboratory at (512) 776-7595 prior to the holiday to obtain approval and make arrangements for testing.

Emergency Testing of Rabies Specimens

  • To arrange for emergency processing of a specimen expected to arrive over the weekend, the submitter must obtain prior approval from the DSHS Laboratory. Contact Rabies Identification Team personnel at (512) 776-7595 before 4 p.m. on Friday to request emergency testing over the weekend. The laboratory and Zoonosis Control personnel will evaluate the situation and determine if emergency processing is necessary. After 4 p.m. on Friday, (512) 776-7111 and request to speak with a regional Zoonosis Control staff member. If so determined, the Zoonosis Control member will contact the lab to make arrangements for testing. The specimen must arrive at the lab by 8am the morning of testing.  The submitter must provide an after-hours contact telephone number to receive a report after regular working hours. A voice mail system is available to handle concerns after hours by calling (512) 776-7595. If the matter is urgent, it is possible to contact the laboratorian-on-call by following the voice mail system instructions.
  • A submitter cannot request after hours processing of a specimen by simply indicating the need on the submission form, because Laboratory personnel will not see the form until they process the specimen. The submitter must request emergency testing by phone at (512) 776-7595 or (512) 776-7111 .

Please Note:  Approximately two percent of specimens appear suspicious on primary testing and cannot be conclusively reported positive or negative. These specimens must be repeated. This will delay results on these specimens until 5:00 p.m. on specimens normally available by noon or until the next morning on specimens normally available by 5:00 p.m.


When calling to check on results or specimen status, or to arrange special handling, please have as much of the following information available as possible:

  • Agency that submitted the animal to the laboratory. (This may be a veterinarian, a veterinary clinic, humane society, or other agency or individual.)
  • City and/or county from which the animal was shipped.
  • Type of animal.
  • Any identifying number or description that may have been included with the animal.
  • Owner and/or victim's name.
  • The approximate date the specimen was shipped

This information will help us identify the animal and respond to questions more quickly.

Result Interpretation


Test results indicate that the specimen was positive for rabies virus. Additional information concerning the decision on whether or not rabies prophylaxis is needed is available in Rabies Prevention in Texas. Further information is available on the CDC web site.

Picture of positive rabies specimen



Test results indicate that the specimen was negative for rabies virus. Post-exposure prophylaxis for rabies is not necessary following exposure to an animal that tested negative for the rabies virus. Further information is available on the CDC web site.

Picture of negative rabies specimen



When the laboratory tests an animal for rabies, the technologists examine three areas of the brain: stem, cerebellum, and hippocampus. To be confident that they have an adequate sample for testing, the laboratory must receive a complete cross section of the brain stem and either the cerebellum or hippocampus. If the required brain parts are not received, they test what was received. If that part is positive, the specimen is reported as positive. However, if the part received is not positive, the specimen is reported as unsatisfactory. This is necessary because testing fewer areas of the brain may not lead to detection of a weak positive animal. If you receive an unsatisfactory report, decisions about whether or not rabies prophylaxis is needed should be based on the exposure history following the guidelines in Rabies Prevention in Texas.


An inconclusive report indicates that when the animal was tested for rabies, some material in the brain of the animal looked suspicious but could not be definitively identified as rabies virus. Prior to issuing an inconclusive report, the specimen is retested multiple times. If you receive an inconclusive report for rabies, decisions about whether or not rabies prophylaxis is needed should be based on the exposure history following the guidelines in Rabies Prevention in Texas.

Testing Human Specimens

For Serologic testing of antibody status (both human and animal samples):

To handle clinical material from patients who are ill and for which rabies is suspect:

Note: External links to other sites are intended to be informational and do not have the endorsement of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). These sites may also not be accessible to people with disabilities.   

Last updated October 9, 2020