Pets bring tremendous joy to our lives. They decrease stress, increase our physical activity, and are wonderful companions for our families, but sometimes that bond can be temporarily hindered when an animal bites a person.
In addition to causing injury, animal bites can transmit diseases such as rabies. This can be a stressful time both for the victim and the owner of the pet. Owners may have concerns that their pet has to go into quarantine, and victims might be concerned about what kind of treatment they might need.
As Army public health officials, our goal is to enable long and healthy lives together for our human and furry family members.
The Fort Bragg Veterinary Center works closely with both the owner and the medical treatment facility to ensure patient safety with minimal impact on the animal.
What is rabies and how is it transmitted?
Rabies is a viral disease for which there is no cure. Once symptoms are present, it is nearly 100 percent fatal in humans and always fatal in animals. Rabies virus is transmitted through a bite or scratch from a rabid animal.
While the main animals that transmit rabies in the United States include bats, coyotes, raccoons, foxes and skunks, people can be exposed to rabies from dogs and cats. In 2016, there were 11 reported cases of rabies in Cumberland and Harnett counties.
Two of those cases involved cats and the remaining were wildlife animals such as bats, foxes, and raccoons. Rabies is preventable with timely intervention.
What happens if I’m bitten or scratched by an animal?
If you are bitten by animal and the bite is severe, seek emergency medical attention immediately. If the bite wound is not severe, wash the wound with soap and water for 15 minutes then seek treatment at Womack Army Medical Center emergency room as soon as possible. WAMC manages all animal bite incidents for Fort Bragg military personnel and families.
Do not go to another Fort Bragg clinic as this will only delay treatment and the initiation of a bite report. Once you’ve arrived at WAMC, your healthcare provider will determine your need for treatment based on the circumstances and the availability of the animal.
Rabies is preventable with a vaccine series if treatment begins before the onset of rabies symptoms. Only WAMC, and not the other Fort Bragg clinics, has the vaccine to prevent rabies.
What if my pet bites or scratches another person?
If you live in military housing and your pet has bitten or scratched someone, your pet will need to be evaluated by a veterinarian at the Fort Bragg Veterinary Center.
This exam should be performed as soon as possible after the bite incident. The animal will be placed on a 10-day quarantine at either home, the Fort Bragg Veterinary Center, or Cumberland County Animal Control. This decision is made by the attending veterinarian.
During the quarantine, your pet should have no contact with any other animals and should be handled by only one caretaker. The pet should not leave the caretaker’s property and should remain on leash when outside. You should report any signs of illness to the veterinarian immediately.
At the conclusion of the 10-day quarantine, your pet will be re-examined by a veterinarian at the Fort Bragg Veterinary Center. The initial and final quarantine physical exams are free of charge. The purpose of the quarantine period is to ensure the animal has no clinical signs of rabies after 10 days.
Observation of the animal provides valuable information to the WAMC staff when treating the bite victim. Euthanasia of cats and dogs is only considered in rare circumstances when there is a strong suspicion of rabies infection.
What happens if my pet is bitten by another animal?
If your pet has been bitten by another animal, seek veterinary care immediately. Animals that are current on rabies vaccination will receive wound cleansing and booster vaccination.
The animal will then be kept under your control and observed for 45 days. Confinement is necessary even for vaccinated pets due to the potential of incomplete vaccine efficacy, improper vaccine administration, and variable immune response to vaccines.
Dogs and cats that have never been vaccinated should be placed in strict quarantine for four (dogs and cats) months or humanely euthanized.
What can you do?
Pets, including dogs and cats are legally required to be vaccinated for rabies. This is mandated by local laws and required for dogs and cats living on post (see XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg Regulation 40-5).
Dogs and cats should be properly socialized to be comfortable with other animals, people, places and activities.
All Family members, especially children, should be taught how to avoid animal bites. To avoid being bitten, Family members should learn how to pay attention to an animal’s body language, respect animals when they are sleeping and eating, and never approach an unfamiliar animal.
You should never try to break up a dog fight, and never leave a young child alone with a pet.
By following these guidelines, we can enjoy healthy lives together with our four-legged Family members.
If you have any questions or concerns about rabies, please contact the Fort Bragg Veterinary Center at 396-9120.