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What to do with an animal that has bitten a person

Dogs, Cats, and Ferrets

Rabies virus can be excreted in the saliva of infected dogs, cats, and ferrets during illness and/or for a few days before illness or death. A healthy dog, cat, or ferret that bites a person should be confined and observed daily for 10 days. Confinement should be performed in coordination with public health authorities. To avoid mistaking the signs of rabies for possible side effects of vaccination, administration of rabies vaccine to the animal is not recommended during the observation period.

If the confined animal develops any signs of illness, it should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Any illness in the animal should be reported immediately to the local health department. If the animal develops signs suggestive of rabies, it should be euthanized by an animal health professional and the head submitted to a diagnostic laboratory for testing.

Any stray or unwanted dog, cat, or ferret that bites a person may be euthanized immediately by an animal health professional and the head should be submitted for rabies testing.

Other Animals

Other biting animals that might have exposed a person to rabies should be reported immediately to the local health department. Management of biting animals other than dogs, cats, and ferrets depends on:

  • The species
  • The circumstances of the bite
  • The epidemiology of rabies in the area
  • The biting animal’s history and current health status
  • The animal’s potential for exposure to rabies

Previous rabies vaccination of these animals might not preclude the necessity for euthanasia and testing.

Detailed recommendations can be found in the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control [PDF – 259KB].

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