Animal Bites, Scratches or Other Exposures
If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, follow these steps:
- If possible, collect animal owner/custodian information (name, address and phone number).
- Immediately wash the bite or wound with soap and water for at least 15 minutes.
- Apply an antiseptic to the wound.
- Seek medical attention from a healthcare provider to assess your risk and discuss treatment options.
- If you would like to report an animal bite or scratch to Toronto Public Health, use the Online Animal Exposure Report.
Rabies is a viral infection that affects the nervous system of warm-blooded animals, including humans. The virus can be transmitted from an infected animal through:
- bites that break the skin
- saliva entering an open wound
- saliva entering the mouth, nose or eyes
Further information on Rabies can be found on Toronto Public Health’s Rabies Prevention and Control web page.
Treatment to prevent rabies, if necessary, is most effective if started promptly after the exposure. The need for rabies treatment is assessed by your healthcare provider and will depend on:
- the type of animal involved
- where the exposure occurred (e.g., location in Toronto or while travelling to another country)
- the reason for exposure (e.g., if it was provoked, such as feeding a wild animal, or an unprovoked attack)
- whether the animal is a domestic pet whose health and rabies vaccination status can be determined
For more information on rabies treatment, see the Rabies Vaccine and Immune Globulin Fact Sheet.
If a person is bitten or scratched, Toronto Public Health will, depending on the case:
- assist healthcare providers assess the level of risk associated with an exposure
- provide rabies vaccine to healthcare providers upon request
- confine domestic animals (dogs, cats and ferrets) for a 10-day period to observe if they develop rabies*
- confine livestock animals (e.g., horse) for a 14-day period to observe if they develop rabies*
- arrange for wild animals to be euthanized for rabies testing
*Animal owners know their animals the best. Toronto Public Health prefers if animals are confined with their owner/custodian to observe for changes in their pets’ health.
Provide your name, address and phone number to the person who was bitten or scratched. This may help them to avoid potentially unnecessary medical treatment. This also helps Toronto Public Health communicate with and support the person bitten/scratched and the animal owner/custodian.