Do Raccoons have Rabies? 10 Signs A Raccoon Has Rabies

raccoon in the grass
Signs that a Raccoon has rabies include: discharge from its eyes and mouth, staggering or trouble walking, aggressive for no reason, strange and repetitive high-pitched noises, wandering, choking on nothing, wet and matted fur, loss of leg function, self-mutilation, and lack of reaction to noise or movement.

Do raccoons have rabies?

Raccoons are indeed one of the primary carriers of rabies, a virus that causes inflammation of the brain, attacking the central nervous system in mammals, but not all raccoons have rabies. Rabid raccoons have caught the virus through bites or saliva from an infected animal. 

An oral rabies vaccine is distributed to raccoons by rabies control programs to reduce the spread of the virus.

Raccon sitting

How do you know if a raccoon has rabies?

Look for these 10 signs:

  1. Discharge from its eyes and mouth
  2. Staggering or trouble walking
  3. Aggressive for no reason 
  4. Strange and repetitive high-pitched noises
  5. Wandering
  6. Choking on nothing 
  7. Wet and matted fur
  8. Loss of leg function 
  9. Self-mutilation
  10. Lack of reaction to noise or movement

What types of rabies are there?

There are two types of rabies: furious form and dumb form.

In the furious form, a raccoon will be over-excited or aggressive, although unprovoked. This is the form in which self-mutilation occurs. The raccoon will gnaw on itself.

In the dumb form, a raccoon will appear slow and lethargic. This form of rabies will more likely have a loss of leg function or another paralysis. A raccoon with this form of rabies isolates itself from other raccoons but isn’t afraid of humans.

Call a wildlife control professional if you see a raccoon with these rabid signs. Don’t try to handle the raccoon by yourself. Use the signs of rabies above to help you identify a rabid raccoon, but for the diagnosis to be official, the raccoon’s brain must be checked.

Raccoon with its tongue out

What are the odds of a raccoon having rabies?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) did a study in 2018 to see which animals had the highest rabies cases. 92.7% of the cases of rabies that year were from wild animals. Bats were the highest carriers as 33% of the cases were bats. But, what is the percentage of raccoons with rabies?

Raccoons were the second-highest carriers. 30.3% of rabies cases were raccoons. 20.3% were skunks, and 7.2% were foxes. 

Also, in 2018, the District of Columbia Department of Health did a study on rabies. They had 261 animals to test for rabies, and 8.8% of those animals tested positive for rabies. There were 51 raccoons in this study, and they tested the most positive. 41.2% of the raccoons submitted had rabies.

walking raccoon

Can you get rabies from touching a raccoon?

Rabies transmission occurs through saliva. So you generally cannot get rabies from touching or petting a raccoon. People tend to contract rabies through bites, but it can still be transmitted through saliva even if the infected animal is already dead.

It is extremely rare for humans to get rabies from a raccoon, but it is not impossible. Humans, in fact, are more likely to contract rabies from dogs and bats than from raccoons. 

It is wise to avoid the risk of catching rabies, distemper, roundworm, and other diseases by staying away from a raccoon. 

Raccoon on rock wall

What to do if you get bitten by a raccoon?

If you get bitten by a raccoon, you need to seek medical attention immediately, even if the bite looks small and doesn’t even bleed. You should get urgent medical help since you risk catching rabies, salmonella, and leptospirosis from the bite.

If prompt treatment is not received, rabies is fatal.

If you are waiting for medical help or cannot get it right away, clean the area thoroughly with soap and water. Also, you should notify your local health department to keep others safe. 

Doctors will treat you with prophylaxis, a vaccine that treats the effects of raccoon bites and scratches. 

If you have caught the rabies virus from the bite, post-exposure treatment includes one dose of immune globulin, which contains antibodies to rabies. You will also receive a series of rabies vaccinations. These vaccinations need to be administered before the symptoms start, or the risk of dying is high. 


Whitney is a graduate of Georgetown College and a current graduate student at the University of the Cumberlands. She resides in the beautiful state of Kentucky, which she has always appreciated and endeavors to maintain the land's well-being. A lover of animals and the earth, Whitney strives to communicate accurate information that will help readers learn new information, ideas, and become informed stewards of the natural world.

Recent Posts