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Can Dogs Get Rabies From Eating Poop?


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For many, dogs quickly become one of the few things in life that never fail to put a smile on your face. They are always there to greet you at the end of the day, they are always there to ensure no food gets wasted and they’re always willing to be cuddled. But can your dog catch the same illnesses as you?

Rabies, for example, is a viral disease that can kill humans in a very short time frame. As well, it is highly contagious. But could your dog contract rabies just from eating poop on their usual walk?

Can Dogs Get Rabies From Eating Poop?

Some may think because rabies is so highly contagious, your dog could contract it just from eating the poop of an infected animal, but this is not possible. The rabies virus is contracted via saliva, so the transmission would actually require a bite or saliva from an infected animal getting in a wound.

Does My Dog Have Rabies?

Rabies is extremely serious, so keep an eye out for symptoms. Does your dog seem anxious and irritable? Is your dog staggering and do they appear disoriented? Is your dog eating unusual things? Is your dog suffering from seizures or paralysis of a limb? Does you dog appear sensitive to light, touch and sound? All of these are signs of rabies and require immediate attention.

But what causes rabies? Rabies is contracted through the blood or saliva of another infected animal. Commonly, the illness is transmitted from bats, skunks, raccoons, rabbits, cats, and other dogs. It can even be contracted for a short period from the carcass of a dead animal. It is usually transmitted via a bite, but can also be passed by saliva coming into contact with an open wound.

How will your vet diagnose rabies? The first thing you need to do if you suspect rabies is cage your dog before taking them to the vet. The vet will then quarantine your dog to observe them for symptoms. Unfortunately, a thorough diagnostic cannot be made until after death, via a direct fluorescence antibody test of brain tissue. For further information on symptoms, causes, and diagnosis, learn more at our guide to Rabies in Dogs.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Rabies?

The first measure to take is absolute quarantine as soon as you suspect rabies and have witnessed any symptoms. However, even when you have taken your dog to the vet, treatment is extremely limited. Rabies cannot be cured and for that reason, once your vet is confident the dog is suffering from rabies, they will recommend putting them down. This is due to the significant threat an infected dog poses not only to other animals, but to humans as well. If for some reason euthanasia isn’t pursued, your dog will likely die within 7-10 days.

The most important measure you as an owner can take is preventative; have your dog vaccinated. The vaccination could save your dog’s life and protect them from future rabies risk. Most states now require by law that require that unvaccinated pets leave their family home and are quarantined for at least 10 days if they bite someone. While this may seem extreme, this just highlights the danger rabies poses. If your dog is vaccinated, no recovery will be needed and your dog will be immune from a fatal disease.

It can be helpful to read firsthand accounts and to see frequently asked questions about rabies vaccines here.

How Is Rabies Similar in Dogs, Humans and Other Animals?

Rabies manifests itself in many of the same ways in dogs as it does in humans and other animals. Some of the common symptoms you could expect to see are as follows:

  • Both dogs and humans can exhibit aggressive and antisocial behavior.

  • In both, paralysis of limbs may take place as the infection progresses.

  • Staggering, disorientation and weakness are often symptoms exhibited by both dogs and humans.

  • An extreme fever can often take place in both dogs and humans.

  • Unexpected seizures and sudden death are both symptoms of rabies in dogs, humans, and other animals.

How Is Rabies Different in Dogs, Humans and Other Animals?

While you have seen there are many similarities in the way rabies manifests itself in dogs, humans and other animals, there are also certain differences worth highlighting. Some of those differences are as follows:

  • In dogs, biting and eating unusual objects is a much more common symptom than it is in humans.

  • Headaches are one of the first symptoms in humans, it is less clear when and if they strike in dogs with rabies.

  • In humans, hydrophobia frequently develops due to the difficulty of swallowing.

Case Study

Zoey was a 2-year-old Boston Terrier when she started to foam at the mouth and went blind in one eye. The owners, understandably concerned, took her to the vet’s where she was quarantined for observation. However, it turned out that Zoey had actually been vaccinated by previous owners and that epilepsy, poisoning, and brain lesions were more likely causes than rabies. Further investigation proved so. This case highlights the importance of vaccination, but also the need to consider other possibilities as well.

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