It is one of the best known and most dangerous diseases that can occur in dogs. But rabies does not only affect dogs, it can occur in almost all warm-blooded animals. Cats, foxes, ferrets, skunks, cattle and bats are some examples of mammalian transmitters, in addition to dogs.
However, if your dog is properly vaccinated, it is protected from this deadly disease. Due to its importance and dangerousness, from Las Almenas we consider appropriate to know which are the most characteristic symptoms of the disease, how to prevent it and how to act in case of contagion.
What is rabies in dogs
Rabies is a viral zoonosis, which means that animals and humans can infect each other.
The virus that causes rabies is an RNA virus belonging to the genus Lyssavirus and the family Rhabdoviridae. Although rabies exists worldwide, it has been eradicated in many countries due to vaccinations, quarantines and animal entry regulations. However, some bats also carry the rabies virus, although this is a different rabies zoonosis than terrestrial rabies.
How rabies is transmitted in dogs
The rabies virus in dogs is found in infected saliva that manages to infect another animal or person through a bite or by contact of the saliva with an open wound or mucosa.
When the virus reaches a new dog, it advances to the central nervous system. The closer the bite is to the central nervous system, the faster the symptoms appear and the disease progresses.
When the virus reaches the brain via the central nervous system, the virus reaches the mouth, penetrating the salivary glands up to 10 days before the first symptoms appear.
Rabies in dogs usually shows its first symptoms between two and 24 weeks, depending on the area through which the virus has entered.
What are the symptoms of rabies in dogs?
The symptoms of rabies in dogs are directly related to the encephalitis suffered by the animal, i.e. inflammation of the brain. In the course of rabies disease in dogs, it is possible to go through several overlapping phases:
The incubation phase of rabies in dogs is the time that elapses from the time the dog becomes infected until the first symptoms appear. This incubation phase of rabies in dogs can last from one week to several months.
- Protomorphic phase.
This phase of rabies in dogs lasts a few days and is characterized by behavioral changes in the dog. The dog may become more skittish, restless, and especially sensitive to light and noise.
It is also common for him to try to bite at the site of the wound through which the virus penetrated, and he may salivate more and have problems swallowing saliva and food.
- Aggressive phase
In the acute encephalitis phase, the dog becomes dangerous, aggressive and easily irritated. He wants to bite, to attack anything that moves. The muscles of the face go into spasm and expose the teeth. In addition, excessive salivation and swallowing problems increase.
Obviously this is a very dangerous stage of rabies in dogs that must be controlled.
- Paralysis stage
The last stage of rabies in dogs is the rabid encephalitis phase in which the dog suffers paralysis. The muscles of the throat and jaw become paralyzed, so the dog is left with its mouth open. Unable to swallow even saliva, the dog drools heavily and foams at the mouth.
As the encephalitis progresses, the dog loses control of movement, collapses, suffers respiratory failure and goes into a coma until death.
How is rabies diagnosed in dogs?
An accurate diagnosis of rabies in dogs can only be made when the animal has died and several tests have been performed. While the dog is alive, the diagnosis is made on the basis of symptoms and medical history, especially if the dog is unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated.
The dog is then examined for possible bites or wounds on its body to check for possible entry of the virus into its body.
Many dogs may suffer pain, fever, become agitated or irritable, but in many other cases it is possible not to realize the presence of rabies in dogs until the animal suffers paralysis, salivates too much or becomes aggressive.
Since there are other neurological diseases that present symptoms similar to rabies, it is up to the veterinarian to determine what is wrong with the dog. In any case, when in doubt, avoid direct contact with the dog and, if you touch it, use gloves.
If rabies is suspected in dogs, the veterinarian is obliged to notify the Official Veterinary Services to carry out the relevant protocol for pest control.
Treatment of rabies in dogs
Since the risk of rabies infection in humans is very high and the prognosis of the disease is very poor, the treatment of rabies in dogs is prohibited. It is the Official Veterinary Services who follow the protocol on rabies and who are in charge of acting according to the ordinance. Therefore, rabies in dogs is a deadly disease that cannot be cured, but there is a way to prevent it.
How to prevent rabies disease
Undoubtedly, vaccination is the most effective way to prevent rabies in dogs. It begins when he is still a puppy, at three months of age. However, revaccination is necessary one year later and subsequent doses from one to three years, depending on the law.
If your dog has been bitten by another unvaccinated dog or wild animal, it should be considered as a potential rabies carrier. You will have to clean the wound and any scratches very well with an antiseptic. This can reduce the risk of contracting the disease and the virus reaching the nervous system. However, you will have to go to the veterinarian to assess the situation and take the appropriate measures.
Prophylaxis is only possible within 14 days of the contagious bite. Once the first symptoms appear, it will no longer be as effective. In the meantime, it is essential that the dog does not come into contact with other animals or people to avoid possible spread of the disease.
Important issues about rabies in dogs
- Rabies in dogs is a fatal disease that is transmitted through the saliva of the infected animal that enters the body through the bite.
- Strict compliance with the dog’s vaccination schedule prevents the spread of this disease.
- In the case of contracting rabies in dogs, they tend to change their behavior, become more aggressive and tend to salivate excessively. Finally, they suffer paralysis and go into a coma.
- Rabies in dogs cannot be cured. And since the risk of contagion to humans is so high, it is mandatory to report it to the Official Veterinary Services of Public Health.
- In case the dog is vaccinated and receives a bite from an animal that makes us suspect this disease, we must disinfect the wound well and go urgently to the veterinarian to take measures before the dog shows any symptoms. In this case it will be necessary that the dog is locked up and isolated from people and animals for two or three weeks, to check if it shows any symptoms.
In case of rabies in dogs that have not been vaccinated, it is recommended to slaughter the animal. It is possible to refuse the euthanasia, but the dog will be quarantined for six months and the costs during that time will be the responsibility of the dog owner.
In case of a false alarm and no symptoms of rabies, it is possible for the dog to return home, but not before it has been vaccinated with sufficient time in advance.
Healthy dog, happy family
We know how important it is for you and your family to acquire a healthy and well-behaved dog. Also in Las Almenas we want the best for our dog family, that’s why we take care and protect our litters to the maximum.
In our breeder for toy or mini breeds we carry out responsible breeding. That is why in Las Almenas we have developed a specific protocol to protect our puppies from the most common diseases and zoonoses in dogs that can affect them, such as rabies in dogs. For this, our veterinarian develops a strict control of our puppies.
All our puppies are delivered to their new families with the vaccination in order complying with the standards of their breed and verifying that they are balanced dogs.
But, remember that the rabies vaccine in dogs needs revaccinations every so often. So it is your responsibility to look after your dog’s health and, in this case, everyone’s health.
We hope this information about rabies in dogs will help you understand a little more about the disease. However, if you have any doubts about rabies in dogs, you can consult your veterinarian. You can leave us a comment below this article, or you can do it through our Facebook, Instagram and YouTube profiles.