The CDC declared in 2007 that rabies has been totally eliminated in the US. In order to keep this status, we have to continue to vaccinate our dogs.
There are several strains of rabies that can affect your dog. Your dog may contract rabies if it’s bitten by a wild animal such as a fox, raccoon, sunk, or bat.
How Rabies Spreads
Rabies is spread through the saliva of the infected animal; however, only 15% of people that are bitten by an animal with rabies will develop the disease.
Rabies is a virus, and if it doesn’t have an animal to survive in− it dies very quickly. The virus will be live in the dead host animal for up to 24 hours.
Dogs that are imported from other countries could also carry rabies.
Rabies Prevention Information
The most common practice for vaccinating dogs is to give the dog the first vaccination around 3-4 months of age. You should follow up with another shot 1 year later, which is good for 1-3 years. A lot of cities, states, and counties require by law that your dog is up to date on their vaccines. Your vet should be able to tell you the requirement for your area.
Stay Away From Wild Animals
If you see a wild animal roaming around your house in the middle of the day, the animal is probably sick and you should go indoors with your pet. Call animal control, and if the animal comes near you, you should be suspicious. Most wild animals do not come near humans.
What Happens If Your Dog Gets Bit
If your dog does get bitten by a wild animal you should treat your dog as if he was bitten by an animal with rabies. If your dog is already vaccinated, you should take your dog to get another rabies vaccine for added protection. Also, your dog should be quarantined for up to 90 days to ensure that symptoms don’t develop.
If your dog is not up to date on his shots, it is recommended that you euthanize the dog and send his brain tissue for rabies testing. The only way to confirm whether or not your dog has rabies is to examine sections of the brain under a microscope.
If this is not an option for you, your dog should be quarantined for at least six months. After six months if the dog shows no signs of rabies, he should be vaccinated one month before being released from quarantine.
Symptoms of Rabies
After being bitten by an infected animal, rabies works its way through the dog’s body until it gets to the brain. (Usually takes about 3-8 weeks)
During the incubation period, the dog will not exhibit any signs of infection.
Prodromal Phase- lasts 2 – 3 days
• Friendly dogs often become aggressive
• Dogs that are normally aggressive- can convert into affectionate, calm dogs.
Furious or Excitable Phase- lasts 1 – 7 days
• The dog may become restless and disoriented.
• The dog may attack his cage or other inanimate objects.
• Sensitive to noise
Paralytic Stage- starts 2 – 4 days after symptoms are first noticed
The virus begins to infect the nerves of the dog’s head and throat. It may become hard for the dog to swallow. He may begin to “foam at the mouth” as his saliva overflows.
99% of animals with rabies die within 3 – 7 days of the first sign of symptoms; the cause of death is respiratory failure.
Once the dog shows symptoms of any of the phases mentioned above, there is no treatment. Unfortunately, there is no cure for rabies; but humans may be given a series of vaccinations to prevent the disease from developing if they are bitten by an infected animal.
55,000 humans worldwide die each year from rabies. It’s not something that should be taken lightly− so please, stay current on your rabies vaccines.