Do I need a Rabies Shot if I get bit by a Dog?

Chances are, anyone who has ever been bitten by a dog that is not their own has wondered whether or not they need to vaccinated for rabies. The answer to that question is: Probably Not. Rabies is uncommon in dogs and cats in the United States. It is more common in wild animals like skunks, raccoons, bats and coyotes. If a dog or cat that bit you appeared to be healthy at the time of the bite, it's unlikely that the animal had rabies. However, it's a good idea to take some precautions if you're bitten by a dog or cat.

If you know the owner of the dog or cat that bit you, ask for the pet's vaccination record. It is possible that an animal that appears healthy and has been vaccinated may still be quarantined, meaning that it should be kept away from people and other animals for 10 days to make sure it doesn't start showing signs of rabies. If that animal does get sick during the 10-day period, a veterinarian will test it for rabies. If the animal does have rabies, you will need to get a series of rabies shots.

If the animal is a stray or you can't find the owner of the dog or cat that bit you, call the animal control agency or health department in your area. They will try to find the animal so it can be tested for rabies.

If the animal control agency or health department can't find the animal that bit you, if the animal shows signs of rabies after the bite or if a test shows that the animal has rabies, your doctor will probably want you to get a series of rabies shots also known as post-exposure prophylaxis. You need to get the first shot as soon as possible after the bite occurs. After you receive the first shot, your doctor will give you 6 more shots over a 28-day period.

Davis Law Group founder, Seattle attorney Chris Davis, recently authored and published his book, When the Dog Bites: The Essential Guide to Dog Bite Claims in Washington. The book was written for consumers and surviving family members who have suffered dog bites. Davis Law Group offers the book for free to citizens in Washington State.
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