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Got scratches from nails and teeth by the dog. What are the chances of getting rabies?

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Pediatrician, Infectious Diseases
Practicing since : 2005
Answered : 1528 Questions
My friend owns a pomeranian dog which was vaccinated for rabies 2 and a half year ago(in our country, pet owners are not required by law to get pets vaccinated regularly).
I (30 years old) visited my friend at his home seven days back (on 23.06.12). The dog was chained since I was an stranger for the dog (I went first time to my friend's home)and I fear dogs. Somehow, the dog broke loose and ran towards me. He didn't attack me at all but started playing with me near my legs. At the time, I was in shorts and wore nothing below knees. In the process, I got a scratch (below knee) which I don't know was from his nails or teeth. The scrath was mild and didn't bleed. I washed the scratch immediately with soap and water for 1-2 minutes. Later I came to know that I should have washed for 10-15 minutes and should have applied alcohol/iodine after washing which I didn't do. This dog sometimes comes in contact with other dogs and cows. The dog is pet and available for observation for 10 days.

My questions are

1. Should I go for rabies PEP and if not should I consult a physician.
2. Can I wait for 10 days to observe if dog starts showing any rabies symptoms.
3. Is there any chance that a rabid dog starts shedding rabies virus and doesn't die/shows symptoms even after 10 days.
4. If the dog was rabid, how many days I have left with to go for PEP successfully considering location of scratch and considering that it was a scratch not a bite.

Thanking you in anticipation.

Asked by Me , 5 days ago

Doctor's reply to your question above... Hello,
Thanks for posting your query.
Since you had only a minor scratch on your leg and the dog was vaccinated two and half years ago, there is nothing to worry.
About the PEP,if the attack was unprovoked,and the dog is available for observation,then anti rabies shots may not be needed. Any signs of infection,like pus,discolouration etc from the site,seek medical help immediate.
Some doctors give antibiotics to prevent infection,so that can be done only after examination of the wound.

You can observe the dog for ten days and then decide.
It is not likely that a rabied dog will not show any symptoms in ten days.
The scratch you had was a mild one. There is no need to worry. You can safely wait for ten days. In case of doubt, PEP is started as soon as possible after the bite.

Hope this answers your query. I will be glad to answer the follow up queries that you have.
Please accept my answer in case you do not have further queries.
Wishing you good health.
Dr. XXXXXXX Tayal.

Replied by Dr. XXXXXXX Tayal , 5 days ago

Dr. Arulalan Katpadivaradarajan reply-
This is one of the grey areas in medicine, where no one can give 100% assurance. It is something like this: I am going to chennai from Bangalore. What are the chances I will have a fatal accident. We cannot give a yes or no answer. What I would answer is several thousands travel every day between these two metropolis. considering the volume and inexperience of our drivers, level of alcohol in their blood, the incidence of fatal accidents is negligible.
Our answer regarding rabies can be answered only in this fashion.
In short, my answer is your start taking the vaccine on day 0, 3, and 7. That means if you are taking the vaccine on monday, you can take another one on thursday and the third next monday. If on the 10 th day dog is fine, stop the vaccine. After all there is a regimen called pre-expposure prophylaxis. People who regularly work with animals take vaccine on day 0,7 and 21 even BEFORE the animal biting them. So we can assure that this vaccine is so safe.
The reason, is, the anxiety will kill us. Conflicting advice can confuse us. This is what I did to my mother 21 years ago.
Scratch and bite has no difference. Dogs have the habit of licking their nails.
Regarding the lack of blood, it is certainly reassuring, but that will not give peace of mind.
The answer is yes for your third question.
As far as your final question, don't place any time frame.
You can take the vaccine as early as possible.
In the last 27 years I have not heard any reaction to rabies prophylaxis.
with best wishes

Dr.Vibin's reply-
welcome to Health Care Magic Forum
I understand your anxiety but your detail description shows clearly that you are NOT at risk for infection. Need not take any prophylaxis for this. Just take care of the wound by keeping it clean and healthy. If u really really worried, there is nothing wrong in taking PEP with rabies vaccine 3 doses and if by 10 days dog is fine, then avoid the rest 2 doses. Take care

