An often forgotten but very serious public health concern is rabies. The disease
can be deadly to people and animals. Both state and local regulations require all
dogs and cats to be properly vaccinated against rabies. To provide a convenient
opportunity for all pet owners to have their pets vaccinated, the Chattanooga-Hamilton
County Health Department partners with Hamilton County Veterinary Medical Association
each year to organize rabies vaccination clinics in April.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, the number of rabies cases in
domestic animals has declined dramatically due to mandatory vaccination laws for
dogs and cats. However, rabies among wildlife (especially skunks, bats and raccoons)
has become more prevalent, and the higher the incidence of rabies in wildlife, the
greater the risk to domestic animals.
All animal to human exposures (bites, scratches, and open wounds) should be reported
as soon as possible to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department. Exposure
to bats (physical contact even without a clear history of a bite) should also be
reported. Local emergency rooms and physician’s offices should send bite
reports via fax or by calling the Environmental Health office.
Our telephone number is 423/209-8110, Fax number is 423/209-8111
How can you protect your pets?
Tennessee law requires that all dogs and cats be vaccinated against rabies and
their shots kept up-to-date. Although cases of rabies in cats in Tennessee
are uncommon, there are twice as many rabid cats as dogs in the U.S. To further
protect your pets, keep them confined to a controlled area to limit their exposure
to wild animals.
What should you do if you are bitten?
If you are bitten by a wild or domestic animal, or get fresh saliva from the
animal into a fresh wound or scratch, then immediately wash the wound thoroughly
with soap and water for at least five minutes, and seek medical attention immediately.
Local or state health officials should be consulted to help determine if rabies
treatment is needed.
A normal, healthy dog or cat that bites a person should be confined and observed
for 10 days, and any illness that occurs during confinement should be evaluated
by a veterinarian and reported to the local health department. Do not attempt to
capture an animal that you suspect has rabies. Notify your local health department
or animal control. Rabies in domestic animals can have a variety of signs and symptoms.
Rabid animals may display abnormal behavior or an inability to rise or walk or hold
the head erect. Drooling and foaming at the mouth are only occasionally observed.
For Further Guidance
See the Hamilton County Health Department’s Rabies Control Program
Protocol for detailed information.
Healthcare providers, laboratories, and public health professionals can find
more information about this disease and a variety of others at the Tennessee Department
of Health Reportable Diseases and Events home page
Tennessee Reported Diseases
CDC Rabies Website
Keep all pets confined to your property, do not allow them to run at large.
Have your pet examined by a licensed veterinarian on an annual basis.
Report all lost or missing pets to the nearest animal control agency or law enforcement agency and give a full description of your pet.
Please contact the Environmental Health Office if you have had an encounter with a wild or stray animal.