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 Los Angeles vets are here to discuss the symptoms of rabies and how to prevent it from infecting your dog.

What is rabies?

Rabies is a highly contagious, but preventable virus that affects mammals' central nervous systems. The disease is transmitted through an infected animal's bite and spreads along the nerves from the bite site to the spinal cord, then to the brain. When rabies enters the brain, the infected animal exhibits symptoms and typically dies within 7 days.

How is rabies transmitted?

Rabies is commonly spread by wildlife in the United States, including raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks, but it can affect any mammal. Rabies is most commonly found in areas with a large number of unvaccinated feral dogs.

Rabies is spread through the saliva of infected mammals and is most commonly contracted through a bite from an infected animal.Rabies can also spread when an infected animal's saliva comes into contact with an open wound or mucous membranes, such as the gums. The more your dog interacts with wild animals, the higher the risk of infection.

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 next stage is the most dangerous stage, causing your pet to become nervous and even vicious. They might cry out excessively and experience seizures and stop eating. The virus has gotten to the stage where it has begun attacking the nervous system, and it prevents them from being able to swallow, leading to 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 infected with the rabies virus, symptoms will not appear immediately. The average incubation period is three to eight weeks, but it can last from ten days to a year.

The speed with which symptoms appear is entirely dependent on the infection site. A bite near the spine or brain will develop much faster than others, and this is also determined by the severity of the bite.

What is the treatment for rabies in dogs?

Unfortunately, if your pet begins to exhibit rabies symptoms, neither you nor your veterinarian can help them. Rabies has no known cure, and once symptoms appear, the patient's health deteriorates within a few days. 

If your pet has received all necessary rabies booster shots as well as puppy shots, provide proof of vaccination to your veterinarian. You should notify anyone who has been bitten by your pet or has come into contact with their saliva to seek medical attention immediately. Unfortunately, rabies always kills unvaccinated animals, usually within 7 to 10 days of the first symptoms.

If rabies is identified as the cause of the case, you must notify your local health department. If a non-vaccinated animal is bitten or comes into contact with a known rabid animal, it must be quarantined for up to six months, or as required by local and state laws. In contrast, a vaccinated animal that bites or scratches a person must be quarantined and monitored for ten days.

Your pet should be euthanized humanely to alleviate their suffering while also protecting the other people and pets in your home. If your dog dies suddenly from what appears to be rabies, your veterinarian may recommend that a sample of the cat's brain be examined. Rabies can only be definitively diagnosed through direct brain testing.

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, contact our Los Angeles vets today. If you're concerned that your dog may have been exposed to rabies, start by separating them from other pets and your family and then contact an emergency vet right away.