Rabies is a scary, highly contagious disease. Dog owners might wonder what the signs of rabies are and if it can be treated at all. Here, our Novato vets offer information about the rabies virus, how it can be prevented, and its symptoms.
How can a dog get rabies?
An animal infected with rabies can spread the virus to other mammals through its saliva. Your pet can contract rabies if it is bitten by an infected animal or if its eyes, mouth, nose, or an open wound come into contact with a live or dead animal's saliva or spinal/brain tissue. If this happens, responding quickly and taking the necessary precautions is crucial.
How to Know if Your Dog Has Rabies
Vets are often asked about the signs of rabies in dogs.
Some common symptoms of rabies in dogs are:
- Overreacting to light, sound, or touch
- Excessive drooling
- Licking or biting the wound site where exposure occurred
- Staggering or falling, with eventual paralysis
- Loss of appetite or difficulty drinking or eating
If a wild animal bites your dog, it's important to take precautions to prevent the spread of rabies. Rabies is usually fatal and can cause death within 7 to 10 days after the symptoms appear. A rabies vaccination booster may be administered to reduce the risk of your dog contracting the virus.
If your dog has been infected with rabies, following quarantine restrictions set by your local public health unit and veterinarian is important. The duration of the quarantine varies depending on the location and severity of the infection.
It's important to note that there is no cure for rabies in dogs once symptoms appear. If your veterinarian suspects that your dog has rabies, they may advise you to euthanize your dog to prevent the spread of the virus. If you notice any symptoms of rabies in your dog, it is important to quarantine them from other animals and humans in a separate room and contact your veterinarian immediately.
What is the incubation period of rabies?
The incubation period of rabies is defined as the time between your dog's exposure to the rabies virus and when symptoms of the disease start to appear.
Your pet may show signs of the disease within two weeks of exposure, but symptoms can also appear months later. It's important to have your dog vaccinated and to follow the advice of your local public health unit in case of exposure. Take action immediately if you suspect your dog has been exposed to the disease.
Can my dog still contract rabies after being vaccinated?
Unfortunately, the rabies vaccine is not 100% effective. That said, the vaccine provides a lot of protection for your pet; the best and easiest form of prevention is to keep your dog's vaccinations up to date.
It's safer for your pet to have the vaccine as opposed to living without it, as the rabies virus is fairly common.
Can a vaccinated dog transmit rabies?
Although the chances are low, a vaccinated dog can still transmit rabies. Therefore, it's important to quarantine any dog that has been bitten, regardless of their vaccination status, for a period of 10 days. If the dog or cat that inflicted the bite had the virus, symptoms will become evident in the animal within 10 days.
Can I vaccinate my own dog for rabies?
If you choose to vaccinate your animal for rabies, it's important to know that state public health and law enforcement officials will only recognize the vaccine as valid if a licensed veterinarian administers it in accordance with established state protocol.
Proof of valid rabies vaccination for your dog is necessary to confirm there's no rabies transmission risk. However, if your dog's vaccinations are not up-to-date, they may be quarantined or even euthanized due to the potential threat they pose. In the event that a dog bites someone, they must be confined for at least 10 days to determine if rabies develops.
How to Test a Dog for Rabies
Rabies is not easily diagnosed with a simple blood test. A 100% accurate test requires a biopsy of the brain tissue to be taken, so it can't be done before the animal has died.
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.