Your local Health Department works with animal control to investigate animal exposure reports and submits specimens to the state laboratory for rabies testing. We work with pet owners to ensure proper confinement and quarantines are conducted to protect public health and offer outreach and education about rabies to the community.

Rabies is a deadly disease that can be prevented, but not cured. It is 100% fatal if not treated. This disease is caused by a virus that lives in the saliva and the brain of rabid animals. It can be transmitted through bites, some scratches, or by getting saliva or brain tissue into an open wound, in the eyes, nose, or mouth.

Not sure if you’ve been exposed? Contact your local health department.

Preventing Rabies in Domestic Animals

How can you help prevent rabies?

• Vaccinate your pet (Local Veterinary Offices).
• Maintain control of your pets to reduce their exposure to wildlife.
• When euthanizing the wild animal, DO NOT damage the head of the animal. The animal cannot be tested for rabies if the brain has been damaged.
• Spay or neuter your animals to decrease the number of stray animals.
• Report any stray or ill animals to animal control.

Rabies in Wildlife

Skunks, raccoons, foxes, and dogs are usually carriers of rabies. If a wild animal is acting strange, such as coming up to you or your family, showing unusual aggression or showing unusual slowness or drowsiness, they may have rabies. You should not treat a wild animal as a pet or keep one as a pet.

If you come into contact with a wild animal, please contact The Wildlife Center of Virginia or animal control.

Animal Bite Procedures

If you have been bitten by an animal that you suspect has rabies, remain calm and follow these guidelines:

Wash the wound with soap and lots of water to lessen the chance of infection.

If the animal is:

  • A dog, cat, or ferret and is with its owner – Get the owner’s name, address, phone number, rabies vaccination information, etc.
  • A wild animal – Try to safely trap the animal and do not let it get away. Bats have small sharp teeth so it is hard to know if you have been bitten, especially if you wake up to find it flying around in your bedroom.
  • A stray or animal that runs away – Remember where you were when bitten, what the animal looks like, what direction it went, etc.

Call your doctor immediately and be sure to report the incident to the local health department or local animal control as soon as possible.

Additional Resources


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