Rabies is a deadly virus that directly affects the brain and spinal cord of mammals including dogs, cats, and even humans. Though it is preventable through vaccination, the disease is still considered one of the most fear-inducing conditions. This is completely understandable considering the aggressiveness of the disease. There have been cases of rabies reported in all US states except Hawaii. Worldwide statistics show that there have been several diagnoses of the rabies disease around the world except for Australia and Antarctica.
In the span of a single year, rabies has taken the lives of 50,000 human beings and millions of animals. Once the symptoms appear, it will most likely result in death.
Today, you’ll be learning all about rabies in dogs. From the initial transmission to what you can do if your dog is infected, here is your guide to understanding dog rabies.
Understanding Dog Rabies: What Every Pet Owner Should Know
Rabies is caused by lyssaviruses, including the rabies virus and Australian bat lyssavirus. Rabies is spread when the infected animal bites or scratches another animal or human being. Because it is highly contagious, even the infected animal’s saliva can transmit the virus when it comes in contact with the eyes, mouth, or nose. More than 99 percent of rabies cases are caused by dog bites.
How is rabies transmitted?
In most cases, rabies is transmitted through a bite from an infected animal. Other than being bitten, it can also be transmitted through a scratch or when infected saliva comes in contact with mucous membranes or an open, fresh wound. The most at-risk dogs for contracting rabies are those exposed to wild animals, such as raccoons, bats, skunks, and foxes. Free-roaming animals are at risk as well.
Symptoms of rabies
One of thee most important steps to understanding dog rabies is to know its symptoms. What pet owners should know is that animals may not immediately show signs of rabies infection after being exposed to a rabid animal. Symptoms can exhibit as early as two weeks to as long as eight weeks after.
An infected dog may show abnormal dog behaviors or extreme behavior changes, which are all combined with aggression. For example, a normally friendly dog might become irritable and would start snapping at any form of stimulus. To better understand rabies disease, the following are the symptoms you should look out for.
- Behavioral changes such as restlessness, apprehension, irritability, and aggression
- Biting or snapping
- Attacking other animals, humans, and inanimate objects
- Licking, biting, and chewing the infected area
- Hypersensitivity to light
- Hiding in dark places
- Excessive chewing and eating
- Paralysis of the throat and jaw muscles
- Disorientation and incoordination
- Loss of appetite
- Foaming at the mouth
- Lethargy and weakness
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Preventing your dog from contracting rabies
Vaccinate your dog. One of the most important tips for new dog owners is to make sure their furry friend gets vaccinated as soon as possible. Not only does this protect your pet from dog rabies, but it also protects the others he might bite. Dogs who have bitten humans require a ten-day confinement to see if rabies develops. This could either end with a lengthy quarantine period or euthanasia if the animal’s vaccination records are not current. Furthermore, rabies vaccination at three months of age is a requirement in most states. That said, you can check with your local animal affairs agency if they offer free vaccination.
Avoiding contact with wild and stray animals is also necessary for rabies prevention. Proper fencing of your premises, walking your dog on a leash, and supervising them may greatly decrease the chances of contacting rabies as well.
Unfortunately, there is no test to accurately diagnose rabies in animals for now. A direct fluorescent antibody test may be ordered for proper diagnosis, but this can only be performed after the death of the animal.
Steps to take when a dog interacts with a rabid animal
- The second your pet interacts with a rabid animal, immediately contact your vet to set an appointment.
- Call local animal control if the animal who bit your pet is still out there to safely remove it from the environment and prevent any further attacks.
- Don’t touch your dog during this time unless you wear protective gloves and clothing. Rabies may be present on the surface of the dog’s skin for up to two hours.
- A dog who is already up to date with his vaccination and has been bitten needs to have a rabies booster vaccine administered immediately.
- In the event you’ve been bitten by a rabid animal, seek professional help immediately.
Sometimes, knowing the problem is not enough. In this case, understanding dog rabies is way more helpful than just familiarizing yourself with what it is. Hope this article helped you understand this health problem that has taken lives of numerous pets.