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Animal Bites and Scratches

What Do I Do If I Have Been Bitten or Scratched by an Animal?

If you have been bitten or scratched by an animal it is important to:

  • Wash the area with soap and water to remove as much of the animal’s saliva as possible.
  • Avoid splashing wash water into your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Be sure to get the name, address and phone number of the animal owner as well as a description of the animal, even when they claim that the animals rabies shots are up to date.
  • See your doctor or visit the emergency room to have the wound cared for.
  • All bites and scratches must be reported to the health unit for follow up to determine if you may have been exposed to rabies.

What Happens to the Animal Involved in the Biting or Scratching Incident?

  • A Public Health Inspector will contact the owner to gather more information on the animal including the date of the last rabies vaccination to help determine the risk of rabies in the animal.
  • Domestic animals involved in a bite or scratch are confined and observed usually at their home for a period of 10 days. They are not to be euthanized (put down).
  • If they are alive and well after this period it confirms that they did not have rabies at the time of the biting or scratching incident and therefore the person bitten was not exposed to rabies and will not require rabies vaccine
  • The animal is then released from confinement.
  • If the animal was behind on its rabies vaccination, the owner will have to ensure that their pet is vaccinated against rabies within two weeks after confinement.
  • If the animal that bit or scratched is a wild animal or stray the risk of rabies cannot be ruled out so the person bitten needs to contact their health care provider immediately.

Fact Sheet

What is the Role of the Health Unit When Reports of Bites and Scratches Are Received?

Public health inspectors want to ensure that the person bitten has not been exposed to rabies.

They do this by:

  • Contacting the biting victim and animal owner for information
  • Completing a risk assessment
  • Confining animals involved in the biting incident for 10 days
  • Following up with the animal owner to ensure the animal is alive and well to rule out rabies
  • Ensuring cats and dogs involved in a bite are up to date on rabies vaccinations
  • Arranging for rabies vaccine for treatment of clients exposed to rabies when requested by health care providers

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