Can You Get Rabies From A Rabbit Scratch?

Can You Get Rabies From A Rabbit Scratch
Can You Get Rabies From A Rabbit Scratch

Rabbits are warmblooded animals. All warmblooded animals are susceptible to rabies,even humans. I recommend that you understand the rabies virus symptoms and whether your rabbit can get rabies.  Actually, I get asked a lot if  humans can get rabies from a rabbit scratch.

So, can you get rabies from a rabbit scratch? Yes, humans can get rabies from a rabid rabbit’s salvia in their mouth, eyes or an open wound like a scratch or scrape. Fortunately, rabbits are low risk rabies carriers, although there have been some cases of a rabbit getting rabies and biting people. Prevention is the best cure-don’t touch wild animals or try to adopt them. If you see a wild animal or a stray dog or cat you think might have rabies contact your local animal control right away.


What Is Rabies?

Rabies is a fatal and contagious viral disease that warm blooded mammals, including humans can get from an infected carrier. Rabies causes madness, convulsions and death. It’s transmitted through an animal’s saliva. It’s rare, but rabies has occurred from salvia getting into a scratch that breaks the skin.

How Common Is Rabies?

Rabies aren’t as rare as you might think. It’s still a public health concern in countries all over the world. It’s estimated that worldwide, there’s many as 55,000 reported cases of rabies every year. This doesn’t include those cases that are never reported. In the United States, in 2017, there were 4,454 cases of rabid animals reported to the CDC which was a 9.3% decrease in reported cases from 2016. Bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, cats,dogs and cattle were the major animal carriers of rabies in the year. Two human deaths due to rabies were reported in 2017.

What Animals Are Likely To Carry Rabies

Warm blooded animals in general can get and carry rabies. Some warm blooded animals are more likely to carry rabies than others. Worldwide, human deaths are usually due to rabid dogs. But in the United States, human deaths are due to being exposed to rabid bats. This is often because the bat’s bite is so small, only the size of hypodermic needle,that a person might not know they were bitten so they don’t get medical care. Most common reported rabid animals in the United States vary depending upon the state, but the most common include:

  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
  • Bats
  • Foxes
  • Coyotes

What Animals Are Low Risk Rabies Carriers?

Some warm blooded mammals are less likely to carry rabies. Animals like the opossum have a lower body temperature which might be one reason they don’t get rabies as easily. Some animals rarely get rabies simply because due to their smallness they wouldn’t survive a bite by an animal carrying rabies.Here is the list of those animals less likely to carry rabies.

  • Rabbits
  • Opossums
  • Armadillos
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Squirrels
  • Beavers
  • Gophers
  • Prairie dogs

Even though the animals on this list are lower risk of carrying rabies, there are occasions when these animals do get rabies and have attacked humans. Always be careful around wild animals.

What Do Rabies Symptoms Look Like?

Rabies symptoms vary, and are sometimes hard to diagnosis. Often the biggest single symptom is a change in behavior or sudden paralysis. A typically friendly animals might suddenly become aggressive, excessively shy or withdrawn. Or a nocturnal animals is suddenly out during the daylight hours. Other symptoms include:

  • Not eating
  • Eating strange, non-edible things
  • Pawing at mouth
  • Choking sounds
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chewing on bite area
  • Seizures
  • Overly sensitive to touch or noise

What Are the Symptoms That A Rabbit Has Rabies?

A rabbit with rabies doesn’t show the typical symptoms. That’s why it’s difficult to diagnosis especially if you don’t see a visible wound or bite on your rabbit. Rabbits don’t show aggression, but usually lean towards more paralysis type symptoms. Symptoms that your rabbit has rabies include:

  • Head tilt
  • Weakness
  • Nasal discharge
  • Non appetite
  • Teeth grinding
  • Head tremors
  • Not responding
  • Death is quick, often as soon as symptoms show up only a few days till death

If you suspect your pet rabbit has been bitten by an animal with rabies, get him to your vet immediately.

How Do I Protect My Pets And Myself From Rabies?

There are several things you can do to protect yourself and your pet rabbit from getting rabies.

  • Don’t feed or touch wild animals
  • Don’t adopt wild animals
  • Avoid touching stray dogs or cats
  • Be sure your children don’t touch wild animals
  • Keep your pets vaccinations up to date
  • Keep garbage can lids closed
  • Feed your pets inside, not outside
  • Keep your pets inside yard
  • Never touch a bat
  • If you see a bat on the ground, contact your local animal control immediately
  • If you get bitten by a wild animal, call your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room immediately.

What Are Rabies Symptoms In Humans?

