Dog Diseases – Rabies
When we think of rabies, our dog comes to mind. We imagine a raging dog with a foaming mouth. Rabies is a viral disease that can infect any warm-blooded animal. This includes dogs and humans. Rabies is spread through the infected saliva or tissues of an animal carrying the virus. Wild animals are normally the carriers of this virus and when they bite other animals, the virus is transmitted through the saliva onto the open wounds of the other animals. It is possible that these wild animals might bite some stray dogs that in turn may transmit the virus to other dogs and so it passes from animal to animal.
The virus enters the dog via the infected saliva and travels along the nerves to the spinal cord and brains. During this period, the dog cannot infect others since it has not yet reached the brains. Once it reaches the brain, it becomes present in the salivary glands and the dog becomes contagious and capable of passing the virus to others. Rabies can cause aggression and erratic behavior in the animal. Any bite or even scratch from a rabid animal is dangerous as it can pass on to the next victim through their saliva.
Rabies affects the nervous system, causing inflammation of the brain and spinal cord resulting in abnormal behaviors. There are three stages of infection and each stage has its own symptoms and indications. The prodromal stage is the first stage. It lasts for 2-3 days. The dog exhibits either aggressiveness or timidity. The dog may have fever and slow eye reflexes. You might notice some scratches or bites on the dog that they are being chewed or licked by the dog. The second stage which lasts for 2-4 days is referred to as the furious stage. The dog will show erratic behaviors such as restlessness, incessant barking, random roaming around, and attacking inanimate objects. They may become disoriented and in some cases experience seizures. Be very careful if you approach the dog as the dog might attack you unintentionally due to their disorientation. The third and final stage is the paralytic stage. Lasting for about 2-4 days, paralysis begins to set in starting at the part where the dog was bitten or scratched. This is the stage when drooling and foaming at the mouth begin to happen. Paralysis of the face and throat can cause a distortion in the dog’s facial features, making it appear as a face of terror and anger. It is very hard to control the dog and you can accidentally get bitten or scratched by the dog’s violent movements. Death normally occurs 3-7 days from the time the symptoms start showing in the dog. Do not go near the animal. Contact a veterinarian or animal control officer to handle the situation.
There is no test or method to conclusively diagnose rabies in dogs. Once a person is bitten by a dog, or any animal for that matter, it is advisable to capture and cage the animal for observation of any symptoms and signs of rabies. The animal will be kept under observation for a period of time. Some people take anti-rabies immediately as a precaution rather than wait for the observation period to be completed. Others may opt to kill the animal and conduct an autopsy to determine if there is rabies. Unfortunately, this approach requires killing the animal and if the results are negative, the animal is already dead.
Rabies is a deadly and vicious viral disease which can affect animals and humans alike. There is no known treatment for rabies when it affects the dogs. The dog can either fight the disease through their immune system or be put to death. Since there is apparently no cure for rabies, the next option is prevention. Fortunately, anti-rabies vaccines have been developed that can prevent rabies from affecting the dogs. These vaccinations stimulate the development of anti-bodies to fight off the rabies virus but are effective only if applied before the animal contracts the disease. Vaccination should be done regularly as they lose their potency after a period of time. Do not allow your dog to chase or disturb wildlife. Keep away from animals that appear to behave oddly.