Although, my question has been answered by three doctors, I still feel it is unanswered. Thirteen days have passed since the incident and the dog is still healthy.
Should I go for PEP or not?
Thanks and regards.
Posted Sat, 28 Jul 2012 in Infections
Answered by Dr. Hema Yadav 1 hour later
Thanks for posting your query.
Please do not worry at all. All the doctors have appropriately stated the facts so that you can take an informed decision however the answer has become much easier now.
Considering the incident occured 13 days back , the dog is healthy and you are asymptomatic ,& the scratch has healed there is nothing worrisome at present.
You need not take the post exposure prophylaxis ( PEP) for rabies.
If your lifestyle demands that you will frequently come in contact with dogs ( many friends with pets) then you have a choice of taking the three shot preexposure prophylaxis ( 0, 7, 21 day schedule ) .This is not advised routinely to all people even though all of us can at some point of life have an accidental dog bite.
But it's not mandatory & recommended only to people at high risk ( vets, animal researchers etc)You should also advise your friend to get his dog vaccinated to avoid future risk to the dog , to the family and visitors.
Hope I have answered your query .
If you have any further queries I'll be happy to answer them.
If you have no further queries kindly press the accept button.
Wishing you good health .
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Got scratches from nails and teeth by the dog. What are the chances of getting rabies? 2 days later
Hello Madam,
Thank you for giving your valuable time to read my detailed question and to reply it.
However, I hope that you will dedicate little more time for providing me answers of the following follow up questions-

1-Please refer to Dr. Arulalan Katpadivaradarajan's reply. In his reply, on the one hand, he suggested that I start taking the vaccine and if on the 10th day dog is fine, stop the vaccine. On the contrary, he replied my third question in affirmative i.e. according to him there is a chance that a rabid dog starts shedding rabies virus and doesn't die/shows symptoms even after 10 days.
These statements appear to be contradictory. If it is possible that a rabid dog starts shedding rabies virus and doesn't die/shows symptoms even after 10 days then why to stop vaccine on the 10th day even if dog is fine. Please clarify.

2-Please refer to your reply. You have stated that since the dog is healthy and I am asymptomatic there is nothing worrisome at present. However, I feel that my being asymptomatic now is insignificant here since the incubation period of the disease is usually a few months or more in humans. Please elucidate.

Nevertheless, 15 days have passed and the dog still appears to be healthy. CAN I FORGET THE INCIDENT OR SHOULD I KEEP AN EYE ON THE DOG FOR A FEW MORE DAYS?

Hoping to receive from you an informative and satisfactory reply as earlier and thanking you in anticipation for the same.

Answered by Dr. Hema Yadav 1 hour later
Thanks for the follow up .
Answer 1. An animal can only transmit rabies through a bite when the virus has infected the animal's brain. Once the brain is infected, the animal begins shedding the virus in its saliva. It is at this time or soon after that the animal begins to shows signs of illness. For dogs, and some other animals the period during which they can shed the virus has been documented. In these animals, rabies virus is present in saliva only a few days prior to the onset of their illness and up until their death. This allows us to observe a biting dog for 10 days to determine whether it could have been shedding rabies at the time of the bite. If the animal does NOT develop rabies illness during the 10 days observation period, the animal was not shedding rabies virus and the exposed person does not need PEP. This protocol may not apply to all animal species.
If in a dilemma the vaccination has been initiated but the dog found to be healthy it can be stopped at 3 doses which is the required dosage for the additional benefit of it acting like a pre exposure prophylaxis ( as taken by high risk individuals) .
It can still be completed without any disadvantage albeit some discomfort in form of additional injections .

Answer 2. The incubation period for humans though typically mentioned as 1-3 months it can vary from days to years.Yes you are right in saying that you being asymptomatic is rather insignificant however it just corroborates the low risk .Early symptoms, which may last for several days, include irritability, headache, fever, malaise, and sometimes discomfort or tingling at the site of the bite or exposure. Within days the patient may develop slight or partial paralysis, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing, hydrophobia (fear of water), anxiety, confusion, excitation, convulsions, etc So though you are right that it may take months for recognition of symptoms in your case there is no symptom related to wound site & the dog and it's already 15 days now so you neednot feel anxious anymore about the incident . As I said there is no point in continuing watching for the symptoms in the dog but the pet owner should be advised for vaccinating his pet regularly .
Hope I have answered your queries.
Kindly accept my answer if you have no further queries.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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