September 28 is World Rabies Day, which is intended to raise awareness about the global impact of human and animal rabies, how easy it is to prevent and how to eliminate the main global sources.
To commemorate World Rabies Day, FindAVet.us is featuring this HOW TO originally posted in March 2011.
When you think about rabies, it’s easy to imagine all of the horrific images from “Cujo” or the heartbreaking end of “Old Yeller.” This is due to the fact that rabies has been one of the most feared infections throughout time.
Unfortunately, when a dog that is not vaccinated becomes infected, it is almost always fatal.
According to Mar Vista Animal Medical Center, “Rabies is caused by a bullet-shaped rhabdovirus which is relatively unstable in the environment, requiring fresh contact with mucous membranes to establish infection. In most cases, disease is transmitted via bite wound.
The most common wildlife species to spread rabies to domestic animals and humans in the Northern Hemisphere are the skunk, bat, raccoon, fox and coyote. It should be noted in particular that wildlife, bats especially, are able to gain access to indoor areas and potentially infect pets and people.”
In fact, the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association recently sent out an alert about a rabid bat that was found in a Long Beach residence, when it entered the bedroom through a sliding door that had been left open.
According to the County of L.A. Public Health, the last time a dog was infected with rabies in the county was in 1978, which can be credited with the enforcement of rabies vaccinations.
What Should I Do If My Dog Contracts Rabies?
There is no treatment for unvaccinated dogs in the final stages.
Provide proof of vaccination to your veterinarian.
Report the case to your local health department.
An unvaccinated dog must be quarantined for up to six months, following local and state regulations.
A vaccinated animal that has bitten or scratched a human, conversely, should be quarantined and monitored for 10 days.
According to Mar Vista, “The purpose of the 10 day period is to determine if rabies virus could have been in the animal’s saliva at the time of the bite. An animal infected with rabies and shedding virus will certainly be dead within 10 days.”
What are the Symptoms of Rabies?
There are three main stages that a pooch will go through once the rabies virus reaches his brain. Mar Vista and petmd.com report that your dog may show any of these symptoms:
1. Prodromal phase
Friendly animals may become shy or irritable, and may snap
Aggressive animals may become affectionate and docile
Constantly licking the site of the bite
2. Furious phase
3. Paralytic (dumb) phase
Inability to swallow
Drooling or foaming at mouth
Intercostal (breathing) muscles are paralyzed
How is Rabies Diagnosed?
Unfortunately, rabies can only be clearly diagnosed after your dog has died.
“Diagnosis in the U.S. is done using a post-mortem direct fluorescence antibody test performed by a state-approved laboratory for rabies diagnosis,” writes petmd.com. “Your veterinarian will collect fluid samples if your dog dies while in quarantine, or if it begins showing progressive signs of rabies; in which case, your veterinarian will opt to put your dog to sleep (or euthanize it).”
How is Rabies Treated?
According to Mar Vista and petmd.com, there only a few options available to you once your pooch has become infected with rabies:
Disinfect any area your dog might have infected (especially with saliva) using a solution of 4 ounces of household bleach per gallon of water to quickly inactivate the virus.
Do not allow yourself to come into contact with your dog’s saliva.
If the animal that bit your dog has been legally vaccinated against rabies, only routine first aid may be necessary, but bacterial infection of the wound may still be possible.
Unfortunately, if your dog is unvaccinated and has been bitten by an animal that has been confirmed with rabies, he must euthanized.
Can I Prevent My Dog from Getting Rabies?
It’s important to remember that there are strict laws and regulations regarding rabies because it is so dangerous. If you are traveling with your pooch to a new area, you must have up-to-date vaccinations no matter where you go.
Whatever you do, don’t wait until symptoms start to show in your pooch. Be sure to seek treatment as soon as possible.
According to the Mar Vista, “Rabies prevention is accomplished with vaccination and limiting exposure to wildlife. The standard killed-virus vaccines are available for both dogs and cats and, after the initial dose which is good for one year, subsequent doses are generally good for three years. Rabies vaccination protocols are typically controlled by municipal regulations. Most communities legally require vaccination of all dogs.”
Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.