Rat-Bite First Aid

Rat Bite Fever Treatment: What You Need To Know About Rat Bitten Fever?

What Is Rat Bitten Fever (RBF)?

The symptoms of RBF are similar to those of rabies. However, unlike rabies, it does not affect humans or animals but only rodents. Rats carry the disease and transmit it through bites. They usually do so when they have been feeding on other rats or mice that have died from the illness.

How Do I Tell If My Pet Has Been Bitten By A Rat?

If your pet shows any of the following signs, then it may have bitten another rodent and contracted RBF:

It loses its appetite. It becomes lethargic. Its movements become very slow. It stops eating altogether. It begins to vomit blood or develop sores around its mouth and gums.

You will notice that if your pet has these symptoms, it is likely to have bitten another rat or mouse. Therefore, it is advisable to keep them away from each other whenever possible. Also, make sure that there are no other rodents near where your pet lives.

Is There Any Cure For RBF?

There is currently no cure for RBF and all attempts at treating the disease with drugs have failed thus far. The only solution at this moment, is to keep the patient alive long enough for their own immune system to fight off the illness.

What Is The Treatment For RBF?

The patient will need to rest and stay in a sterile environment while the disease runs its course and their body develops an immune response. This usually takes about 2-3 weeks but can last up to 6 months.

What Are The Chances Of Survival?

RBF is not a fast killer and most patients that recover do so within the first 2 weeks. After this point, the chances of survival drop considerably and most vets will advise owners to put their pets down.

What Should I Do If I Think My Pet Has Been Bitten By A Rat?

If you suspect that your pet has been bitten or contracted RBF, then you should take it to a vet immediately. The earlier the patient receives treatment, the higher their chances of survival.


Being able to prevent our pets from catching diseases is always preferable as it means they will enjoy a longer and happier life. There are a few things you can do to prevent your pet from catching RBF.

The first thing you should do is to make sure that there are no other rodents around where your pet lives. Rodents can carry the virus without displaying any symptoms and your pet may be able to catch it from coming into contact with their urine or faeces. If there are other rodents in your garden or yard, then you should look into getting them removed by a professional.

The next thing you can do is to make sure that your pet has all their vaccinations. In this case, getting your pet vaccinated for rabies is also beneficial as it will enhance their resistance to similar diseases.

Finally, if you know that there are rodents in your area, then you should always keep an eye on your pets when they are outside. You should never let them hunt or feed themselves outside as they may catch a rodent which could be infected with the illness. If you do see your pet chasing or feeding on a rodent or any other small animal, then you should inspect them for any bites or scratches immediately.

Has My Pet Caught RBF?

Sadly, the only way to tell if your pet has caught the virus is for it to show symptoms of the disease. Once a rodent displays any symptoms, it means that the virus is active in their body and they are contagious. It can be passed on to other animals or humans through biting or saliva contact. Anyone who thinks that they may have been bitten by your pet should seek medical attention immediately.

Some of the symptoms to look out for are:

Sudden changes in behaviour.


High fever.



Appetite loss.




Excessive Salivation.

Pale Gums.

Most of these symptoms are not exclusive to rabies and may have other causes but if you see more than a couple of these in your pet, then you should seek a veterinarian immediately. Early treatment has the best chance of success.


What Happens If My Pet Caught It?

Sadly, there is no cure for rabies once the symptoms appear. Most patients will die within 10 days of showing symptoms and despite what movies and media would have you believe, there is no ‘cure’ either through treatment or a vaccine. Once the disease progresses too far, the infected animal will display aggressive tendencies which makes them a danger not only to themselves but to others as well. This is why it is so important to seek treatment immediately if you think your pet has been exposed to the virus.

There are some treatments available which may give the animal more time with their owners and if it is a pet, give their owners more time to prepare. Once the symptoms appear though, there is nothing that can be done. This is why it is so important to make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date. It may seem expensive but it is worth it if it means saving their life.

