Santé Montréal


Rabies is a contagious and fatal disease. It is caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system of mammals, including human beings. 

There is no effective treatment for rabies once there are symptoms. After that, death is inevitable and usually occurs within 14 days. 

Therefore you must act quickly to prevent the onset of symptoms after being

  • Bitten
  • Scratched, or
  • In contact with the saliva of a potentially infected animal

You can also get rabies if the saliva of a rabid animal comes into contact with

  • Your eyes
  • The inside of your nose or mouth, or
  • An existing wound

Rabies is fatal once symptoms appear. However, some preventive measures can be taken before symptoms appear.

In North America, the animals that spread rabies the most often areClick to zoom in

  • Bats
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
  • Foxs

In Québec, bat rabies is the most common, followed by Arctic fox rabies. The emergence of raccoon rabies has become a real threat. 

Rabies can be prevented by adopting safe habits.


Be careful when you’re around wild or domestic animals to avoid bites or other contact that can spread rabies. It’s the simplest way to prevent rabies.

Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Never touch a live or dead bat.
  • Never touch the body of a dead or sick animal with your bare hands. If you do it involuntarily, wash your hands right away.
  • Don't go near, touch, pet or feed unknown, stray or wild animals. Teach your children to do the same. Keep an eye on young children playing with domestic animals.
  • If you have a dog or cat, get it vaccinated against rabies.
  • Don’t let your pets roam. Keep dogs in a safe place, tied up or on a leash.
  • If you see stray domestic animals, inform your municipality.
  • If an animal bites your pet, see a veterinarian. Avoid touching your pet or wear gloves to protect yourself. The fresh saliva of the animal that did the biting could be in your pet’s fur or wound.
  • Prevent raccoons, skunks and bats from coming around your home and your pet shelters. You can block access to buildings and garbage cans, for instance.
  • Don’t care for or adopt orphaned wild animals, even if they seem harmless. In addition to being illegal, adopting wild animals puts you at risk of various diseases.

What to do if you've been bitten or scratched by an animal or have come into contact with its saliva

1. Clean the wound right away for 10 to15 minutes using soap and water, even if it doesn’t seem serious.

2. Call Info-Santé at 811 as soon as possible. A nurse will tell you if you have to see a doctor.

Depending on the assessment of the situation, getting a series of vaccines soon after a bite, scratch or contact with the saliva of a potentially infected animal is an effective way to prevent rabies.