SlimDoggy Health Check: Rabies Part 2
In the second part of our SlimDoggy Health Check series on Rabies, we are going to take a look at canine rabies, it’s symptoms and treatment.
As we explained in Part 1, rabies is carried in the saliva of an infected animal. A bite or scratch from an infected animal could easily transfer the virus. Since dogs are easy victims to bites from raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes and other common carriers, rabies vaccines are required for canines.
Any dog may be bitten by a rabid animal and it’s important to note that even if they are vaccinated, there is still a chance they may contract the disease. It is also true that being bitten by a rabid animal does not mean the victim will contract rabies and only about 15% actually do.
Even if your dog is fully vaccinated, if they are bitten or scratched by a wild animal, they should be seen by your vet immediately, re-vaccinated and closely monitored for 45 days. If your pet is not vaccinated, public health officials recommend immediate euthanasia to prevent further spread. If that is out of the question for you, your non-vaccinated dog can also be strictly quarantined for a period of 6 months or more to see whether they contract the disease. If they do, they should be immediately euthanized. You should always take precautions to avoid coming into contact with your dog’s saliva if they have been bitten and be sure to warn others coming into contact with your dog.
There are several phases of rabies infections. The Prodomal phase is the first and characterized by slight changes in behavior. Your dog may become anxious, restless, more fearful and even aggressive while a previously aggressive dog may become more docile. This stage may last 1-3 days. The other two stages are the Furious stage and the Paralytic stage. An infected dog may develop both.
The Furious stage is characterized by extreme behavior changes, aggressiveness, snapping and biting behavior. They are overly sensitive to sound and light and eventually develop seizures and die. During the Paralytic stage, the dog becomes weak, losing control of their body. The nerves of the head and neck are affected first, causing problems with breathing and salivation (hence the foaming at the mouth symptom). The dog eventually dies from respiratory failure. Each of these stages may last from 2-4 days.
There is no treatment available for animals who have contracted rabies, there is only prevention through the rabies vaccine. Currently, the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) guidelines recommend initial vaccination for rabies no earlier than 12 weeks of age, a booster vaccination 1 year after the initial vaccination, and additional, regular booster vaccinations as directed by the vaccine manufacturer.