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Rabies in Dogs

Rabies is a highly contagious and very deadly virus that can affect both people and their pets, thankfully, it is preventable with the help of vaccinations. Our Seattle vets are here to discuss the symptoms of rabies and how to prevent it from infecting your dog.

What Is Rabies

Rabies is a highly contagious but preventable virus that attacks mammals' central nervous systems. The disease is spread by the bite of an infected animal and travels along the nerves from the bite site to the spinal cord, then to the brain. When rabies infects the brain, the animal develops symptoms and usually dies within 7 days.

How Is Rabies Transmitted

Rabies is commonly transmitted by wildlife in the United States, such as raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks — but it can be found in any mammal. Rabies is most commonly found in areas with large populations of unvaccinated feral dogs.

Rabies is spread through the saliva of infected mammals and is most commonly transmitted through a bite from an infected animal. Rabies can also be transmitted when an infected animal's saliva comes into contact with an open wound or mucous membranes, such as the gums. The more contact your dog has with wild animals, the greater the risk of infection.

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Rabies in Dogs

There are typically three recognizable stages of the rabies virus in pets and here are the symptoms associated with them:

Prodromal stage - In this stage, a rabid dog will usually exhibit changes in behavior that differ from their normal personality, if your pet is usually shy, they might become more outgoing, and vice versa. If you notice any behavioral abnormalities following an unknown bite, remove your pet from any other pets and family members, and contact your vet immediately. 

Furious stage - The next stage is the most dangerous stage, causing your pet to become nervous and even vicious. They might cry out excessively and experience seizures and stop eating. The virus has gotten to the stage where it has begun attacking the nervous system, and it prevents them from being able to swallow, leading to the classic symptom of rabies, excessive drooling known as "foaming at the mouth."

Paralytic stage - This is the final stage in which a rabid dog will go into a coma, be unable to breathe, and unfortunately, most often pass away. This stage usually occurs about seven days after symptoms begin, with death following within usually 3 days.

How Long Does Rabies Take To Show Symptoms In Dogs

If your pet is infected with the rabies virus, the symptoms will not appear right away. The average incubation period is three to eight weeks, but it can range from 10 days to a year.

The rate at which symptoms appear is entirely dependent on the site of infection. A bite that is closer to the spine or brain develops much faster than others, and the severity of the bite also plays a role.

Treatment For Rabies In Dogs

If your pet starts to show the symptoms of rabies, unfortunately, there is nothing you or your vet can do for them. There is no known cure for rabies and once symptoms begin to appear, their health will deteriorate within a few days. 

Provide your veterinarian with proof of vaccination if your pet has received all necessary booster shots against rabies and their puppy shots. You should tell anyone who was bitten by your pet or who came into contact with their saliva to seek medical attention right away. Unfortunately, rabies always results in death in unvaccinated animals, usually 7 to 10 days after the first signs of the disease.

You must inform your local health department if it's determined that rabies is to blame for the incident. A non-vaccinated animal must be quarantined for up to six months or as required by local and state laws if it is bitten by or comes into contact with a known rabid animal. A vaccinated animal, however, must be quarantined and watched over for ten days after biting or scratching a person.

Your pet should be humanely euthanized to ease their suffering and to protect the other people and pets in your home. If your dog dies suddenly of what you suspect to be rabies, your vet may recommend having a sample from the cat’s brain examined. Direct testing of the brain is the only way to diagnose rabies for sure.

The best protection against rabies in dogs and cats is to get them regular preventive vaccinations against the disease. Speak to your vet about making sure your pet is up to date on their rabies shots.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

To book your dog's vaccinations or if you're concerned that your dog may have been exposed to rabies, start by separating them from other pets and your family and contact our Seattle vets immediately.

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