Clinical Signs of Canine Rabies

The rabies virus that can affect your canine is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. An animal bite is the primary source of transmittance of the virus for both animals and humans. The most common rabid animals are bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes. The incubation period of the virus varies but generally is two to eight weeks prior to any symptoms appearing. The rabies virus attacks the nervous system and the brain. The virus does not survive long outside its host.

Signs and Symptoms of Rabies

The bitten animal may go through stages of the virus. The three stages of the virus are prodromal, furious and paralytic. The virus spreads through the nervous system to the brain. Once it reaches the brain, the virus moves into the salivary glands.

Signs of the first stage are:

  • Fever
  • Behavioral changes
  • Slow reflexes
  • Anxiety
  • Solitude
  • Chewing or licking at the bite area

This stage usually last two to three days. Previously friendly animals may become irritable and snap at you. A dog that is normally aggressive may become docile.

The second stage includes:

  • Erratic behavior
  • Restlessness
  • Barking
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Attacking inanimate objects
  • Hyper-sensitivity to auditory and visual stimuli
  • Disorientation

The second stage lasts anywhere from one to seven days.

Signs of the third stage are:

  • Paralysis (normally beginning at the bite area)
  • Labored breathing
  • Drooling
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • A dropped jaw
  • Depression
  • Coma
  • Death from respiratory paralysis

The infected animal eventually goes into respiratory failure. Death usually occurs three to seven days from the time signs and symptoms appear.

Diagnosing Rabies

A diagnosis solely based on behavioral symptoms is difficult since they are similar to those of other diseases and conditions. The only test available to make sure the animal has the rabies virus is a direct fluorescent antibody test on the brain tissue. The animal must be euthanized to perform this test.

There are other tests which can be performed on live animals although they are not 100% accurate. These tests examine the serum, spinal fluid and saliva. They are performed on both humans and animals.

Treatment for the Rabies Virus

The only treatment for rabies involves supportive care.

There is no cure for the canine rabies virus, and it is rare for a dog to survive once infected. Infected dogs that have been vaccinated will be kept in quarantine for 45 days. An unvaccinated infected dog will be quarantined for at least six months. Euthanasia may be recommended.

Rabies is preventable with proper vaccinations.