Rabies & Animal Bites

Rabies Phone: 443-521-4996

Dorchester County Environmental Health works with Dorchester County Animal Control to monitor and control the spread of rabies in the county through vaccination clinics, animal bite reporting, proper quarantining procedures, and testing suspected rabid animals.

Under state regulations, ALL animal bites, scratches, or other possible rabies exposures occurring in Dorchester County, MUST BE REPORTED IMMEDIATELY to the Dorchester County Environmental Health Office at 443-521-4996.

Please provide the date, time, and location of the incident; and the victim/owner’s name, local phone number, and physical address.

If your pet has had contact with a wild animal:

  • DO NOT TOUCH the wild animal
  • If possible, safely contain the animal for testing
  • Avoid touching your pet with bare hands (use gloves if handling is necessary)
  • Isolate the pet from people and other animals and get further instructions from the health department.

Rabies Overview

Rabies is a virus that can affect both domesticated (dogs and cats) and non-domesticated animals (groundhogs, skunks, cows, bats, opossums, etc.). Fish, snakes, lizards, and birds cannot carry or get the rabies virus. The rabies virus is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. You cannot get rabies from blood, skunk spray, urine, feces, or from petting an infected animal. 

Rabies is a fatal but preventable viral disease. It can spread to people and pets if they are bitten or scratched by a rabid animal. In the United States, rabies is mostly found in wild animals like bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes. However, in many other countries dogs still carry rabies, and most rabies deaths in people around the world are caused by dog bites.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system. If a person does not receive the appropriate medical care after a potential rabies exposure, the virus can cause disease in the brain, ultimately resulting in death. Rabies can be prevented by vaccinating pets, staying away from wildlife, and seeking medical care after potential exposures before symptoms start.

Symptoms of Rabid Animals (may exhibit multiple symptoms or have only 1): 

  • Paralysis
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Staggering movements
  • Overfriendliness
  • Aggressiveness
  • Daytime activity in nocturnal animals (e.g. raccoon attacking a dog during the day)
  • Drooling
  • Seizures
  • Death

Additional Signs to Look For In a Pet:

  • Ataxia (loss of muscle control and coordination)
  • Disinterest in food or water
  • Difficulty waking up
  • Signs of depression or self-mutilation

Protect Your Pet

The only way to fully protect your pets is to ensure that they are currently vaccinated. The health department offers rabies vaccination clinics for cats, dogs, and ferrets 3 months of age and older.  

Steps to Prevent Rabies

  • Only approach domestic animals that are known to you.
  • Avoid all contact with wild animals.
  • Make sure that your dogs, cats, and ferrets have a current rabies vaccination and county license.
  • Keep dogs under control or on a leash. Keep cats safely indoors.
  • Do not treat raccoons or other wild animals as if they are pets. Do not leave food out for raccoons, including leftover dog food, table scraps and large bird seeds.
  • Close off all entrances to chimneys, attics, garages or sheds which can provide a nesting site for raccoons. Install heavy 26-gauge wire screen on chimney openings and flues.
  • Use metal garbage cans that have secure lids. Plastic cans should have snap covers, but are not as secure. Ammonia can be sprayed or poured into plastic garbage bags to discourage raccoons from feeding.
  • Most human exposures to rabies occur when people attempt to rescue sick or hurt wild animals that, upon testing, are found to be rabid.
  • Another frequent type of indirect exposure occurs when people handle their pets without gloves after the pet has had an encounter with a wild animal. Rabies virus in saliva on the pet’s fur can be transmitted through a break in the person’s skin for up to 2 hours after the saliva has been deposited on the fur.