For many pet owners, their animals are their pride and joy. Dogs are known to be excellent companions and are sometimes treated as if they were just another member of the family. So when it comes to your dog’s health report, it is important to cover all of your bases, and that includes checking for symptoms of rabies.
When the thought of a rabid dog comes to mind, the image is normally a gruesome slobbery hound vomiting white foam. The reality is, all dogs could fall prey to this fatal virus if the right precautions are not taken. Just as you would check your dog for any other ailment or disease, rabies is just one more health concern to have on your radar. By educating yourself about the virus and which symptoms to look out for, you will ultimately be protecting both you and your pet from an undesirable outcome.
What Is The Rabies Virus?
The rabies virus is a single-stranded RNA virus that is transmitted through the exchange of blood or saliva from an infected animal and can affect the brain and spinal cord of any mammal. In some cases, it can be caught by breathing in the escaping gases from decomposing animal carcasses, but this process of transmission rarely happens.
There are two forms of rabies: paralytic and furious. Furious rabies is characterized by extreme behavioral changes, including overt canine aggression and attack behavior. Paralytic rabies, also referred to as dumb rabies, is characterized by weakness and loss of coordination, followed by dog paralysis.
In the early stages of the rabies infection, your dog will show only mild signs that seem suspicious. Most dogs will then progress to either the furious stage, the paralytic stage, or a combination of the two. While this disease is preventable, once the host becomes infected, the outcome results in death.
Symptoms & Signs of Rabies in Dogs To Look For
For most common house pets, catching rabies seems extremely far-fetched. But would you know the symptoms of rabies should your dog become infected? When it comes to your pet’s health, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
So what are rabies symptoms in dogs? The most common sign of rabies is a noticeable shift in your dog’s mood or personality. A friendly dog with a great temperament might all of a sudden become irritable, while a normally excitable dog might become very shy and timid. The key is knowing what behavior is normal for your pet, which will help you to determine what is out of character and what could simply be an off day.
The following are possible symptoms or clinical signs of rabies in dogs:
Protecting Your Dog From Infection
Animals who have rabies typically carry the majority of the virus through their saliva, which is why the disease is primarily passed to dogs through a bite from an infected animal. Rabies can also be passed along to your dog if they are scratched and the infected saliva makes contact with a fresh sore or open wound.
The risk runs highest if your dog has had exposure to wild animals. The most common carriers of the rabies virus are bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes. In order to prevent your dog from potentially catching this virus, make sure to avoid these animals as much as possible. But if you and your pet like to spend a lot of time outdoors or in places where these creatures like to call home, make sure to pay close attention to possible symptoms that could be signs of infection. This will help to significantly decrease the chances of rabies being transmitted to your dog.
Another carrier of the disease to look out for are cats. If your dog-dwelling home also has a feline on the premises, it’s important to make sure he is vaccinated and kept indoors. You also want to be aware of cats that could be living in the surrounding area that could potentially come into contact with your dog. If you typically let your dog stay outdoors for long periods of time or without supervision, be sure to pay close attention to your pet’s overall health and seek medical attention if you suspect they may have been infected.
Another way to help keep your dog protected against rabies is to keep him up-to-date on his vaccinations. There is no treatment for rabies, but it can be prevented which is why as loving dog parents, having your pet vaccinated for rabies is the least we can do to keep him safe and healthy. And if you are not sure which vaccine is right for your dog, check with your veterinarian and discuss an appropriate vaccination schedule. In many parts of the country, it’s already mandatory that all domestic animals are vaccinated after the age of three months.