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Rabies in Dogs: Transmission & Vaccine

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 San Gabriel vets are here to discuss the symptoms of rabies and how to prevent it from infecting your dog.

What Is Rabies

A highly contagious but preventable virus called rabies damages the central nervous system of mammals. The illness spreads from the site of the bite along the nerves to the spinal cord, then moves on to the brain after being contracted through the bite of an infected animal. The infected animal will start to exhibit symptoms once rabies enters the brain and typically pass away within 7 days.

How Are Rabies Transmitted

In the U.S., rabies is often transmitted by wildlife, such as raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks — but it can be found in any mammal. Rabies is most commonly found in areas with high 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 your dog comes into contact 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 - A rabid dog will typically display behavior changes at this stage that are different from its typical personality. If your pet is typically shy, it may turn out to be more outgoing, and vice versa. After an unknown bite, if you notice any strange behavior in your pet, keep them away from other animals and people, and call your veterinarian right away.

Furious stage - The following stage is the most dangerous, causing your pet to become nervous and even vicious. They may scream excessively, have seizures, and stop eating. The virus has progressed to the point where it is attacking the nervous system, preventing them from swallowing, resulting in the classic rabies symptom, 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

The symptoms won't show up right away if your companion is exposed to the rabies virus. Although it can be as short as ten days or as long as a year, the incubation period is typically three to eight weeks long.

The speed at which symptoms appear depends entirely on the infection site. A bite that is closer to the spine or brain will develop much faster than others and it also depends on the severity of the bite. 

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 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.

If a rabies diagnosis is confirmed, you must report the case to your local health department. Unvaccinated pets that are bitten or exposed to a known rabid animal must be quarantined for up to six months, or for the length of time specified by local and state regulations. In contrast, a vaccinated animal that has bitten or scratched a human should be quarantined and monitored for 10 days.

To relieve their suffering and to protect the other people and pets in your home, your pet should be humanely euthanized. If your dog dies suddenly from rabies, your veterinarian may advise you to have a sample of the cat's brain examined. Direct brain testing is the only sure way to diagnose rabies.

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 San Gabriel vets immediately.

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Temple City Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about caring for pets in San Gabriel area. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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