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Rabies in Dogs: Signs & Symptoms

What are the symptoms of rabies? Can this disease be treated? These are common questions asked by concerned dog owners. In this blog, our Baltimore veterinarians discuss the signs and symptoms of rabies in dogs and how to prevent your canine companion from contracting this serious illness.

How can a dog get rabies?

Rabies, a deadly virus, can infect any mammal, including pets, wild animals, and humans. Infected animals transmit the virus through their saliva, emphasizing the importance of taking bites and scratches from wildlife and other animals seriously when they happen to your dog.

How to Know if Your Dog Has Rabies

Our veterinarians at Baltimore are frequently asked, "How to tell if your dog has rabies?" The rabies virus affects the central nervous system and eventually infects the brain.

Some common signs  your dog has rabies include:

  • Overreacting to light, sound, or touch 
  • Excessive drooling 
  • Licking or biting the wound site where exposure occurred 
  • Staggering or falling, with eventual paralysis 
  • Loss of appetite or difficulty drinking or eating 

Rabies almost always results in fatality. Once an animal shows signs of rabies, it typically succumbs within sept to ten days. If a wild animal bites your dog, administer a rabies vaccination booster to decrease the risk of virus transmission. Should your dog become infected, quarantine them from the rest of the household, including humans and other pets, while contacting your vet.

Once symptoms appear, vets cannot treat rabies. Unfortunately, if your veterinarian suspects rabies, your dog may be euthanized to prevent the spread of the virus. 

What is the incubation period of rabies?

The incubation period refers to the duration between your dog's exposure to the rabies virus and the onset of symptoms of the disease. In most cases, your pet will exhibit signs of the illness within two weeks of exposure, but symptoms may appear later, even months after exposure. To ensure safety, vaccinate your dog against rabies and adhere to all instructions from your local public health unit if you suspect exposure. In cases of rabies infection in pets, the virus can spread to other pets and humans up to 10 days before symptoms appear in the animal.

Can my dog still contract rabies after being vaccinated? 

Unfortunately, the rabies vaccine is not 100% effective like most vaccines. That said, the vaccines provide substantial protection for your dog against the virus. It is important to prevent your pets from contracting this virus in the first place; prevention is the key defense against disease in dogs.

It's safer for your pet to have the vaccine than living without it, as the rabies virus is relatively common. 

Can a vaccinated dog transmit rabies?

While it's unlikely that a vaccinated dog will transmit rabies, it is still possible. Regardless of vaccination status, authorities must quarantine any bitten dog for ten days. If the dog or cat was infectious at the time of the bite, symptoms of the virus will appear within the animal within ten days.

Can I vaccinate my own dog for rabies?

If you vaccinate your pet for rabies, remember that state health and law enforcement officials won't accept the vaccination as valid. In other words, they will treat your pet as if no rabies vaccine were administered.

However, providing proof that your dog has received the rabies vaccine can confirm the absence of rabies transmission risk.

Keeping your dog's vaccinations up-to-date is crucial, as failure to do so may lead to your dog being quarantined or euthanized due to potential threats. Additionally, if your dog bites someone, you must confine it for at least ten days to observe for rabies development.

How to test a dog for rabies?

Rabies cannot be easily diagnosed with a blood test. A 100% accurate test requires a biopsy of the brain tissue, which can only be done after the animal has passed away.

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.

To book a rabies vaccination for your dog, contact our Baltimore veterinarians today.

Caring for Pets in Baltimore

Falls Road Animal Hospital accepts new clients to our specialty services and 24/7 emergency services.

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Contact (410) 825-9100