All animal bites have the potential to spread diseases, like rabies. Even if you own the animal or you know the owner, it’s important to report all animal bites to us.
- Never pet, handle, approach, or feed wild animals.
- Never approach an unfamiliar dog without asking the owner.
- PAY ATTENTION to animals’ body language.
- Do not approach a dog while they may feel threatened, protective, or territorial.
- Immediately wash the wound with soap and water and seek proper medical attention.
- Contact your local animal control, local health department, or police to report the incident.
- Spay or neuter your pet because unneutered pets are at an increased risk of roaming.
- Adhere to rabies vaccination guidelines to protect yourself and your pet from rabies.
- Take your pet to routine check-ups at their veterinarian to keep them healthy and well.
- Confine your pet to a defined area such as a fenced yard when it is outside.
- Avoid situations that may cause your pet to feel threatened or teased.
- Properly train your pet to obey commands such as “sit”, “stay”, and “come.” Safely socialize your pet to other animals and people of different ages.
Rabies is a deadly disease that only affects mammals and is caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. Once a person or animal starts showing clinical signs of rabies, survival is rare.
While any mammal can get rabies, the rabies virus is most commonly found in wild animals like raccoons, skunks and foxes. Bats may also carry the rabies virus. Only mammals get rabies; birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians do not.
The infectious rabies virus is found in the wet saliva and central nervous system (CNS) tissue of a rabid animal. In the environment, the virus is readily inactivated by drying, sunlight, high temperatures, and many disinfectants.
Animals that are ill with rabies may have signs including abnormal behavior, difficulty swallowing, poor balance, paralysis and seizures. The first symptoms of people ill with rabies can be very similar to flu, but symptoms quickly progress and may include prickling or itching sensation at the site of bite, anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, and insomnia. Once any mammal becomes ill with rabies, progression to death typically occurs rapidly.
Symptoms in humans normally appear in two to eight weeks, but longer periods between exposure and the onset of symptoms have been reported. The acute period of disease typically ends after 2 to 10 days. Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal, and treatment is typically supportive.
- If you are bitten, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and lots of water.
- If possible, capture the animal under a large box or can, or at least identify it before it runs away.
- Call an animal control or law enforcement officer to come get the animal. Notify your doctor immediately and explain how you got the bite.
- Most people know when they have been bitten by a bat, but there are situations in which you should seek medical advice even in the absence of an obvious bite wound. For example, if you wake up to find a bat in your room, see a bat in the room of an unattended child, or see a bat near a mentally impaired or intoxicated person, do not destroy or discard the bat. Call your local health department for advice.
- Vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets, and selected livestock. In Virginia, rabies vaccinations are required for dogs and cats.
- If your pet is attacked or bitten by a wild animal, report it to the local health or animal control authorities and be prepared to assist with exposure response such as booster vaccination and confinement.
- Do not let your pet roam free.
- Do not leave garbage or pet food outside.
- Do not keep wild animals as pets. If you see an animal acting strangely, report it to your local animal control department and do not approach it.
- Contact your local health department if you think you or your pet may have been exposed.