Animal Bites & Rabies

Here at Public Health, we work to help prevent rabies within the community. Our public health inspectors are responsible for investigating all animal incidents, like when a person is bitten or scratched and their skin has been broken. This step helps us determine if there is any risk of a person getting rabies.

For the most up-to-date information about cases of rabies in Ontario, please see this surveillance map by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). Note that cases of rabies in bats are not mapped by the MNRF

What is rabies?

Rabies is a caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system (brain and spinal cord) of warm-blooded animals. The rabies virus can affect any mammal including humans, domestic pets, like dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals like foxes, raccoons, skunks and bats.

Rabies is spread by the saliva of infected animals, most commonly through a bite or scratch. It can also be spread when saliva touches an open wound or the moist tissues of the mouth, nose or eyes.

Animals can spread rabies even before they show symptoms. There is no cure for rabies once symptoms start. Rabies vaccine must be given as soon as possible, before symptoms appear. Once the symptoms of rabies start, it is fatal.

How to protect your family and pets

To prevent rabies, it is important to:

What to do when …

If you or a loved one gets bitten or scratched by an animal

  1. Wash the wound with soap and water.

  2. Contact your family doctor or go to a hospital emergency room immediately. Public Health will provide rabies vaccine to your doctor, if needed.

If your pet or livestock is bitten by a wild or stray animal

  • Contact your veterinarian for advice as soon as possible.

If you notice a wild or stray animal behaving oddly or aggressively

  • If you see a wild animal acting oddly, do not go near it. If an animal is acting aggressively and threatening people or pets, call your local animal control service or the police. 
  • Signs of odd behaviour in wild animals, like raccoons, include when they lose their fear of humans.

If you find a sick or a dead bat

  • Do not touch the bat. Call the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at 1-866-673-4781.
  • If a person has had direct contact with the bat or is bitten or scratched, call your family doctor or go to a hospital emergency immediately.

Resources and information: