Dog Rabies Symptoms Explained

Dog rabies is a dangerous, deadly disease that is contagious to humans. Fortunately, active vaccination programs mean that rabies is very rare in the United States. While unvaccinated dogs remain at risk for rabies infection, the rabies vaccine is one of the four core dog vaccinations that your pet should receive as part of his routine medical care and as required by law in most locations. Here's some more information about dog rabies and its symptoms.

Transmission of the Rabies Virus

The disease is usually transmitted when an infected animal bites an uninfected animal. Skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes and bats are most likely to become infected with the disease. Rabies does not live very long outside its host, and won't survive in the corpse of an infected animal for longer than 24 hours. It's believed that those exposed to the disease have about a 15% chance of becoming ill.

Symptoms of Rabies in Dogs

Having contracted the disease, the rabid animal may go through one or more stages of infection. The virus spreads through the dog's nerves to his brain; however, it's a slow-moving virus and the incubation period usually lasts from three to eight weeks in dogs. Incubation periods of up to six months have been reported in dogs.

The prodromal phase is the first stage of rabies infection. It usually lasts for two to three days. Your dog may become apprehensive, nervous, or anxious during this stage of the disease. Friendly animals may become irritable or snappy; aggressive animals may become docile and affectionate.

The furious phase follows the prodromal phase. This stage usually lasts from one to seven days. During the furious phase, rabid animals may become restless, irritable, and hypersensitive to sounds and visual stimuli. They may become restless and irritable; rabid animals in the furious phase may become disoriented, experience seizures, and die.

The paralytic phase is the final stage of rabies infection. This phase can occur after the furious phase, or may directly follow the prodromal phase, and usually begins within two to four days after the first symptoms of dog rabies appear. In this stage of the disease, nerves affecting the nose, throat and respiratory tract are affected; dogs may begin to drool excessively, their breathing may become labored, and their jaws may hang open as their facial muscles become paralyzed.

Animals in the paralytic stage of rabies gradually suffocate as the muscles of their faces, throats and lungs become paralyzed. They will get progressively weaker until respiratory failure and death occurs.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Dog Rabies

Currently, dog rabies is diagnosed by submitting the brain to microscopic examination. There is no treatment or cure for rabies and once dogs contract the disease, it is almost always fatal. While there have been reported cases of dogs have survived rabies infection, this is extremely rare.

The best treatment for dog rabies is prevention via the rabies vaccine. This vaccine is require by law throughout the U.S. and forms one of the four core vaccinations dogs receive as part of their routine medical care.