In Washington State, the chance of getting rabies from a cat or dog bite is very low. However, if a bat or other wild animal bites you, the chance is slightly higher. The last case of rabies found in dogs in Washington State was in 1977 and the last case of rabies in cats was in 2002. Bats are the main carrier or rabies in Washington State; approximately 10% of all bats in Washington carry rabies.
Rabies symptoms in animals include the following:
Excessive drooling or sometimes foaming in the mouth
Loss of coordination or paralysis
Drooping of the lower jaw
Unusually aggressive or vicious behavior or unusual lethargy
If your animal has bitten a human or other animal and displays these symptoms, immediately contact 509-249-6508 during business hours or 509-575-4040, prompt Option 1 after hours.
So You’ve Been Bitten - What Next?
Step 1 - See Your Health Care Provider
It is important to see your health care provider after being bitten by any animal for 2 reasons. First, you need to keep the wound from getting infected by having it properly cleaned and dressed by your health care provider. Second, you need to make sure that your tetanus shots are up-to-date. This is another way to prevent infection. If you were born in the United States, you likely had these shots when you were young; however, as an adult, you need a booster shot every 10 years.
Step 2 - Fill Out an Animal Bite Report
The Animal Bite Report (PDF) is the MOST IMPORTANT piece of information that you can provide to local public health officials when an animal bites you. Without an Animal Bite Report, Yakima Health District has no way to contact the owner of the animal or conduct an investigation. It is important that you fill this form out as completely as possible. If you don’t know the owner, please provide where the bite occurred and as complete a description of the animal as possible. If you believe the animal was a stray, Yakima Health District can put you in touch with animal control so that they may search for the animal.
What Do We Do With the Animals?
Many people are afraid to tell anyone that their pet bit them because they don’t want anything to happen to the animal. Don’t worry, the standard procedure when a dog or cat bites is to quarantine the animal for 10 days.
The word quarantine means to keep in a contained location in order to watch for signs of disease. In the case of an animal that bit a person, we are watching for signs of rabies. An animal can be quarantined in a pen, in a basement, tied up in the backyard, etc. The only requirement is that it stays away from all humans and animals except for its primary caretaker for 10 days. If the animal were not quarantined and developed rabies, we may not diagnose the rabies soon enough to get the victim medical care. Once rabies symptoms develop in humans, the disease is fatal.
In the rare case that an animal dies during the quarantine period, we will test the animal to rule out rabies as the cause of death.
How Do I Test an Animal That Didn’t Bite?
If your animal had neurological symptoms and abnormal behavior before it died and you are interested in ruling out Rabies as the cause of death, you can choose to send the animal to the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon for testing.
Please call 541-737-3261 for information about how to ship the specimen and what is and is not testable. The fee for non-Oregon residents is $91 ($75 testing fee, $4 assessed fee, $12 handling fee). They require payment to be mailed with the specimen.