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Treatment and Prevention of Rabies in Dogs

Rabies is a highly contagious and lethal virus for pets; fortunately, it is preventable through vaccinations and preventive care. Our Mechanicsburg veterinarians are available to discuss rabies symptoms and how to keep it from infecting your dog.

What Is Rabies

Rabies is a highly contagious but preventable virus that affects the central nervous system of mammals. The disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected animal and travels along the nerves from the site of the bite to the spinal cord, then to the brain. When rabies reaches the brain, the infected animal develops symptoms and usually dies within 7 days.

How Can a Dog Get Rabies

In the U.S., rabies is often transmitted by wildlife, such as raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks — but it can be found in any mammal. Rabies is most commonly found in areas with high populations of unvaccinated feral dogs. s are the most common domestic animals found to have rabies.

Rabies is spread through the saliva of infected mammals and is most commonly transmitted through a bite from an infected animal. Rabies can also be transmitted when an infected animal's saliva comes into contact with an open wound or mucous membranes, such as the gums. The more your dog comes into contact with wild animals, the greater the risk of infection.

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Rabies

There are ways how to tell or know if your dog has rabies. There are typically three recognizable stages of the rabies virus in pets and here are the symptoms associated with them:

Prodromal stage - In this stage, a rabid dog will usually exhibit changes in behavior that differ from their normal personality, if your pet is usually shy, they might become more outgoing, and vice versa. If you notice any behavioral abnormalities following an unknown bite, remove your pet from any other pets and family members, and contact your vet immediately. 

Furious stage - The following stage is the most hazardous, causing your pet to become nervous and even vicious. They may cry excessively, have seizures, and stop eating. The virus has progressed to the point where it is attacking the nervous system, preventing them from swallowing, resulting in the classic rabies symptom of excessive drooling known as "foaming at the mouth."

Paralytic stage - This is the final stage in which a rabid dog will go into a coma, be unable to breathe, and unfortunately, most often pass away. This stage usually occurs about seven days after symptoms begin, with death following within usually 3 days.

How Long Does Rabies Take To Show Symptoms In Pets

If your pet is exposed to the rabies virus, the symptoms will not appear right away. The typical incubation period is three to eight weeks, but it can last anywhere from 10 days to a year.

The speed at which symptoms appear depends entirely on the infection site. A bite that is closer to the spine or brain will develop much faster than others and it also depends on the severity of the bite. 

Treatment For Rabies In Dogs

If your pet starts to show the symptoms of rabies, unfortunately, there is nothing you or your vet can do for them. There is no known cure for rabies and once symptoms begin to appear, their health will deteriorate within a few days. 

Provide proof of vaccination to your veterinarian if your puppy or kitten has received rabies shots and all required boosters. If anyone comes into contact with their saliva or is bitten by your pet (including yourself), tell them to see a doctor right away. Unfortunately, rabies is always fatal in unvaccinated animals, usually within 7 to 10 days of the onset of symptoms.

If a diagnosis of rabies is confirmed you will need to report the case to your local health department. An unvaccinated pet that is bitten or exposed to a known rabid animal must be quarantined for up to six months, or according to local and state regulations. A vaccinated animal that has bitten or scratched a human, conversely, should be quarantined and monitored for 10 days.

Your pet should be humanely euthanized to ease their suffering and to protect the other people and pets in your home. If your dog dies suddenly of what you suspect to be rabies, your vet may recommend having a sample from the brain examined. In terms of how to test a dog for rabies, direct testing of the brain is the only way to diagnose rabies for sure.

The best protection against rabies in dogs is to get them regular preventive vaccinations against the disease. Speak to your vet about making sure your pet is up to date on their rabies shots. Always go to the vet for shots, and never vaccinate your own dog for rabies.

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.

If you're concerned that your pet may have been exposed to rabies, separate them from other pets and your family and contact our Mechanicsburg vets immediately.

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Looking for a vet in Mechanicsburg PA? Silver Springs Animal Clinic is accepting new patients! Our skilled veterinarians are passionate about improving the health of Central Pennsylvania companion animals. Contact us today to book your pet's first appointment.

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