Does My Dog Have Rabies?

Has your dog been in contact with wild animals? Are they not feeling well? The unknown can be scary, and for many dog owners, rabies is the scariest of diseases our pets can contract. If you’re asking yourself “Does my dog have rabies?”, read on.

What is Rabies?

According to the Merck Manual of Veterinary Medicine, “Rabies is a viral infection of the nervous system that mainly affects carnivores and bats, although it can affect any mammal. It is caused by the rabies virus. It causes sudden, progressive inflammation in the brain and spinal cord.”

Rabies is usually contracted through the bite of an animal. It may also be contracted through a scratch. The disease is present in the saliva and goes into the bloodstream of the bitten animal or human. Rabies kills millions of animals a year and about 50,000 people annually. The most common animals that transmit rabies are: raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks.

All the states in the United States, except Hawaii, dogs are required by law to get their rabies vaccine. Rabies is fatal once symptoms occur and prevention is crucial.

What are the Symptoms of Rabies in Dogs?

Before we talk about the symptoms of rabies, it’s important to note that if you suspect your dog has rabies, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. In general, animals with rabies show symptoms of central nervous systems disturbances. Here’s what to look for:

  • Seizure
  • Paralysis
  • Fever
  • Lack of Coordination
  • Excessively Shy or Aggressive
  • Changes in Behavior
  • Increased Salivation or Frothy Saliva
  • Hydrophobia
  • Pica
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • Jaw Dropped

As the virus progresses through your dog’s system, their symptoms will get worse. They may try to bite other pets and even their owners with little to no warning or triggers. A common household noise could be enough to set them off. Eventually, a dog with rabies will stop eating and eventually die.

What do I do if I Think My Dog Has Rabies?

The rabies virus is fast-moving, so getting help immediately is imperative to your dog’s life. If your dog has been scratched by another animal, scratched, etc., take them into the vet immediately for testing. If your dog is aggressive and exhibiting symptoms of rabies, contact animal control. Is your dog up to date on their vaccine? If so, your vet will give them another dose of the vaccine and out them in a 10-day quarantine. However, if your dog does NOT have an updated rabies vaccine, you’ll need to check with animal control or your vet on local laws. After ten days, if your dog is well and clearly doesn’t have rabies, you will get your dog back. Unfortunately, the only diagnostic test in rabies for dogs is post-mortem. A dog will have to die of the disease or be euthanized to get an actual test.

How is Rabies Treated?

There is no treatment for rabies once the symptoms begin. In vaccinated dogs, your vet will give your dog a booster if they suspect that your dog does indeed have rabies.

Can I Get Rabies from My Dog?

Yes, you can get rabies from any animal who carries it and transfers its saliva to you through their teeth or a scratch. The Merck Manual also states, “Any wild carnivore or bat suspected of exposing a person to rabies should be considered rabid unless proved otherwise by laboratory diagnosis; ideally, this includes bats in direct contact with people, such as those found in rooms with sleeping or otherwise unaware persons.”

Rabies is one of those diseases that doesn’t have a treatment for canines. However, it’s extremely preventable through vaccination. Your dog should be vaccinated about every three years for rabies. You’ll often receive a tag from your vet to place on your dog’s collar, letting people know your dog is vaccinated.

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