Rabies in Dogs – Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment


Rabies in dogs or canine rabies is one of the best known viral infectious diseases because it is a pathology that can be transmitted to all mammals, including humans, being a zoonosis. In addition, dogs are the main emitters of this disease worldwide.

This virus of the family of Rhabdoviridae is present in practically all the corners of planet Earth, except in Australia, in the British Isles and in Antarctica. The rapid detection of this pathology is vital to prevent it and avoid contagion to other animals, since canine rabies is fatal, for this reason, all countries take measures to prevent it, contain it and try to eliminate it .

In this ‘ Pets Feed ‘ article, we will focus on canine rabies, explaining in detail everything you need to know about rabies in dogs, the main causes, forms of infection, symptoms of rabies in dogs, diagnosis and prevention, keep reading:

Rabies in Dogs
Rabies in Dogs

What is canine rabies?

The term “rage” comes from the Latin adjective Rabidus, which is translated as “delusional”, “furious” or “fierce”, due to the characteristic behavior of animals suffering from this pathology, which show aggressive behavior.

As mentioned in the introduction, rabies is caused by a virus from the Rhabdoviridae family, which mainly affects the central nervous system (CNS), spreading and accumulating in large quantities in the dog’s salivary glands. , which causes excessive production of saliva, infected with the virus. This disease is present in the infected animal and can last up to 24 hours in the carcasses of deceased animals.

Contagious forms of rabies in dogs

Rabies is usually spread by the bite of an infected animal, but it can also be transmitted through saliva, for example if the animal licks an open wound or if scratches occur in certain areas, such as the mucous membranes. However, these are rare situations.

Remember that this disease can affect humans in the event of a bite, so it is important to make an adequate preventive medicine plan and inform us about the symptoms and forms of infection, in order to guarantee the health of dogs, other pets, and guardians themselves.

Causes of Rabies in Dogs

Dogs are considered to be the main carriers of rabies, dogs that have not been vaccinated and those that come into contact with wild animals, such as foxes and bats, are vulnerable. However, the most common form of infection is biting domestic mammals, such as cats, dogs, and rabbits.

Direct contact with skin (without wounds), blood, urine or feces is not a risk factor, except in bats, however, it is rare for pets to come into contact with these little mammals.

Currently, attempts are being made to control rabies in countries around the world, focusing its prevention on dogs and cats, through vaccination campaigns and multiple protection measures. However, rabies remains a frequent pathology which appears in due course, even in countries where it is practically eradicated.

Rabies in Dogs
Rabies in Dogs

Phases of rabies in dogs

To understand the progress of the canine rabies virus, it is essential to pay attention to the phases of this pathology. During the bite, the virus present in the saliva enters the body and settles inside the muscles and tissues, while multiplying.

Then the virus begins to spread through the surrounding structures, usually those closest to the nerve tissue, because it is a neutropic virus, that is, it has an affinity for fibers nervous. It is important to note that it does not use blood as a means of dissemination.

Canine rabies has several phases:

  • Incubation: refers to the period from the bite to the onset of the first symptoms. At this point, the dog seems to be fine and is asymptomatic, that is, it has no symptoms of illness. We are talking about a phase which can last from a week to several months.
  • Prodromal: at this stage, the dog begins to manifest the nascent symptoms of the disease, showing more nervous, frightened, anxious, tired and even withdrawn. This can last from 2 to 10 days.
  • Aggression: this is the phase that characterizes rabies disease. The dog becomes irritable, excessively, even biting its owners. It is a high risk step.
  • Paralysis: this is the final stage of rabies. The dog is paralyzed and may have spasms and even fall into a coma until death occurs.

Now that you know the phases of canine rabies, we are going to explain to you what are the symptoms of rabies in dogs, fundamental to the suspicion that our dog can be infected.

Symptoms of Rabies in Dogs

The canine rabies virus has a long incubation period, which can range from three to eight weeks, although in some cases it can be even more extensive, which is why it is not always detected quickly. In humans, for example, symptoms usually appear about 3 and 6 weeks after the bite.

The symptoms of this disease mainly affect the CNS and the brain, and although the phases we mentioned above usually occur, not all symptoms always appear, which is why it is so important to be attentive signs that our dog may be sick.

Here are the most common symptoms of rabies in dogs:

  • Fever
  • Aggressiveness
  • Irritability
  • Apathy
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive salivation
  • Photophobia (aversion to light)
  • Hydrophobia (aversion to water)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Facial paralysis
  • Seizures
  • General paralysis

Rabies is easily confused with other neurological diseases and, therefore, it is always necessary to consult a veterinarian before the onset of any of the symptoms of rabies in the dogs mentioned, or if we suspect that our dog may have been in contact with an infected animal.

How do I know if my dog ​​has rabies?

If you think your dog may have been bitten by a stray dog, a homeless cat, or have been in contact with a wild carrier mammal, you may want to know how to know if a dog has rabies. Pay attention to the following step by step:

Look for injuries or signs of bite: this disease is usually spread through saliva, so if your dog has fought with another dog or animal, you should immediately look for injuries that may have been caused.