Rabies is a virus that affects humans’ nerves and brains. If you’re bitten by an animal with rabies, you need treatment immediately. Left untreated, rabies virus is fatal. Symptoms can be slow to show up, appearing anywhere from a few days to a year after you’ve been bitten. Here is a list of rabies symptoms in humans:

  • Itching or tingling around the bite area

Flu like symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

After a few days, neurological symptoms show up:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Bizarre behavior
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Sensitivity to light, touch or noise
  • Hard to swallow
  • Difficulty chewing

Is Rabies Contagious?

Rabies can’t be spread human to human. The virus is spread by a bite or from saliva getting into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth or an open wound like a scratch. If you think your rabbit might have rabies, get him to your vet immediately.  If he’s scratched you, you should get to your doctor to be checked for rabies because you can get rabies from an infected rabbit’s scratch.


How Is Rabies Diagnosed In Animals and Humans?

If an animal bites you or your pet, it’s important to contact your local animal control so they can catch it to be tested for rabies virus.

Diagnosing rabies in animals: Wild animals are often euthanized, but if you’re bitten by a rabbit, the health department will probably recommend observation for 10 days to see if any rabies symptoms show up.

After euthanizing the animal, tissue samples will be taken from two parts of his brain- the brainstem and the cerebellum. Diagnosis from these tests can take up to 24 to 72 hours from the time the animal gets brought in, euthanized and tested.  Around 120,000 animals are tested every year for rabies. Only 6% out of this number have rabies. Domestic animals are less likely to have rabies compared to wild animals.  Animals that are low risk, like domestic pets-dogs,rabbits, cats, ferrets-are often not euthanized, but given an observation period of 10 days to see if symptoms show up.

Diagnosing rabies in humans: There is not one test to diagnose rabies in humans. Tests on salvia, serum, spinal fluid, and skin biopsies of hair follicles on the neck are usually done.

How Is Rabies Treated In Humans?

Once rabies symptoms show up there is no treatment. That’s why doctors focus on early treatment as soon as a person gets bitten. It’s important to get medical treatment if you think you’ve been bitten. You doctor will give you two shots immediately.

Two shots:

●     Rabies immune globulin-This is a fast acting shot that stops the virus from infecting you. The shot is given in the area where you were bitten.

  • Rabies vaccine-This is given in a series of 4 doses that are staggered over a 14 day period.

What To Do If You’ve Been Bitten, Scratched Or Got Saliva From An Animal In Your Eyes, Nose or Mouth?

If an animal bites you, get medical help immediately. The medical attendant will ask some questions. Be ready to answer:

  • What animal bit you
  • Was it a wild animal or a domestic pet
  • If it was a pet, was the pet vaccinated?
  • Describe the animal’s behavior right before it bit you. Did you provoke the animal?
  • Did you or someone else catch the animal that bit you?

How Often Should A Pet Get The Rabies Vaccine Given?

By law in the United States, you are required that your pet dog or cat must have a rabies shot. There is no cure for rabies, so the best way to prevent it to get your pets vaccinated. The vaccine can help your pets immune system fight off the disease if bitten, but it doesn’t cure the disease. The vaccinations are given anywhere from every three years to yearly, depending upon the state you live in.

How Do I Protect My Pet Rabbit From Getting Rabies?

Pet rabbits can’t be vaccinated against rabies. There isn’t even a rabies vaccine for rabbits right now. Because of this, it’s important that you protect your pet rabbit from getting rabies from other animals. Keep your pet rabbit inside so he’s not exposed to wild animals that could be rabid. If your pet is outside, keep an eye on him and if you see any wild animals around bring your pet in right away. Vaccinate your other pets.  Keep wild animals away from your house by keeping lids on trash cans, don’t feed your pets outside-this can entice wild animals to come around your house.

Some Facts About Rabies

Rabies is a dangerous disease for all warm blooded mammals. It’s often overlooked as a serious disease today.Here are some facts to remember about the virus:

  1. It’s found all over the world except Antarctica.
  2. It’s found in all States except Hawaii.
  3. Rabies means “to rage” because the symptoms lead to aggression
  4. Rabies is spread through saliva getting into a wound, eyes, nose or mouth and even a cut or scratch.
  5. Symptoms show up anywhere from immediately, several weeks or even a year after being bitten. Never put off treatment of a bite, get medical help immediately.
  6. All warm blooded animals can get rabies, Most common animals that carry rabies are bats, skunks, raccoons and foxes.
  7. Cats get rabies more often than dogs.

Pet rabbits can carry rabies, and you can get it from a rabbit scratch. Since there’s no rabies vaccine for rabbits, it’s important you protect your pet rabbit from getting the virus. Keep your pet inside, eliminate anything that might draw wild animals into your backyard.  Rabies is always fatal for pets. Humans need treatment immediately, because once the symptoms start, there’s no treatment. Death will occur. Most of us aren’t as aware of the deadly nature of rabies, but it’s worth better understanding the virus if you have a pet rabbit.