Rabies is a deadly viral disease that poses a significant threat to both dogs and humans. Up-to-date vaccinations for pets are not only essential for their well-being but also a critical step in preventing the spread of this fatal disease. Our Rochester vets answer questions about the rabies vaccine for dogs.
What kind of disease is rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the central nervous system of mammals, causing severe inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Rabies is a particularly serious concern because it can be transmitted from animals to humans, leading to fatal consequences if left untreated.
In fact, the rabies virus poses such a serious threat to people, pets and other animals, that in most states you're legally required to vaccinate your dog or cat.
How is rabies transmitted?
The virus is primarily transmitted through the saliva of infected animals, most commonly through bites or scratches. Areas with the highest rates of rabies tend to be neighborhoods with large numbers of unvaccinated stray animals. Pets typically contract the disease through contact with infected wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.
What are the symptoms of rabies in dogs?
Although the rabies virus is considered fatal once symptoms appear, recognizing the earliest signs of rabies in dogs is crucial for prompt intervention and public safety.
In the early stages, rabies can be very difficult to identify since the early symptoms often mimic other illnesses.
That said, once the disease progresses, uncharacteristic behavioral changes become more apparent. Aggression is the most often discussed sign of rabies in normally friendly and passive dogs. Irritability, attacking objects, and even unprovoked aggression toward people can occur. On the other hand, some dogs with rabies will display extreme lethargy, weakness, and loss of coordination.
In the later stages, affected dogs may exhibit excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, and a change in their bark or vocalization. Paralysis and seizures may also occur in the later stages.
It is crucial to note that rabies is a fatal disease! If you suspect a dog has rabies, contact your vet and local authorities right away. Immediate veterinary attention is required for the safety of both people and other animals.
What is the treatment for rabies in dogs?
There is no way to treat rabies in dogs once symptoms appear. Unfortunately, if your veterinarian suspects rabies, your dog may be euthanized to prevent the spread of the virus.
Rabies is almost always fatal. Once signs of rabies appear, the animal will usually die within 7 to 10 days. In some cases, if a wild animal bites a dog, a rabies vaccination booster may be administered immediately to help reduce the chance that the pet will contract the virus. However, when it comes to rabies there are no guarantees.
Dogs that have been exposed to the rabies virus must be quarantined to prevent interaction with wildlife, people or other pets. Quarantine restrictions vary from location to location. Contact your local public health unit and veterinarian and follow their instructions closely.
Can a vaccinated dog transmit rabies?
Although it's unlikely, a vaccinated dog could possibly transmit the rabies virus. Regardless of vaccination status, any dog that's been bitten must be quarantined for 10 days. If the dog for cat was infectious at the time of the bite, symptoms of the virus will appear within an animal within that 10 day timeframe.
When and how often should my dog be vaccinated against rabies?
The rabies vaccination schedule for dogs varies depending on factors such as age, local regulations, and the type of vaccine administered by your veterinarian. In most cases the initial rabies vaccine is administered when a puppy is around 12 to 16 weeks old. A booster shot is given a year later, followed by additional boosters every one to three years, depending on the vaccine's duration of immunity and regional laws.
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.