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 Stroudsburg 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 is rabies transmitted?

Rabies can infect any mammal and is frequently spread by wildlife in the United States, including raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks. High concentrations of feral dogs without vaccination make rabies more prevalent in those areas.

The most common way that rabies is spread is through a mammal's bite, as the virus is spread through the saliva of infected mammals. Additionally, if the saliva of an infected animal comes into contact with an open wound or mucous membranes, such as the gums, rabies can be spread. The risk of infection increases with the amount of contact your dog has with wild animals.

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 following phase, which can make your pet jittery and even vicious, is the most hazardous. They could stop eating, scream uncontrollably, and have seizures. Now that the virus has reached the point where it is attacking the nervous system, it prevents the affected individuals from being able to swallow, which causes 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 exposed to the rabies virus, the symptoms will not appear right away. The typical incubation period is three to eight weeks, but it can last anywhere from 10 days to a year.

The rate at which symptoms appear is entirely dependent on the location of the infection. A bite that is closer to the spine or brain will develop much faster than others, and the severity of the bite will also play 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 proof of vaccination to your veterinarian if your puppy has received rabies vaccinations and all required boosters. If anyone comes into contact with their saliva or is bitten by your pet (including you), tell them to see a doctor right away. Rabies is always fatal in unvaccinated animals, usually within 7 to 10 days of the onset of symptoms.

If a rabies diagnosis is confirmed, you must notify 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 according to local and state regulations. A vaccinated animal that has bitten or scratched a human, on the other hand, should be quarantined and monitored for 10 days.

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 Stroudsburg vets immediately.