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Rabies in Dogs

Rabies in Dogs

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 Mahopac 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 infect any other mammal through contact with the infected's saliva. Rabies can be transmitted to your pet if they are bitten by a rabid animal or if saliva or spinal/brain tissue of a live or dead animal gets into your pet's eyes, mouth, nose, or an open wound. If this happens, it is important to know what steps to take and act fast.

How to Know if Your Dog Has Rabies

A very common question vets get asked is, "What are the signs of rabies in a dog?" 

Common signs and symptoms of rabies in dogs include:

  • 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 

Rabies is almost always fatal. Once the symptoms of rabies appear, the animal will usually die within 7 to 10 days. If a wild animal bites your dog, a rabies vaccination booster may be administered to reduce the chance that your dog will contract the virus.

Your dog will be unable to interact with other animals for a time. Quarantine restrictions of an infected animal vary from location to location. Contact your local public health unit and veterinarian and follow their instructions closely. 

There is no way to treat rabies in dogs once symptoms appear. Unfortunately, if your veterinarian suspects rabies, your dog may be euthanized to prevent the spread of the virus.  If you notice rabies symptoms in your dog, quarantine them from the rest of your household (humans and animals) in a separate room and contact your vet.

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. 

In most cases, your pet will display signs of the disease within two weeks of being exposed, but symptoms can appear months later. This is why it's imperative to have your dog vaccinated and to carefully follow any advice provided by your local public health unit if you suspect your dog has been exposed. 

Can my dog still contract rabies after being vaccinated? 

Unfortunately, the rabies vaccine is not 100% effective. That said, the vaccine does provide a large amount of protection for your pet and 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?

While it's unlikely that a vaccinated dog will transmit rabies, it is still possible. Regardless of vaccination status, any dog that's been bitten must be quarantined for 10 days. If the dog for cat was infectious at the time of the bite, symptoms of the virus will appear within an animal within 10 days. 

Can I vaccinate my own dog for rabies?

If you were to choose to vaccinate your own animal for rabies, state public health and law enforcement officials will not recognize your vaccination as valid. You and the animal will be treated as if no rabies vaccine was administered. 

To be recognized as a legal and valid vaccination, the rabies vaccine must be administered by a veterinarian who holds a current license in accordance with established state protocol. 

By proving that your dog has had the rabies vaccine, you can confirm that there's no threat of rabies being transmitted. That said, if your dog's vaccinations aren't up to date, they may be quarantined or even euthanized due to the potential threat. Dogs that have bitten people need to be confined for at least 10 days to see 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.

To book the rabies vaccine for your dog, contact our Mahopac vets today.

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