Animal Bites/Scratches & Rabies

What Happens When You Get a Bite or Scratch From an Animal? kitten biting finger

First Aid:

  • Wash the area with soap and water. If available let water gently run over the bite or scratch for 5 minutes.
  • See a doctor to assess the wound and to check that your tetanus shot is up to date.

Any time a person gets an animal bite and/or scratch, Public Health looks into the matter.

Any person (including a doctor, police officer, or veterinarian) who knows an animal that has bit or scratched a person has a legal duty to report to Public Health.

A Public Health Inspector (PHI) will then call the person who was bitten or scratched.

How Can Rabies Transmission be Ruled Out?

Dog play-biting

If the animal involved is a pet, Public Health will follow up with the owner of the pet. The PHI will go to see the pet. The pet stays with its owner.

The inspector will see the animal at the end of the ten (10) days.  An animal that is alive and well at the end of the ten (10) days, did not have rabies at the time of the bite or the scratch.

If the animal is a stray or cannot be found, it cannot be assessed for rabies. Treatment of the person may have to begin.

What Happens Next?

Southwestern Public Health will call you to discuss the bite/scratch.

If you do not get a call from Public Health within 24 hours of reporting the incident, contact Public Health at 1-800-922-0096.

Only a doctor can order the rabies shots for you. The shots are free of charge and are given at your healthcare provider’s office.

Where Can I Get More Information?

For more information contact