Rabies in Dogs

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Not all rabid animals follow this pathway but all are dead within 10 days of the virus attacking the brain.

Rabies perpetuates because of the wild animal reservoirs. Foxes, raccoons, skunks, coyotes and bats have high rates of rabies infections and exposure to these animals is the primary way rabies is spread to our pets and us.

In human rabies, the current US cases have been associated with bat exposure. Bats have tiny sharp teeth. You may have been bitten but do not know and may not find any marks. Children and incapacitated people may be unable to tell if a bite occurred. Consult your physician immediately if:

  • You were sleeping and woke to find a bat in your room.
  • A bat is found in a room with an unattended child, mentally challenged individual or intoxicated person.
  • If the bat is not available for testing, many physicians will recommend rabies exposure treatment.

    If a person is bitten by an unvaccinated dog or cat, euthanasia and testing is recommended. Another alternative is to strictly isolate the animal for 6 months. If after 6 months no signs of rabies appear, the animal can be vaccinated and released.

    If a person is bitten by a vaccinated dog or cat, the animal is observed for 10 days. If signs of rabies develop, the animal should be euthanized and tested for rabies.

    The reason for the 10 day quarantine is that if the animal was shedding the virus when he/she bit the person, he/she will be dead from rabies within 10 days. If the animal appears normal after 10 days, then he/she was not shedding the virus at the time of the bite. It does not, however, mean the animal is free from rabies. The virus may not have reached the brain yet. (If this is the case, the animal was still not contagious when he/she bit the person).

  • Veterinary Care In-Depth

    In-depth Information on Diagnosis of Canine Rabies

    There is no reliable test that can be done on a live animal. Euthanasia is required for a confirmation of rabies. There are several methods available to detect the virus in brain tissue.

    Direct fluorescent antibody test is the test of choice. It is a rapid and reliable test for rabies.

    Previously, the brain tissue was examined under a microscope for characteristic signs of rabies infection. This test was found to be moderately reliable in dogs but unreliable in cats.

    Other more extensive tests are being investigated.

    In-depth Information on Treatment of Canine Rabies

    There is no treatment for rabies. Almost every animal infected with rabies will die. Due to the serious potential for transmission to people, treatment should not be attempted and animals showing signs of rabies should be euthanized and tested for confirmation.

    Contact your physician for human treatment guidelines and recommendations.

    Every animal bite should be reported to your local rabies or animal control center.

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