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Rabies

What is rabies?

  • Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus.
  • The rabies virus is found in the saliva and brain tissue of infected (rabid) animals.
  • The rabies virus does not live in the blood of animals.
  • Fortunately deaths due to rabies is rare. During 1980–2004, a total of 56 cases of human rabies were reported in the United States, most commonly from exposure to bats.

How is rabies spread?

  • Rabies can be spread from animal to animal, or animal to human.
  • Rabies is spread when the saliva or brain tissue of an infected (rabid) animal gets in the mouth, the eyes, or an open cut.
  • Rabies is most often spread to animals and humans through a bite from an infected animal.

What animals can get rabies?


  • Rabies is carried mainly by wild animals like raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats.
  • Humans, dogs, and cats can also get rabies.
  • Squirrels, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rats, mice, and rabbits usually do not get rabies.

Can my child get rabies?

  • Your child could get rabies if a rabid animal bites or scratches them or if its saliva or brain tissue gets in their mouth, your eye, or an open cut.
  • Rabies can be prevented in humans if medical treatment is begun soon after contact with the rabies virus. If left untreated, rabies is always deadly.

Can my pet get rabies?

  • If your pet has not had its rabies shots, it could get rabies.
  • This is why keeping your pets rabies shots up-to-date is important.

What does a rabid animal look like?

  • Rabid animals may act tame. They may also display strange or unusual behavior.
  • They may act aggressive, avoid food and water, foam at the mouth, or have trouble moving.
  • Stay away from any unknown animals, especially wildlife.
  • Report any dog or animal acting unusual to your county Animal Control office.

What if another animal bites my pet?

What if an animal bites me?

  • Wash the bite area with warm, soapy water.
  • Next, call your local Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or click on Poison Control Center information) or your doctor right away.
  • They will tell you if you need medical treatment.

What is the treatment for rabies?

  • Treatment consists of a total of six shots given over the course of one month.
  • They are usually given near the area of the bite, or in the arm or the buttocks.

How can I protect my pet from rabies?

  • Keep your pets rabies shots up-to-date. In most states, dogs, cats, and ferrets must get a rabies shot when they are young (3-4 months old) and every year after that.
  • Call your veterinarian for more details on rabies shots for your pets.
  • Keep your pet in your house or yard, or on a leash at all times.
  • If your pet is free to wander around, it is more likely to get rabies.

How can I help protect myself and my family from rabies?

  1. Make sure your pets get their rabies shots regularly.
  2. Keep your pets on your property.
  3. Do not leave garbage or pet food outside. Food left out may attract wild or stray animals.
  4. Stay away from wild, sick, hurt, or dead animals. Do not pick up or move sick or hurt animals. If you find a wild, sick, or hurt animal, call your county Animal Control office.
  5. Do not keep wild animals like raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, and wolves as pets. It is dangerous and also illegal.
  6. Teach your children not to go near, tease, or play with wild animals or strange dogs and cats.