All mammals, including dogs and humans, can catch rabies. This is an incurable virus that attacks the brain and spinal cord. While this is something that can be prevented as well as be treated, if symptoms are not caught early the virus is fatal. There is only one way to test for rabies in animals, and unfortunately that includes the death of the animal so the brain can be tested. This is why it is so important to make sure your animals are vaccinated against rabies at all times.
Spreading of Rabies
Rabies is most commonly spread through a bite wound from an infected animal; it is secreted through saliva. When an animal bites and it breaks the skin, the virus can enter the bloodstream. It can also be passed through an open wound by saliva of an infected animal. Rabies in dogs are most frequently contracted from wild animals. The top 5 carriers of rabies are Bats, Raccoons, Skunks, Foxes and Coyotes. Since rabies is 100% preventable, it is not as common in dogs in the United States. However, there are still hundreds of cases reported each year.
Symptoms of Rabies
Physical signs of rabies in dogs can be excessive drooling, seizing, fever, difficulty swallowing, and staggering. Your dog may start showing changes in their behavior. They may quickly become irritable and restless, and also become aggressive. Rabies may cause your animal to show behavior opposite of their normal behavior. If your dog is usually happy and excited , they may suddenly seem disinterested and relaxed. One of the most well known symptoms of rabies in dogs is foaming at the mouth. This is a sign that the virus has progressed. In the final stages of rabies, seizing and paralysis are common. Dogs in this stage can no longer control their muscles, especially in their throat and head. This makes swallowing difficult. Eventually breathing is not possible which will cause the dog to die. If your dog is bitten by another animal and you are worried about rabies, please contact your veterinarian immediately.
Treatment and Diagnostic
To be 100% accurate, knowing if an animal has contracted the rabies virus, a tissue brain biopsy has to be completed. This can only happen if the animal is deceased. Unfortunately if your veterinarian suspects rabies, your dog may be euthanized to test and prevent the spread of the virus. This is why it is so important to keep your animal vaccinated against rabies.
What to do if you believe you have come in contact with a rabid animal
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and call your doctor immediately. If you can safely capture the animal that has bitten you, you can try to confine it. If you can not capture the animal: remember what it looked like and the location it was at, and always contact the proper authorities. If necessary you will receive post exposure treatment.