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Help! My Pet was Bitten by a Raccoon!

Help! My Pet was Bitten by a Raccoon!

Rabies is one of the more deadly viruses that can be transmitted to our pets and people. Luckily, since the formulation of the rabies vaccination in the 1940s, reports of rabies transmitted to people have decreased from approximately 100 cases per year to almost zero. Though we have controlled rabies outbreaks in people and in pets, rabies still exists in our wildlife population. So what is the best course of action if your dog or cat gets into a fight with a wild animal or is bitten by another dog or cat who is not up-to-date on their rabies vaccination? The following information is a summary of California state law that dictates protocols enacted by the Santa Cruz County control officials.

Which wildlife animals should I be concerned about?

Common potential rabies infected animals in our region include bats, raccoons, and skunks. Other canine and feline species such as the fox, coyote, and bobcat are also potentially affected animals but less likely to transmit the disease as your pet may not survive such an attack.

My dog was just attacked by a wild animal, what do I do?

No matter how superficial your pet’s wounds may appear on the outside, please bring your pet to your veterinarian as soon as possible if they are attacked by any animal.


My pet is up-to-date on rabies vaccination – A booster vaccination must be administered (preferably within 12 hours from the time your pet was attacked). The rabies vaccination has neutralizing antibodies that will protect your pet from the rabies virus but must be given within an appropriate time frame to ensure a higher probability of protection. A quarantine period of 30 days must ensue.

Quarantine – means the strict confinement of the animal at your private residence, veterinary clinic or shelter, under restraint by leash, closed cage or other enclosure.

My pet is overdue – Your pet is given a rabies booster and quarantined for 180 days.

My pet has never been vaccinated – Your pet will be vaccinated immediately and quarantined for 180 days.

My dog bit another dog or person, what do I do?

All biting dogs or cats, whether up-to-date on their vaccinations or not, must be isolated in strict confinement in a place and manner approved by an animal control officer based on proof of vaccination and then observed for 10 days. During the 10-day quarantine your pet will be monitored for signs of rabies infection: mental dullness, drooling, and uncharacteristic fractious behavior. If no clinical signs are observed then your pet will be released and vaccinated for rabies if due for a vaccination at that time. Sadly, if clinical signs are observed, your pet will be euthanized and the remains will be submitted for rabies testing.

Written By: Erika Sullenberger, DVM