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Animal Bites

If you have been bitten by an animal you suspect may have rabies, it's important to take the following actions:

  • immediately wash the bite or scratch wound site with soap and warm water to remove as much of the animal's saliva as possible

  • avoid splashing wash water into your eyes, nose or mouth as the virus can enter your body through these mucous membranes

  • be sure to get the name and address of the animal owner and a description of the animal

  • contact your health care provider, or go to the emergency department of the nearest hospital or walk-in clinic. 

  • rabies is deadly so all bites and scratches from a suspect animal must be be reported to the Health Unit in accordance with the Health Protection and Promotion Act, 1990 of Ontario.

  • the doctor, in consultation with the health unit, will decide if you need the rabies vaccine. Only a health care provider can order the vaccine. Decisions to start vaccination, known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), will be based on the type of exposure, the animal you were exposed to and the laboratory and surveillance information for the geographic area where the exposure occurred.

  • in Canada, PEP consists of a regimen of one dose of immune globulin and five doses of rabies vaccine over a 28 day period. Rabies immune globulin and the first dose of the rabies vaccine should be given by your health care provider as soon as possible after exposure. Additional doses of rabies vaccine should be given on day three, seven, 14 and 28 after the first vaccination. Current vaccines are relatively painless, and are administered in the upper arm like a flu vaccine.

  • vaccination should be discontinued if tests of the involved animal are negative for rabies infection