What are Rabies?
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Symptoms of Rabies in Dogs
Symptoms will begin to appear anywhere from 10 days to eight weeks from the day of exposure to rabies virus. Symptoms of rabies infection include:
- Biting/snapping at objects and other animals or humans
- Chewing/licking at site of infection
- Sensitivity to touch, light and sound
- Hiding/antisocial behavior
- Eating unusual things (pica)
- Paralysis of throat and jaw
- Inability to swallow
- Excessive salivation
- Hind limb paralysis
- Loss of appetite
- Sudden death
After the virus is contracted, it can take up to 8 weeks to reach the brain. At this point, one, two, or all three stages of infection will occur:
- Prodromal stage: This stage makes up the first 2-3 days of symptoms. The dog demonstrates anxiety, fear and hiding behaviors and may run a fever. Extreme personality changes can be observed. Aggressive dogs can become docile while friendly dogs become aggressive.
- Furious stage– After the prodromal state, the dog can enter the furious stage which can last from 1-7 days. Dogs demonstrate restlessness and irritability and become hypersensitive to light and sound. They begin to wander and will attack inanimate objects, animals and people. Disorientation, seizures and death follow.
- Paralytic stage – The paralytic stage can follow the prodromal or furious stage and usually develops 2-4 days after the first symptoms are observed. The jaw and throat become paralyzed, causing inability to swallow and excessive salivation. Labored breathing and choking can occur. Weakness, respiratory failure and death follow.
Causes of Rabies in Dogs
Rabies is contracted through the exchange of blood and/or saliva from a rabies-infected animal who may or may not be exhibiting symptoms. It can also very rarely be contracted from a decomposing animal carcass, though the virus doesn’t survive long in a non-living host. The most frequent cause of infection with rabies is through contact with a wild animal. Pets with highest risk are unvaccinated dogs who have regular contact with wild animals and/or stray dogs and cats.
Any mammal can carry the rabies virus, however the most common exposure to rabies happens through coming in contact with:
Diagnosis of Rabies in Dogs
If you suspect that your pet has come in contact with a wild animal, especially when scratches or bites are involved, place your pet in a kennel and take it to the veterinarian. If you feel your pet is exhibiting symptoms of rabies infection, you will also need to cage your pet and bring it to the vet. If you are uncomfortable with going near your pet or if your pet has escaped, contact local animal control to help you capture and transport your pet.
The only diagnostic method for rabies infection is quarantine (usually 10 days) for observation of symptoms. Official diagnosis is carried out using a direct fluorescence antibody test of brain tissue taken after death. If your pet begins to exhibit signs of rabies during quarantine, your veterinarian will recommend euthanasia.
Treatment of Rabies in Dogs
If you suspect your pet may have come into close contact with a wild animal, even if your pet has been vaccinated, you should take them to the vet immediately. There is no available treatment for rabies infection once symptoms are observed. Infection usually leads to death within 7-10 days after symptoms are first noted. Because rabies presents a threat to public health, laws often required that animals exhibiting symptoms be euthanized.Vaccinated Pets – Possible Rabies Exposure
If your pet is vaccinated and has been bitten or scratched by a wild animal, the pet will receive a booster vaccine and may be kept under observation for 10 days. If you are visiting a new vet, you will need to obtain proof of updated rabies vaccination. The veterinarian will discuss the necessary steps according to the laws of the local area. If the pet begins to demonstrate symptoms of rabies while in quarantine, euthanasia is recommended (and may be required by law).Non-vaccinated Pets – Possible Rabies Exposure
If your pet is not vaccinated and has been bitten or scratched by a wild animal, the pet will receive vaccination and be kept under observation for up to 6 months. The veterinarian will discuss the necessary steps according to the laws of the local area.
Recovery of Rabies in Dogs
Rabies vaccination is not only important in preventing disease. Most laws require that unvaccinated pets leave their family and home and enter quarantine for 10 days or more if they bite someone. Some locations require euthanasia for unvaccinated pets who have bitten someone. Your veterinarian can explain your local laws and give you a rabies vaccination schedule for your pet.
Call animal control if you notice a wild animal or stray dog or cat exhibiting symptoms of rabies. Never come into contact with a suspected rabid animal. The risk of your pet contracting rabies virus is lowered significantly by preventing contact with wild or stray animals and supervising your pet anytime they are outdoors.
Rabies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My pitbull is about 6 months old and began to have saliva and a bit of foam running down his mouth, he is trembling and his body temperature has risen, he seems very down. What could this be?
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My dog is.foaming from the mouth and is starting to get blindness in her eye and she can go from laying down to foaming from the mouth
Whilst many people think rabies when a dog is foaming at the mouth, there are other causes including epilepsy, poisoning, brain lesions or accumulation of toxins in the blood. I would strongly recommend visiting your Veterinarian and make note of the length of duration of seizures, eye position etc… which maybe useful in reaching a diagnosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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