Rabies in dogs

If a dog (or any animal, including humans) is bitten by another animal with rabies, they are at risk for catching the virus themselves. It is incurable and is always fatal. Rabies attacks the spinal column, brain, and nervous system. The rabies virus exists in many countries around the world and can pass between animals of all types through saliva — so if your dog catches it and they bite you or lick an open wound on your body, it’s possible for you to catch it as well. Once your dog has been infected, they won’t begin to show symptoms for two weeks to a month. However, it’s important to note that the incubation period can be even longer than that, depending on the viral load and location of the bite. The symptoms then progress from changes in demeanor and activity levels to aggression or progressive paralysis. Keep in mind that one of the most common human symptoms, fear of water, does not happen with rabies in dogs.

What are the potential symptoms of rabies in dogs?

In order to get rabies, your dog must have been bitten by another infected animal or had their saliva touch an open wound. If they did, watch for these symptoms:

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Fever
  • Excess drool or foaming
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Avoiding lights, moving objects, and sound

What tests are used to confirm rabies in dogs?

Unless your dog has succumbed to the disease, there’s no way to definitively test for rabies in dogs. It’s generally diagnosed based on the pet’s history of vaccination combined with being bitten by an animal. The vet will also observe symptoms like drooling and seizures and will try to rule out other diseases, like cancer. Unfortunately, the only way to accurately test for rabies is to test brain tissue after the dog has passed.

What is the treatment for rabies in dogs?

There is no way to treat rabies in dogs. Your vet will possibly suggest putting your pet to sleep, as it’s going to suffer and eventually die from the disease. The most important thing to do is see your vet so that they can address the public health concern by warning the public while you work to limit further exposures.

What is the typical cost of treatment for rabies in dogs?

There is no treatment for rabies in dogs.

Hours at the vet: As little as 3 hours, as long as 10 hours.

What are the recovery steps for rabies in dogs?

Rabies does not have a cure. It is rare for a dog with rabies to recover, and the disease is virtually always fatal. Once the dog starts showing symptoms of rabies, the disease usually progresses rapidly and death usually occurs within less than a week.

How do I prevent rabies in dogs?

Make sure your dog is up to date on their rabies vaccination. The rabies vaccination is highly effective, providing nearly 100% protection. It is the single best way to prevent rabies. Also remember that most rabies cases come from wild animals. So always walk your dog on a leash, especially when you’re out in the wilderness. And never feed wildlife or encourage wild animals to come near your home.

Because animals can only transmit rabies when they are so sick that they are within 10-14 days of succumbing to the disease, monitoring the biting animal is almost more important than the bitten. If that animal is fine after that time, there’s no risk of rabies to your dog. Some districts will require quarantines for bitten and biting dogs, so it’s best to consult with your vet. Your veterinarian can guide you through any questions and public-health regulations, as rabies is also a threat to human life.

Take any and all bite wounds seriously. Even a minor wound that just barely breaks the skin can be enough to transmit rabies. Get as much information about the biting animal as possible, including proof of vaccination status, and contact your vet for instructions on what to do next. If your dog was bit by a wild animal and subsequently killed it, preserve the body for possible rabies testing by refrigerating it; never freeze anything to be tested for rabies.

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