Rabies is a devastating and incurable disease caused by a virus infecting the saliva. It affects the brain and spinal cord and circulates throughout the dog’s body.
Most of the time, if a dog contracts rabies, death will occur within ten days of developing any clinical signs. However, the incubation period can last anywhere from ten days to a year. Rabies can affect all mammals, and it is a fatal disease.
Dogs with rabies may not have any visible or outward signs until it spreads, but once the dog is sick, it is not long before they die.
Once rabies enters the body, it goes from the nerves to the brain. The virus can take 3 to 12 weeks to get to the brain in dogs.
The amount of time a dog can live with rabies also depends on the amount of rabies that is present in the saliva, the depth of the wound, size and immune status, and where the bite was.
Can Dogs Ever Survive Rabies?
Once clinical symptoms of rabies appear in the dog, the disease is 100 percent fatal. There is poorly recorded information on a few dogs who survived rabies, but it is generally a fatal illness. Unless a dog is vaccinated against the virus, recovery is not possible. However, if the amount of rabies in the infected animal is not very strong, there is a good chance the dog will not contract rabies.
Due to rabies being such an insidious and destructive illness, there is no veterinary-approved therapy for a canine with rabies. It must be noted that once the clinical symptoms occur, there is no treatment, and the dog will likely need to be put down to prevent other pets and humans from acquiring the illness, not to mention end the dog’s suffering.
How Do Dogs Contract Rabies?
A dog can contract rabies if an infected animal bites them. The most prevalent animals to carry the virus in the United States are wild. These include bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes, and coyotes. Dogs may also get rabies if they come in contact with the infected animal’s body fluids in a scratch or other open wound.
Even if the dog does not go around wildlife, a rabid bat can enter the home and bite or scratch the dog and give them rabies. If the dog is not vaccinated against the disease, they will likely contract rabies if bitten by another animal.
You should also protect your pets by keeping them far from the wildlife path. Keep food sources inside to prevent rabid animals from congregating around your home. Allowing pets to run free outside unsupervised is not a good idea.
Stages of Rabies in Dogs
In dogs, rabies is seen to progress throughout three stages. Each stage has its symptoms. The first stage is called the prodromal phase. This stage occurs after the incubation period ends and the dog enters the prodromal phase. It is in the course of this phase that clinical symptoms begin to appear. Behavioral changes, such as aggression or severe lack of energy, begin to become noticeable.
The prodromal phase, in general, continues for a few days. The second stage of rabies in dogs is the excitation stage, also known as furious rabies. It is during this stage that the canine will become angry or frightened. The dog may become hyperactive and agitated and more likely to bite during this stage.
During the excitation stage, the dog may suddenly become terrified of humans they know. This stage can go on for a few days and may last until they die from the disease. Seizures may occur due to the dog losing control of their muscles. They may start trembling or shaking a lot.
The final stage of rabies in dogs is known as the paralytic stage, also known as dumb rabies. This stage is more common in dogs. Some dogs skip the excitation phase and go straight to the final stage immediately after the first signs of rabies.
During the final stage of rabies, the dog may have excessive drooling due to rabies entering the saliva, and the drool often looks like foam. The dog will look like they cannot keep their mouth closed, and they typically lose control over their throat. There is permanent damage to motor neurons.
Paralysis takes over and affects the dog’s mouth, throat, and muscles. Paralysis will lead to a coma, which results in death. After the first signs of rabies are present, the dog will go through the active stage of the virus within about a week.
What is the Incubation Period of Rabies?
The incubation time of rabies in canines is the time from the bite to the clinical indications of the disease. The virus can persist in the dog’s body for a long time before warning signs arise. The incubation phase typically lasts from 10 days to one year.
The appearance of the clinical signs of rabies depends on the site of the infection, the seriousness of the bite, and the amount of rabies injected by the bite. The speed at which the virus progresses is also influenced by whether the dog has immunity.
What to Do if You Spot Rabies in Your Dog
If you suspect your dog may have rabies, you must immediately take them to the emergency vet or call your veterinarian. They will give you instructions on handling the situation and transporting your dog to an animal hospital. Since rabies is a zoonotic disease that you can contract from the bite of an animal, you must be extremely careful when handling them.
Do not touch the dog without a pair of thick, protective gloves. If the dog is drooling, avoid getting near their mouth. You do not want to come in contact with the canine’s drool because you can acquire rabies. When transporting them to the vet, please keep them in a crate until you arrive with the dog.
Once you get the dog out of the house, disinfect all areas of your home with bleach to kill the virus. If your dog has been vaccinated against rabies, they will receive a booster shot and be put under observation for about one to three months to prevent them from escaping or biting someone. Your dog will be out in isolation to see whether they have rabies.
Treatment of Rabies in Dogs
The only treatment for rabies is prevention with vaccines. Once symptoms appear, it will kill the dog. Rabies is a fatal illness, and there is no remedy. Vaccinations are essential to ensure that these cases do not occur.
If you ever see another animal has bitten your dog, take them to the vet right away, and the vet will give your dog a booster. It will bolster your dog’s immunity to the virus and reduce the risk of developing rabies. Please do not wait until you see symptoms to take them to the vet, as once symptoms occur, it becomes fatal.
Preventing Rabies with Vaccinations & Boosters
You must take your dog to the vet for regular vaccinations and boosters to protect them from contracting the virus. Each state has different rules about pets and rabies vaccines, but there are some general guidelines that most states follow. The first vaccine is typically given to puppies from 12 weeks of age.
To keep your dog safe and protected, make sure your dog receives their booster shots throughout their lives. The first booster is typically offered at one year and every three years after that. It will help protect your dog in the event that another animal bites them. It also covers other pets and people.
Keep your pet away from wildlife and if you live near wildlife, such as foxes, bats, or other carriers, only allow them to be outside when supervised. Young puppies who are not vaccinated should be kept away from wildlife because they are not yet vaccinated. They should not be taken to puppy training until they are vaccinated to avoid the risk of putting other pets at risk.
Vaccination of pets is required by law to protect the pet and prevent the spread of rabies. You should check with your state’s rules about rabies vaccines and boosters for pets.
My Dog is Still Alive After a 10-Day Observation Period: What Does it Mean?
Dogs, cats, or ferrets that bite someone should be quarantined for ten days in an assessment facility to see if they develop symptoms of rabies. Most vaccinated pets do not have rabies, and this is a test to see if the animal was rabid at the time of biting.
If the animal was rabid or infectious when they bit someone, they would die from the disease within those ten days. If the animal is alive after ten days, it means that they were not rabid at the time of the bite. The purpose of quarantine is to prove whether the animal is rabid.
If the animal has not been immunized, they can be maintained in quarantine for up to six months. Properly vaccinated pets do not need to undergo the same extended, strict quarantine as unvaccinated animals. Unfortunately, if the dog shows signs of rabies, they will likely be put down.
However, it is fortunate that rabies has become less prevalent in the United States due to regular boosters and vaccines. Most rabies cases in the United States come from infected wildlife.
How Long Do Rabies Live Outside a Host?
Temperature and conditions affect how long rabies can live outside a host. The rabies virus cannot survive for longer than a few hours outside the host in humans or animals. However, it is typically demolished within a few minutes at 122 degrees Fahrenheit. The virus only lasts a few hours at room temperature.
The rabies virus lives inside the host’s saliva, brain, and nervous tissue. It is considered inactive once outside the host’s body and saliva.
If a dog contracts rabies, they will die once symptoms appear, which usually takes about ten days. Rabies is a lethal illness, and it is crucial to ensure that your pet receives all their vaccines and booster shots to help prevent this from happening.