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Dogs with the Rabies Virus

Rabies is spread by the saliva of infected animals and affects the nervous system. Usually passed when an infected animal bites another it is a viral disease that is very serious because there is no treatment for it once the symptoms begin. It is a tricky virus in that the incubation can vary widely from 10 days to 120 days, sometimes even as long as 6 months. That length is affected by where on the body the virus enters, closer to the head will mean a more aggressive and quick development.

Rabies has been around for thousands of years and is one of the most feared viruses. It affects mammals only and occurs mostly in wildlife rather than domesticated animals. However when infected wildlife comes into contact with either people or our animals it can become a problem as an outbreak could occur if all mammals infected are not dealt with. There is a vaccination for Rabies but still there are hundreds of dog deaths a year in the US alone as well as other pets and several human ones.


Causes and Common Animals Affected

As mentioned it is a virus that passes through the saliva. While bites are the more usual way to get infected a dog could become infected if another infected animal were to lick his eyes or an open wound. In very rare cases the virus could be transmitted from an infected organ to its recipient. Any mammal can be infected and can then transmit the rabies virus. Those domesticated animals most likely to include;







Those wild animals most likely to be affected include;









Symptoms Dogs with Rabies may Display

The symptoms that occur depend on what stage the infection is at.

Stage One (lasts 1 to 3 days) –

Behavioral changes such as apprehension, restlessness, irritability, quick to snap, some aggression, licking and chewing at the site of the bite, a fever, not listening to commands, restlessness.

Stage Two (lasts 3 to 4 days) –

The dog becomes over sensitive to light, sound and being touched, they may hide where it is dark and eat things that are unusual like wood and stone. Symptoms from stage one get stronger, the dog looks wide eyed, tries to escape and bites anything that comes close.

Stage Three (lasts 4 to 5 days) –

The dog calms down but now he may be weak, paralyzed in his back legs causing staggering, he cannot swallow or bark, he foams at the mouth, the fever drops, he has seizures, then he dies.

Quarantine Periods

In many states it is mandatory for dogs and cats to have rabies vaccinations and for people or animals who have been bitten there is a required quarantine period they must undergo. In nearly every state 10 days is the mandatory length and depending on where you are that may have to be carried out in an animal control facility that has been approved or may be allowed in your home. 10 is the number because it is when clinical signs show that the rabies can then be transmitted and when signs develop the animal has 10 days till he dies. If the dog lives beyond the 10 days then the animal that bit him was not shedding rabies at the time that he got bitten.

In some states if a domesticated animal that has not been vaccinated is bitten by a wild animal or has a bit of unknown origins where it is not known if rabies was involved there is a 6 month quarantine that has to be carried out in a facility at the cost of the owner. Because incubation can be as long as 6 months that is how long the quarantine is for unknown bites. If the owner cannot afford to pay for quarantine for that long the dog has to be euthanized.

Diagnosing and Treating Rabies

There is no test that can be done on a live mammal to test for rabies. The only accurate test we have right now is on brain tissue when the animal dies. There is also no treatment for rabies when the symptoms appear. Those who have it are usually put down to stop their suffering and to prevent it spreading.

Reducing the Risk of Rabies

Vaccinate! And keep the vaccination up to date, the first happens at 12 weeks, then at one year old, then every three years throughout his life. If cost is a factor there are vets and shelters who offer low cost or free vaccinations so call around.

Report any bites your dog gives to other animals or people and have proof of your vaccination ready.

If your dog is bitten by another domesticated animal ask their owner for proof of rabies vaccination and tell your vet. If the other animal is not up to date on its vaccinations you may want to report it.

Any direct contact with wild animals should be discussed straight away with your vet.

If you are bitten or scratched yourself contact a doctor straight away.

Do not keep wild animals as pets.

Avoid wild animals whether alive or dead.

Do not let your dog mix with wild animals.

Feed your dog inside as outside food attracts other animals.

Make sure your trash is animal proof.

Report stray animals to animal control.


Quick Facts About The Rabies Virus

It is a viral disease

It affects the central nervous system

It affects mammals

There is no cure

It is usually fatal

There is no test that can be done on live animals

It is spread by saliva

Incubation ranges from 10 days to 6 months though most

commonly it takes three to eight weeks

Transmission can only occur when the infected animals is showing symptoms

On average 400 to 500 pets a year in US get rabies

On average 2 humans a year get rabies