As a dog parent, it is your responsibility to ensure that he stays healthy throughout his life. That said, you should be aware that one of the most dreadful diseases your little buddy could get is rabies. One of the most important things you need to know about rabies is that once your dog has rabies, he can pass it on to anyone else they bite, including humans. By the end of this read, you’ll be able to identify the signs of rabies in dogs and what to do if your dog ever comes down with it.
What Is Rabies?
In mammals, rabies is essentially a pathogenic disease of the brain and spinal cord. The virus is transmissible from dogs to other dogs through physical contact such as biting. If you notice that your dog has strange, unexplained wounds on his body, this should be a good reason for you to schedule an appointment with the vet.
The rabies virus is a single-stranded RNA virus of the genus Lyssavirus in the family Rhabdoviridae. The highly infectious condition is transmitted through blood or saliva transfer from infected mammals, such as wild animals like foxes, raccoons, skunks, and bats.
Once the virus enters the dog’s system, it replicates in the muscles’ cells. It then spreads to the nearest nerve fibers, including all peripheral, sensory, and motor nerves, and travels from there to the brain in a month or less than ten days (depending on the severity of your dog’s case). Once rabies symptoms in dogs have been identified, the virus progresses pretty quickly, so swift action may be needed.
Rabies in Dogs – The Warning Signs You Need to Look Out For?
The best way to avoid the risk of rabies progressing and causing debilitating illnesses is knowing what to look out for.
By watching out for some of the condition’s signs, you’ll be able to tell when your dog has been infected early on. That gives you enough time to get professional help before the virus takes over. Some of these signs include:
- Uneasiness: If you notice that your dog is jitterier than usual, and there is no apparent reason behind this change in behavior, consider mentioning this to your vet.
- Escalated Aggression: Most domesticated dogs’ level of aggression is pretty low. If you notice your dog’s aggression worsening in a short time, it could be a sign of rabies infection. Contact your vet immediately.
- Fever and Irritation: Lookout for symptoms of fever. You can tell your dog has a fever by touching its body, but it would be more accurate to use a pet thermometer to confirm the readings.
- Biting: If you notice that your dog has an increased tendency to bite or snap at strangers, it could be an early sign of the infection.
Rabies Treatment in Dogs
If the signs are real and your vet finds out your dog indeed has a bad case of rabies, it’s not the end of the world. If your dog has been previously immunized against rabies, the vet will most likely give your dog a booster rabies shot. If anyone was bitten by your dog or came into contact with his saliva in any way, it’s your responsibility to let them know and advise them to contact a physician immediately for diagnostic and potential treatment. Sadly, rabies is invariably fatal for unvaccinated pets, usually occurring within 7 to 10 days from when the first symptoms arose.
If a rabies diagnosis is verified, your veterinarian is obligated to report the case to the local health department. According to local and state regulations, an unvaccinated dog that an infected animal bites must quarantine for up to six months.
Living With a Dog With Rabies
Once you have taken your dog to the vet and he’s being quarantined, use the time to disinfect any area in the home he might have infected. Use a 1:32 dilution (4 ounces to a gallon) of bleach solution to eliminate the virus thoroughly. Remember to use extra caution when attempting to disinfect your house. Under any circumstances, do not allow yourself to come into contact with your dog’s traces of saliva.
Unfortunately, the odds of surviving this virus are exceptionally low. So, if you have reason to believe that your dog might have come into contact with a rabid animal or another infected dog, it’s best to take immediate action and get them to the vet regardless of any noticeable symptoms. Early treatment is your best bet at survival.
If administered before the virus infects your dog’s nervous system, vaccines against rabies are incredibly effective. Despite taking useful measures to avoid exposure, contact with wild, infected animals can still occur during your dog’s life, so always be on the lookout.