Preventing Rabies from Animal Bites or Scratches


Rabies is a disease that almost always results in death. it can be prevented if the rabies vaccine is given immediately after being exposed to a rabid animal.

People can get rabies from the bite or scratch of an infected mammals (animals with hair, including bats) or if its saliva gets into a persons eyes, nose, mouth or any wound or break in the skin.


What to do if bitten or scratched by a pet or animal

If the pet or animal’s health cannot be known within 72 hours

Get the rabies vaccine immediately

  • All free-ranging wildlife, regardless of behavior, are considered rabid, such as bats, raccoons, skunks, groundhogs, foxes, wolves, coyotes and bobcats.

In Erie County, the rabies vaccine is available at

  • AHN Saint Vincent Hospital, 814-452-5000, 232 W 25th St., Erie PA
  • Corry Memorial Hospital, 814-664-4641, 965 Shamrock Ln., Corry PA
  • Millcreek Community Hospital, 814-864-4031, 5515 Peach St., Erie PA
  • UPMC Hamot, 814-877-6000, 201 State St., Erie PA


If the pet or animal can be contained

Do not destroy the animal

  • Quarantine the animal, if possible, to observe for signs of unusual behavior or illness. Quarantine means keeping the animal in one location and separating it from people and other animals for 10 days.
  • Contain bats and have them tested for rabies, if possible, whenever bats are found in the same room with an unattended child, sleeping person or anyone who is unsure if they were bitten or scratched. For guidance on how to trap bats for rabies testing, call the Pennsylvania Game Commission at 833-742-4868.
  • For guidance call
    • For domestic animals (pets and livestock):
      Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture 814-332-6890
    • For wildlife:
      Pennsylvania Game Commission 833-742-4868
    • Erie County Department of Health
      Mon-Fri, 8-4:30p.m. at 814-451-6711
  • Exposures to squirrels, hamsters, guinea pigs, chipmunks, rats, mice, other rodents (except groundhogs), rabbits, and hares are not a cause for concern for rabies unless they exhibit unusual behavior.


When to suspect if an animal has rabies

Signs of furious rabies:

  • Biting at objects or other animals
  • Aggression or loss of fear
  • Daytime activity by nighttime species
  • Attraction to noise and human activity
  • Excessive vocalization
  • Dilated pupils
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • May or may not drool

Signs of paralytic rabies:

  • Decreased activity
  • Poor coordination
  • Hind limb weakness
  • Acting ‘dull’
  • Cats may neow excessivlry
  • Dropping of lower jaw
  • Drooling
  • Unable to swallow
  • Become paralyzed
  • Death


Preventing Rabies


Vaccinating Pets and Livestock

  • Talk to your vet to have your pets and livestock vaccinated against rabies.
  • Leave strays and wildlife alone. Do not feed, pet or touch.

Rabies Vaccine in Baits for Raccoons

Every August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture distributes baits for racoons that contain rabies vaccine.

In Erie County, the baits are usually dropped from helicopters or other aircraft on the western border, which includes Albion, Springfield, Lake City, Girard and Fairview. Residents of these areas are advised that there will be an increase in aircraft activity during this time.

People and pets cannot get rabies from the bait. Animals that have contact with an adequate dose of the vaccine baits develop antibodies against rabies.

What to do if found

The vaccine bait is called ONRAB, a colorless liquid vaccine in a blister pack with a sweet smelling, dark green, waxy coating and a black label on the lid.

If you find a rabies bait, leave it alone.

  • However, if found where children and pets play, it can be tossed into a fencerow, woodlot, ditch or another raccoon habitat area
  • Use gloves or a plastic bag to handle the bait.
  • Wash hands after any skin contact with bait.
  • Bag and dispose damaged baits in the trash.

If your pet eats a bait,

  • It won’t be harmed but may vomit or have diarrhea.
  • Confine your pet while checking the area for more bait.
  • Avoid your pet’s saliva for 24 hours.
  • Wash skin or wounds that may have been licked.
  • Do not risk being bitten by taking bait away from your pet.

For more info about the raccoon rabies vaccine baiting program:

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services 866-487-3297
  • Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture 717-783-9550
  • Pennsylvania Department of Health 877-722-6725