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Is Your Dog at Risk of Contracting Rabies?

Animal control and vaccination ensures the prevention of rabies and has effectively eliminated this disease in domesticated dogs. However, wild animals and feral cats and dogs still pose a risk. Every state except Hawaii has reported finding infected animals in the past. Your dog is at risk if you do not take steps to protect it from infection.

How is Rabies Transmitted?

Rabies is a viral disease that causes acute encephalitis in humans and warm-blooded animals. Infected hosts secrete substantial amounts of the virus in their saliva, so it is usually transmitted through a bite from an infected animal. In addition, it can be transmitted through contact with an open wound or mucous membranes. The risk of rabies in dogs is higher if they come into contact with wild animals, especially raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats. Infections are more often found in cats than in dogs. If a human is bitten by an infected animal, the disease can be transmitted.

What Are the Symptoms of Rabies?

Rabies symptoms can vary. In the early stages of the disease, the animal may show behavioral changes, becoming restless, anxious, or withdrawing from others. Infected animals tend to constantly lick the site of the bite wound. As the disease progresses the animal may become restless and agitated, showing signs of hypersensitivity to touch, light, and sound. This is followed by full blown aggression aimed at people, other animals, and even inanimate objects. In the latter stages, the animal becomes disoriented, has seizures, and may become paralyzed in the head and neck. This paralysis makes it lose the ability to swallow, which leads to excess salivation and what is often referred to as "foaming at the mouth." This is followed by death.

How is Rabies Diagnosed?

There is no way to diagnose rabies in a live animal. The virus usually has an incubation period of two to eight weeks. Pets that have been exposed to rabies may be quarantined for a time to see whether symptoms develop. Those without a vaccination history are usually euthanized. The most accurate test for diagnosis, the direct fluorescent antibody test, requires a brain tissue sample and can only be performed after death.

How is Rabies Treated?

Rabies is a terrifying disease that kills thousands of animals worldwide each year. The majority of human deaths occur in Asia and Africa and most infections result from bites from infected dogs. There is no effective treatment available for dogs once symptoms appear. Dogs with rabies are euthanized to minimize their suffering and protect the people and animals around them from infection. Humans who present symptoms survive in no more than 8 percent of cases.

How Can You Protect Your Dog Against Contracting Rabies?

The best prevention is to have your pets vaccinated against rabies. In fact, this is required by law in a number of states. If you have cats and dogs that come into contact with wild animals, vaccination is crucial. If your dog bites someone and it has not been vaccinated, euthanasia may be mandatory. Speak to your veterinarian about working out a vaccination schedule for all your pets that are older than three months. Keep cats inside and dogs on a leash to limit contact with wild animals.

Keep wild animals out of your house by installing chimney caps, keeping screens in good repair, and sealing any holes or cracks where they might come in. If you suspect that an animal has rabies, do not handle it, try to catch it, or allow people or other animals near it. Nocturnal animals moving about outside during the day or animals exhibiting any other unusual behavior should be treated with suspicion. Contact your local animal control and let them deal with the animal.

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Recent Comments & Questions

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Does dog have a rabies?

  Yes   a dog can have rabies and it can pass it on to other dogs as well as men.
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