Rabies is one of the health issues of dogs most dreaded by pet owners. This extremely dangerous and painful disease is caused by the rabies virus. The virus will travel through the peripheral nerves and will attack the central nervous system causing the inflammation of the brain. This disease is fatal thus prompt post exposure treatment is extremely necessary. Once the dog has shown symptoms of infection the invariable result is death. There is no cure for rabies. Euthanasia is the only humane way to end the suffering of the pet.
Rabies is a very difficult disease to diagnose. Blood test would not show if the dog is infected by the virus. Laboratory tests can verify the presence of the rabies virus in the saliva and in the brain tissues of the dog. Of course this can only be done if the dog is already dead. Prompt treatment can save the life of the pet as the dog would behave normally during the early stages of infection, dog owners would not think of having the pet treated. Symptoms will be shown only when the virus has affected the brain tissues. Unfortunately, during this stage, treatment would no longer be possible. Compared to other infections, rabies has a more unpredictable incubation period. The average incubation period in dogs is from 3 to 8 weeks from exposure until the virus affects the brain. However, there are reported cases where the incubation period is as long as 6 months. The dog will start to show symptoms when the virus has reached the brain. A change in behavior will be noticed. The dog will develop a fever and will show an erratic behavior. A friendly and affectionate dog will turn aggressive in a moment. The dog will become restless and show an inclination to roam. At this stage the dog will become vicious and inclined to attack. Two to four days after the first symptom is shown the dog will enter the paralytic stage. Excessive salivation will result for the dog’s inability to swallow. The animal will get weaker and will eventually die.
Rabies in dogs is no longer common in the US because rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin is widely available. Routine vaccination programs have finally eradicated this fatal disease in dogs. Dogs may no longer be the hosts of the virus but rabies is still a serious concern as it is still possible for dogs and humans to be infected. This time, the virus has found a host in wild animals. Rabies is commonly transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. The dog can get rabies from an infected animal like a raccoon. The infected dog will bite another dog and the cycle of infection will begin. The virus in an infected animal’s saliva can enter through a wound or a scratch in the skin. Although quite uncommon, the saliva of an infected dog can be inhaled by another while playing. Dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years but the inherent prey drive still remains strong. A dog can get rabies by eating an infected animals.
Rabies, as mentioned has no cure but this fatal disease can certainly be prevented. Rabies was eradicated in United States because of the mandatory routine vaccination and animal control programs. Regular vaccination can save the life of your pet. Dogs are ideal hunting, camping and trekking companions but as this fatal disease can be transmitted by wild animals, you may want to limit the exposure of your beloved pet to these denizens of the wild. But if your pet is bitten by a bat or by any other wild mammal, don’t procrastinate. If the dog is unvaccinated, head to a veterinary facility at once so that prompt post exposure treatment can be administered.