Animal Bites & Rabies

Animal Bites

Animal bites, from dogs, cats, wild animals, or others, have the potential to spread diseases, like rabies. These are often preventable when people are aware of the risks. Animal bites from pets bites simply lead to a 10-day confinement/in home observation period to ensure the health of the animal and the household.  Visual verification of the animal's health by an EH Specialist is all that is needed to complete this confinement period.

Ways to prevent animal bites:

  • Never pet, handle, approach, or feed wild animals.
  • Educate yourself and teach children how to properly approach dogs and animals.
  • Never approach an unfamiliar dog without the owner's permission.
  • Pay attention to an animal's body language and never approach a dog when they may feel threatened, protective, or territorial (sleeping, chained, eating, playing with a toy, caring for puppies, injured etc.).

If you or your child has been bitten:

  • Immediately wash the wound with soap and water and seek proper medical attention.
  • Report the bite to a medical provider, veterinarian, animal control, or your local health department.

If you know of a wild animal that is injured, stranded, or otherwise in need of help, call Blue Ridge Wildlife at (540) 837-9000. Do not attempt to perform a rescue operation on your own. Wild animals can be unpredictable — especially when they are injured or trapped.

For more information, visit the VDH website dedicated to animal bites.


Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. It kills almost any mammal or human that gets sick from it. It can be transmitted through a bite or by getting saliva or brain tissue in a wound or in the eye or mouth. Only mammals have the ability to carry rabies; reptiles, birds, and amphibians cannot carry the virus.

Environmental health staff investigates potential rabies exposures. This includes investigating cases of humans who suffered an animal bite, domestic pets exposed to potentially rabid animals and quarantining animals involved in biting incidents. Therefore, residents who are bitten by an animal or had direct contact with a bat, whose pets or livestock had contact with potentially rabid animals (ex. skunks, raccoons, foxes), or who otherwise are concerned about rabies or rabies treatment should contact their local health department.

What you can do to prevent rabies:

  • Have your veterinarian vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets, and selected livestock. Keep the vaccinations up-to-date.
  • If your pet is attacked or bitten by a wild animal, report it to the local health or animal control authorities. Be sure your vaccinated dog, cat, or ferret receives a booster vaccination.
  • Do not keep wild animals as pets. Enjoy all wild animals from a distance, even if they seem friendly. A rabid animal sometimes acts tame. If you see an animal acting strangely, report it to your local animal control department and do not go near it yourself.

If you believe you were exposed to rabies:

Don’t panic…but don’t ignore the bite.  First, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Washing thoroughly will lessen the chance of infection. Give first aid as you would for any wound. If possible, capture the animal under a large box or can, or identify it before it runs away. Don’t try to pick the animal up. Call an animal control or law enforcement officer to come get it.

Next, notify your family doctor immediately and explain how you got the bite. Your doctor will want to know if the animal has been captured. If necessary, your doctor will give the recommended anti-rabies treatment. They will also treat you for other possible infections that could be caused from the bite. Report the bite to your local health department.

For more information, visit the VDH page dedicated to Rabies.