Pay attention to possible symptoms: although during the first phase there is no obvious signal, a few weeks after the bite, the dog will start to show strange behaviors and, although these are not symptoms that can confirm the transmission, it can alert you. Remember that dogs can experience muscle pain, fever, weakness, nervousness, fear, anxiety, photophobia or loss of appetite, among other symptoms. At a more advanced stage, your dog will begin to display a furious attitude which is most characteristic of the disease and which gives it the name of “rage”.

The symptoms he will present will be excessive salivation (he may have the typical white foam to which the disease is linked), an uncontrollable desire to bite things, excessive irritability (before any stimulus, the dog will become aggressive, growl and try bite us), loss of appetite and hyperactivity. Some less common symptoms may be lack of orientation and even seizures.

Advanced stages: if we have not paid attention to the previous symptoms and have not brought the dog to the veterinarian, the disease will enter the most advanced stage, although there are dogs which do not suffer from them not even, because before being euthanized or dying. At this point, the dog’s muscles begin to paralyze, from their hind legs to the neck and head. He will also be lethargic, continue to froth the white mouth, abnormally barks and has difficulty swallowing due to muscle paralysis.

Quarantine of rabies

In several countries, there is a protocol for action against bites or attacks by domestic animals, with the aim of minimizing the risk of infection by other animals and people. A case study is carried out, an initial evaluation is carried out and the animal is kept under observation for a period of 14 days, fundamental to ensure that the mammal was not infectious at the time of the aggression, even if he did not exhibit symptoms of rabies in dogs.

Then, if the animal is tested positive, an epidemiological investigation period of 20 days is carried out. In addition, there are several levels of alert depending on the presence of rabies on the territory, let’s talk about domestic and terrestrial animals, which include certain methods of action or others.

Rabies diagnosis in dogs

Previously, the diagnosis of rabies in dogs was made by a test of direct fluorescent antibody staining (DFA) by analyzing brain tissue, thus showing viral agents. For this, euthanasia of the dog was necessary, however, today, in case of suspected rabies in the dog or the appearance of rabies symptoms in the dog, the veterinarian can proceed to isolate the animal. and initiate a series of serological tests confirming or not confirming the presence of the virus, such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

Before the animal’s death or confirmation of rabies, the DFA is performed during the autopsy to carry out an epidemiological investigation into the case of rabies.

Treatment of rabies in dogs

Unfortunately, canine rabies has no cure or treatment, as the intensity of rabies symptoms in dogs and their rapid spread cause the death of the animal, however, it is possible to prevent the spread of rabies. this disease by vaccinating the dog.

We remind you that after the bite of an infected animal, we are exposed to rabies in humans, for this reason, it is essential to wash the wound with soap and water and to go to a center as soon as possible to get the rabies vaccine quickly.

Rabies in Dogs
Rabies in Dogs

How to prevent rabies in dogs?

By strictly following the dog’s vaccination schedule, we can prevent our dog from suffering from this terrible, deadly disease. Generally, the first dose is applied around 16 weeks and, each year, a booster is applied to keep the dog’s body active against the virus. In addition, even before the first symptoms of rabies appear in dogs, if we have observed that our dog has been bitten by another dog or wild animal, we must go to the veterinarian.

Rabies vaccine in dogs

Application of the canine rabies vaccine is compulsory in most countries. The application of compulsory vaccines from the vaccination schedule must always be indicated by the veterinarian.

How long does a dog live with rage?

It is not possible to determine exactly how long a dog lives with rabies, since the incubation phase can vary considerably depending on the location and severity of the bite. For example: the virus transmitted by a deep bite in the paw spreads much faster than in a superficial wound of the tail.

You should know that the life expectancy of a dog with rabies is relatively short, because it can vary between 15 and 90 days, being even shorter in puppies. Likewise, once the CNS is affected and after an obvious manifestation of the symptoms of rabies in the dog, the death of the dog occurs between 7 and 10 days.

In all cases, if you think your dog may be suffering from rabies, go to your veterinarian as soon as possible to properly isolate the animal, do the appropriate tests and avoid the risk of spreading to other animals and to people by euthanasia.

This article is purely informative, at petsfeed.co we have no power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to bring your pet to the veterinarian in case he has any type of condition or discomfort.

Rabies in Dogs
Rabies in Dogs

What if you get bitten?

The first thing to do is immediately wash the bite with soap. You need to wash it quite intensively, for 10 minutes. It is recommended to wash deep wounds with a stream of soapy water, for example using a syringe or catheter. No need to cauterize wounds or stitches. After that, you need to immediately contact the nearest emergency room, because the success of rabies vaccination strongly depends on how quickly you turned to a doctor for help. It is advisable to inform the doctor in the emergency room the following information – a description of the animal, its appearance and behavior, the presence of a collar, the circumstances of the bite.

This is followed by a course of vaccinations prescribed by a doctor. Nobody has given forty injections to the stomach for a long time, they will inject you with the vaccine and let you go home. And so five or six times. A bitten person can be left in the hospital if his condition is especially severe, those who are vaccinated again, as well as persons with diseases of the nervous system or allergic diseases, pregnant women, as well as persons vaccinated with other vaccinations within the last two months. At the time of vaccination and 6 months after it, it is necessary to refrain from drinking alcohol. In addition, if you are undergoing a course of vaccination against rabies, do not overwork, overcool or, on the contrary, overheat.

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