4 min read


Can Dogs Live with Rabies?



4 min read


Can Dogs Live with Rabies?


When you hear the word rabies, you might already feel distressed. The word alone can be terrifying. Rabies in animals is a scary reality that some pet owners have to face one time or another. It's a scary and very deadly disease that affects animals as well as humans. 

There are things you can do to prevent rabies, but the question has still been raised that if your dog were to get rabies, could they live with the disease? The answer might intrigue you.


Signs Your Dog Might Have Rabies

The first thing to keep in mind is if your dog gets infected with rabies, they'll probably start exhibiting odd behavior. You might notice them baring their teeth, growling, stiffening their tail, and being generally more aggressive towards even familiar faces.

The main thing to note in any animal with rabies is a dramatic change in behavior, though. Is your dog acting more anxious? Maybe they're being more aggressive? Or perhaps, they're being overly friendly? Whatever is happening with your pup, it's important to keep an eye on them always. If your dog is acting off, you need to call your vet immediately. If you see any bites or cuts on your dog, you especially need to get help right away.

Body Language

Here are some signs you might notice if your dog has rabies:

  • Growling
  • Barking
  • Exposed Teeth
  • Stiff Tail

Other Signs

Here are some other signs you might notice if your dog's behavior changes drastically:

  • Anxious Behavior
  • Unusual Aggression
  • Over-Friendliness

History of Dogs and Rabies


Rabies has been mentioned even in ancient times as a very dangerous disease. In fact, there are papers that date back to 300 BC that talk about rabies. Louis Pasteur proved around 1855 that rabies could be transmitted between animals and humans. 

The rabies vaccine was introduced in the early 1900s. It is interesting to note that some European countries tried to eradicate as many stray dogs as possible to prevent rabies problems, as well. Rabies was only found in certain regions for a while and has been almost eradicated in some areas. According to American Humane, the only state in the United States that does not have animals with rabies is Hawaii. They also note that rabies occurs a lot along the southern Arizona and Mexico border as well as on the east coast from Maine to Florida. However, it can still be found in other states as well.

Rabies is also not just a dog problem. America Humane also says that rabies can affect any “warm-blooded animal.” With that being said, human cases are pretty rare in the United States, but it can still happen and be disastrous. Cats and other domesticated animals can also get rabies. The virus is typically carried by raccoons, foxes, and skunks, but it can be carried by a variety of other animals, as well.

Science Behind Dogs and Rabies


So how can one get rabies? Well, Rabies is caused by a virus. The virus affects the central nervous system. It is typically spread by a bite or scratch from an infected animal. The key is their saliva - that’s how the virus is spread. 

Most states in the United States have rabies laws that mandate vaccinations and quarantines if there is a question of rabies in an animal. It’s important to find your state’s rules and stick to them. The health of your dog and family are at stake. Rabies is extremely deadly, and according to various sources, it will kill an animal within five days of showing the signs in most cases. 

If the other animal that bites your dog is a familiar domesticated animal, request a copy of their vaccines to make sure they are up-to-date too. America Humane also mentions that there is no way to test a living animal for rabies. The only way to test is after a dog is already dead. So, it’s critical to make sure your dog’s vaccines are up-to-date and if they do get bitten or scratched by another animal (wild or domestic), it’s important to call your vet.

Training Your Dog to Not Get Rabies


So, how can you train your dog to not get rabies? The answer is, you really can't. You can, however, take steps to protect yourself and your pooch. You can start by making sure they’re up on their rabies vaccinations. These vaccinations are given to puppies at just a few weeks old and are totally worth keep your pet safe. After all, once they're bitten by a rabid animal, that's it if they don't have a vaccination. 

The other thing you can do is keep your dog on a leash in public and not encourage them to go near wildlife or unknown animals. It’s also important to keep your dog away from any dead animals you might see while out walking or even in your backyard.

So, can dogs live with rabies? No, they can’t. So, it’s better to take steps to prevent rabies than to lose your pooch to it later.

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Keeping Your Dog Safe from Rabies:

  1. Make sure you know the vaccination laws in your state.
  2. Keep your dog up-to-date on their vaccinations.
  3. Keep them on a leash while walking.
  4. Keep them away from wild or domestic animals you don't know (dead or alive).
  5. If your dog gets bitten or scratched, call your vet immediately.

Written by Katie Anderson

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 05/04/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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