What is Rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the nervous system of warm blooded mammals, including dogs, cats, foxes, skunks, raccoons, bats and people resulting in seizures, coma and eventually death. Rabies deaths have been described in writings dating back to the 23rc century BC. Current stories of Rabies have been told in famous movies such as the Stephen King movie “Kujo” and Disney’s movie “Ol Yeller”.

How is rabies transmitted?

The Rabies virus is secreted in the saliva of infected animals. When an infected animal bites another animal, the saliva carrying the virus enters the open wound and starts it’s way through the animal until it reaches the nervous system.

Where is Rabies found?
Rabies occurs in all continents except Australia and Antarctica. There are a few islands that do not have Rabies

In Europe, foxes are the main reservoir, while in North America the skunk, fox, raccoon and bat are important sources of infection. In Asia, Africa and Latin America the main reservoir is not wild animals but stray dogs. In these areas, human infection and fatalities are more common.

How long is the incubation period?

The incubation period can vary from ten days to one year or longer. In dogs, the incubation period is usually two weeks to four months. The speed at which clinical signs develop depends on:

1. The place of infection – the closer the bite is to the brain and spinal cord, the faster the virus reaches the nervous tissue

2. Severity of the bite

3 The amount of virus injected by the bite

What are the clinical signs?

After a bite from an infected animal, the disease progresses in stages. The first or Prodromal Phase dog undergoes a marked change in temperament. Quiet dogs become agitated and active pet may be nervous or shy.

After the first stage, there are two recognized forms of clinical disease:

Furious rabies occurs when the rabid dog very excitable and show proof of being a depraved appetite, eating and chewing stones, earth and garbage (pica). Paralysis eventually sets in and the rabid animal may be unable to eat and drink. Hydrophobia (fear of water) is not a sign of rabies in dogs. This is a feature of human rabies. The dog eventually dies in a violent seizure.

Dumb rabies is the most common form in dogs. There is progressive paralysis involving the limbs, distortion of the face and a corresponding difficulty in swallowing. Owners often think the dog has something stuck in your mouth or throat. Caution should be exercised when examining the animal, because rabies can be transmitted through saliva. Ultimately the dog becomes comatose and dies. Rabies is one of the most devastating viral diseases mammals, including dogs and humans.

Is it possible to survive a bite from a rabid animal?

There are isolated and poorly documented reports of both dogs and humans survive. In some cases it may have been a little rabies virus in saliva when the rabid animal bit its victim. In this situation, the victim may not develop rabies.

But, as Louis Pasteur was the first to show, it is possible to interrupt the progression from an infected bite to the onset of signs of early post-bite the use of anti-rabies serum. This antiserum contains specific immune antibodies to the virus. The most important method to prevent the development of rabies is to provide a dose of rabies vaccine. The vaccine stimulates the bitten animal to develop its own neutralizing antibodies to rabies virus. Without vaccination and rapid post-exposure treatment, the chances of survival are poor.

Is vaccination effective?

Vaccination  stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies that can inactivate the virus, but is only effective if given before the virus into the nervous system. Modern rabies vaccines for dogs, cats, horses and ferrets are very safe and effective.
What is the treatment for rabies?

There is no treatment for a dog with rabies. If rabies is suspected, the dog must be kept in isolation and prevented from escaping or injuring someone. If your pet bites someone, the bite incident has to be reported to animal health authorities. Depending on the laws in your area will determine if your pet will have to be quarantined. If you cannot prove that your pet has been vaccinated, and has bitten someone, your pet will most likely have to be quarantined at your veterinarians hospital or at the local animal regulatory agency.

Can I catch rabies?

Yes, the disease is zoonotic, or can be transmitted from one animal to human. It is only transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal. Virus in the saliva of infected animal only for a limited time, but if it comes in contact with a mucous membrane, such as inside your mouth, nose or eye, or an open wound, then the saliva can also be a source of infection.

If you have been bitten by an animal and the vaccine status is not known, health officials may start you on a series of rabies injections to protect you from developing the disease.
When should my dog be vaccinated?

There are several rabies vaccines approved for dogs, cats, horses and ferrets. All dogs and cats aged between twelve and sixteen weeks should be vaccinated. Generally, in the United States and Canada, rabies vaccination is required in all pets by the age of 4 months.  Rabies booster vaccination boosters are necessary, and the frequency of re-vaccination depends on the state or provincial law. Some areas require annual vaccinations, while some areas require 2 vaccinations a year apart, then boosters every 3 years. Your veterinarian will advise you on appropriate re-vaccination intervals required by law in your area and can help you obtain all necessary licenses for your pet.

More Links on Rabies:

  • Rabies Activity Sheets s1 s2 s3 s4 Contributed by Dr George Beran, Iowa State, USA
  • World Rabies Day (September 28, 2008) – The second official global initiative to increase awareness, improve preventive efforts, and reduce mortality from this uniformly fatal disease. (Dedmon, R.E., Asian Biomedicine 2008)



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