Animal Bite: Cat, Dog, Ferret Bite to a Human
Take these important steps after any animal bite:
- Wash all bite wounds immediately with soap and water, and continue washing for at least ten minutes.
- Contact your health care provider as soon as possible. Animal bite wounds contain bacteria, so a tetanus booster and/or antibiotics may be needed.
What steps should be followed if the animal that bit me is available?
- If possible, safely catch or restrain the animal.
- Contact your local animal control or sheriff for assistance. Or, if the animal has an owner, get information
about the animal's history of rabies vaccination and contact information about the owner.
- Call the local county health department sanitarian to report animal bites. The sanitarian will help confirm the animal's condition and rabies vaccine status.
What are the recommendations for an animal that bites an individual who is not the owner?
- If the biting animal was a dog, cat, or ferret (not owned by the bite victim and not currently
vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian), the animal should be quarantined with a licensed veterinarian for 10 days from the date of the bite.
- If the dog, cat, or ferret remains healthy after ten days, it was not infectious with rabies at the time the bite occurred.
- If the biting dog, cat, or ferret dies or is euthanized during the ten day quarantine, it should be tested for rabies.
2. Dogs, cats, and ferrets (not owned by the bite victim and currently vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian) may be allowed to be quarantined by the animal owner for 10 days from the date of the bite.
a. If the dog, cat, or ferret remains healthy after ten days, it was not infectious with rabies at the time the bite occurred.
b. If the biting dog, cat or ferret dies or is euthanized during the ten day quarantine, it should be tested or rabies.
3. If another species of animal caused the bite, the local county health department sanitarian should be contacted.
a. Animals other than dogs, cats, or ferrets may need to be quarantined for 30 days under the care of a veterinarian, or euthanized and tested for rabies.
4. If you plan to euthanize the animal, please speak with your local animal control or local county health department sanitarian first. DO NOT shoot the animal in the head.
a. The OSDH Public Health Lab may not be able to test the animal if it is shot in the head.
b. The OSDH Public Health Lab needs three specific parts of the brain to test for rabies.
c. If the animal is shot in the head, request your veterinarian to look at the animal to determine if any brain is remaining to be tested.
What steps should be taken if the animal that bit me was killed?
- The owner of the animal needs to immediately contact animal control, the county sanitarian, or their veterinarian.
- If the animal is greater than 12 inches not including the tail the head will need to be removed (by a licensed veterinarian) and sent into the OSDH Public Health Lab for rabies testing.
- The owner of the animal is responsible for the cost of removing the head and shipping the head to the OSDH Public Health Lab. The owner can deliver the head to OSDH.
- DO NOT leave the animal outside to decompose. If the brain of the animal decomposes, the OSDH Public Health Lab WILL NOT be able to test the brain for rabies.
What do I do if I have not found the animal that bit me within 3 days (72 hours) of the bite?
1. Call the Acute Disease Service Epidemiologist-on-Call (at 405-271-4060) for evaluation of the rabies risk and
whether the rabies post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) should be started. Usually the PEP is delayed until the animal can be adequately evaluated, which may take 10 days or longer.
a. If a rodent or rabbit caused the bite, these are very low risk and rabies post-exposure vaccination is usually not recommended.