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Rabies in Dogs: Signs & Symptoms

Rabies in Dogs: Signs & Symptoms

What are the symptoms of rabies? Can this disease be treated? These are common questions asked by concerned dog owners. Here, our Kinston veterinarians discuss the signs and symptoms of rabies in dogs and how you can prevent your canine companion from contracting this serious illness.

How can a dog get rabies?

Rabies is a serious and often fatal virus that can infect any mammal (pet, wildlife, human) via contact with the saliva of an infected animal. This is why bites - and sometimes scratches - from wildlife and other animals should be taken very seriously when they happen to your pooch!

How to Know if Your Dog Has Rabies

Our Kinston vets are often asked, "What are the signs of rabies in a dog?"

The rabies virus impacts the central nervous system that eventually infects the brain. Some symptoms include:

  • Overreacting to light, sound or touch 
  • Excessive drooling 
  • Licking or biting the wound site where exposure occurred 
  • Staggering or falling, with eventual paralysis 
  • Loss of appetite or difficulty drinking or eating 

Rabies is almost always fatal. Once signs of rabies appear, the animal will usually die within 7 to 10 days. If a wild animal bites your dog, a rabies vaccination booster may be administered to reduce the chance that your dog will contract the virus. If your dog has been infected, your will need to quarantine them from the rest of the household (including humans and other pets) while you contact your vet.

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. 

What is the incubation period of rabies?

The incubation period is defined as the time between your dog's exposure to the rabies virus and when symptoms of the disease start to appear. 

In most cases, your pet will display signs of the disease within two weeks of being exposed, but symptoms can appear months later. This is why it's imperative to have your dog vaccinated and to carefully follow any advice provided by your local public health unit if you suspect your dog has been exposed. 

If your pet is infected with rabies, the virus can be transmitted to other pets and humans up to 10 days before the animal starts show any signs of the disease.

Can my dog still contract rabies after being vaccinated? 

Unfortunately, like most vaccines, the rabies vaccine is not 100% effective. That said, the vaccine does provide substantial protection for your dog against the virus. It is important to prevent your pets from contract this virus in the first place; prevention is the key defense against disease in dogs.

It's safer for your pet to have the vaccine as opposed to living without it, as the rabies virus is fairly common. 

Can a vaccinated dog transmit rabies?

While it's unlikely that a vaccinated dog will transmit rabies, it is still possible. 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 10 days. 

Can I vaccinate my own dog for rabies?

If you were to choose to vaccinate your own animal for rabies, state public health and law enforcement officials will not recognize your vaccination as valid. You and the animal will be treated as if no rabies vaccine was administered. 

By proving that your dog has had the rabies vaccine, you can confirm that there's no threat of rabies being transmitted. That said, if your dog's vaccinations aren't up to date, they may be quarantined or even euthanized due to the potential threat. Dogs that have bitten people need to be confined for at least 10 days to see if rabies develops. 

How to Test a Dog for Rabies 

Rabies can't be easily diagnosed with a blood test. A 100% accurate test requires a biopsy of the brain tissue to be taken, so it can't be done before the animal has died. 

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.

To book a rabies vaccination for your dog, contact our Kinston veterinarians today.

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Five Oaks Animal Hospital is thrilled to be accepting new patients! Our qualified vets are passionate about the health of Kinston companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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