Are you concerned about the risk of rabies in dogs? Our vets in Lincoln are here to provide information on this deadly disease and explain the importance of vaccinating your dog against it.
What Is Rabies & How Can It Affect My Dog?
The deadly rabies virus has a detrimental impact on the brain and is transmitted through contact with an infected animal's saliva. Pets, livestock, wildlife, and humans can all be affected.
The CDC sees about 5,000 cases of rabies in animals each year, most of which are wild animals. Bats, raccoons, foxes, and skunks are the animals most likely to carry this virus.
The unfortunate reality is that this virus is almost always fatal. Once signs of the deadly virus appear, the animal is expected to die within a few days.
How Can A Dog Get Rabies
If your dog were to contract rabies, it would need to come into contact with an infected animal's saliva, usually through a bite.
Clinical symptoms may appear within 10 to 14 days, but it's possible for them to take months or even years to surface, depending on the type of exposure.
The virus must travel along the nervous system until it reaches the brain, which can take longer if the initial exposure was further away.
Symptoms of Rabies In Dogs
If a dog has rabies, they may show various signs and symptoms, such as:
- Barking differently
- Excessive drooling
- Uncharacteristic aggression, fearfulness, or even affection
- Overreaction to touch, sound or light
- Biting at the site where they were exposed to the virus
- Difficulty swallowing
- Loss of balance when walking
- Partial or complete paralysis
What Are The Stages Of Rabies?
In dogs, the rabies virus can be identified in three distinct stages. Here are the stages, along with the accompanying signs and symptoms:
Prodromal stage - In this stage, a rabid dog will typically exhibit changes in their behavior that differs from their usual personality. If your pup is usually shy, they could become more outgoing, and vice versa. If you see any behavioral abnormalities in your dog after they have obtained an unknown bite, keep them away from any other pets and family members, and call your vet immediately.
Furious stage - This stage is the most dangerous because it makes your pet nervous and even vicious. They might cry out excessively and experience seizures and stop eating. The virus has gotten to the stage where it has begun attacking the nervous system, and it prevents your dog from being able to swallow, leading to the classic symptom of excessive drooling, known as "foaming at the mouth."
Paralytic stage - This is the final stage in which a rabid dog will go into a coma and won't be able to breathe. Unfortunately, this is the stage where pets usually pass away. This often takes place about seven days after symptoms first appear, with death usually happening after about 3 days.
Can You Test For Rabies?
If your dog is not vaccinated against rabies and they have an altercation with an infected animal, you will have some difficult choices to make.
There is no way to test a living animal for rabies, so pet parents will have to decide whether to quarantine their pet and wait for symptoms to appear, or to euthanize their beloved family member. The unfortunate truth is that pets who are quarantined are not likely to survive even if symptoms do not show initially, and you might just be prolonging their suffering.
Is Rabies Treatable?
Once your dog has become infected with rabies, there is nothing a veterinarian can offer to treat the disease. Quarantine or euthanasia are your only options. This is why prevention is so critical.
What Is The Rabies Vaccine?
Rabies vaccines are highly effective and immunogenic. It's rare for the vaccine to fail.
Requirements regarding pet vaccinations vary from city to city and state to state, but keeping your pet's rabies vaccines up to date protects both your dog and the people in your household against this deadly neurological disease.
How Often Do Dogs Need Rabies Shots?
While it is not mandated in some jurisdictions, The rabies vaccine is an important one on the list of many puppy and dog vaccinations your pup needs to protect their health and prevent a variety of deadly diseases.
Our Lincoln vets recommend the rabies vaccine as a core vaccine for puppies between ages 14 to 16 weeks. It is also part of our core puppy and dog vaccinations.
Because vaccine antibodies wane over time, the rabies vaccine will begin to lose efficacy. This is why follow-up booster doses must be administered.
Boosters, which are designed to immunize any animals that failed to respond to the initial dose, should be administered once your dog reaches 12 to 16 months old and every 1 to 3 years, depending on the type of vaccine your veterinarian uses.
Are There Rabies Vaccine Side Effects?
Side effects of rabies vaccinations in dogs will usually be due to the fact that the vaccine stimulates the immune system. These can include:
- Mild loss of appetite
- Mild to moderate energy loss for 24 to 36 hours following vaccination
- Mild fever
- Potential swelling or soreness at the injection site
It's possible for some dogs to develop a small, painless swelling at the injection site after receiving the rabies vaccine. In rare cases, a circular area of hair loss may appear in the same area.
However, it's important to note that not all dogs will experience any side effects from the vaccine. If side effects do occur, they usually start within an hour of vaccination and disappear within one or two days.
It's very uncommon, but in rare instances, a dog may have a severe reaction to the vaccine due to an overreaction of the immune system. Serious side effects typically occur immediately or within a couple of hours after receiving the vaccination.
Rare reactions to the rabies vaccine include:
- Swelling in the face, eyes, or muzzle
- Fainting or collapse
- Hives, which appear as firm lumps on the dog's body and may or may not be itchy
- Severe swelling or pain at the injection site
Take your dog to a veterinarian for emergency care immediately if you notice any of the symptoms above.
Can My Dog Get Rabies If They Are Vaccinated?
While there is still a risk of your dog contracting rabies even while vaccinated, the odds are very low. In fact, the rabies vaccine is so effective that dogs who have been vaccinated rarely become infected, even when bitten by a rabid animal.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.