Sadly, if an animal begins to display symptoms of the disease, most owners will take them to be euthanized by a veterinarian before they get sick. This is why, even though cases of rabies are rare, you should always keep an eye out for any suspicious behaviour in animals.


What If I’m Bitten?

In cases where the animal is still around and has bitten a human, it is important that you try to keep the animal in the area. This includes pets as well as wild animals such as strays and wildlife in your garden or nearby. Try to contain the animal without hurting it, either by trapping it somewhere or by using a blanket or something similar to corner it. Once you have the animal contained, do not release it and keep people and pets at a distance. Call your local animal control or police who will come out and collect the animal. For pets, it is important that you keep them contained in the meantime as their fate is decided.

If the animal has already been collected by animal control and you’ve been bitten, you will need to seek medical attention immediately. It is very important that you seek help as soon as you can as the vaccine needs to be administered as soon as possible.

Once at hospital, you will need to inform them of the situation and they will check if the animal has been collected yet. If it hasn’t and you are worried about potential infection, they may give you the vaccinations anyway. Once the animal has been collected and tested, you can then get your vaccinations which will protect you from the virus. These vaccinations will need to be repeated on a regular basis depending on your needs and the doctors may give you the preventative medication too which may have some side effects but will protect you from most things.

If you show any signs of early infection, they will give you the antiviral medication which may help depending on how early you start treatment and how bad the symptoms get.


The Aftermath

If the worst does happen and someone dies from rabies or you were unable to get the vaccine to them in time, the line of treatment is rather grim. People who have died from a rabies infection do not come back to life, no matter what movies may tell you. They will be kept in cold storage until enough time passes for the disease to run its course and for them to safely be pronounced dead from something else. Once this happens, they can be safely buried or cremated which then prevents the virus from finding a new host.

If someone you know has died of rabies, it is important to keep your distance from them during the mourning period and to seek help as soon as you can. Anyone who has had contact with the infected party should be quarantined until it is clear that they do not have the disease.

If you do become infected, you will need to seek medical attention immediately and try to minimize your contact with others. Symptoms will show up in stages, each of which lasts for several days. The first stage lasts for four days, during which time you will feel like you have a bad cold or the flu. During this time, you may find that your hands have started to tingle and you have trouble moving them properly. You will experience minor nausea and it will be hard for you to keep down food.

If you get to the second stage, which lasts for three days, you will begin to experience hallucinations and intense pain. You will also begin showing signs of muscle spasms and it will become increasingly difficult to walk.

The third and final stage is much shorter in duration, occurring over the course of just one day. During this time, your muscles will begin to shut down and you won’t be able to move at all. Your salivary glands will also stop working which means you won’t be able to swallow. You will experience pain throughout your entire body during this time.

Once the fourth day has passed, the disease will begin affecting your brain and you will slip into a coma. Shortly after the coma begins, your organs will begin to shut down and you will die.

If you do survive the disease, you will eventually make a full recovery but you are still contagious until the seventh day after the infection was detected. Be aware that you are also at risk of schizophrenia or general psychosis several months after the infection has worn off. While this isn’t common, it has been known to happen.

Remember, rabies is fatal if not treated immediately so get your vaccinations if you’re going to be exposed to any high-risk scenarios!

Sources & references used in this article:

Penicillin in the Treatment of Experimental Infections with Spirillum minus and Streptobacillus moniliformis (Rat-Bite Fever). by FR Heilman, WE Herrell – Proceedings of Staff Meetings of the …, 1944 – cabdirect.org

McK. Rat-bite fever. by GL Gilbert, JF Cassidy, N Bennett – Medical Journal of Australia, 1971 – cabdirect.org

The dermatologic aspects of rat-bite fever by PA O’LEARY – Archives of Dermatology and Syphilology, 1924 – jamanetwork.com

Two cases of rat-bite fever by WT Collier – British medical journal, 1924 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov