Dog rabies symptoms

The content of the article

The first mention of the disease was recorded in the sixteenth century. The disease was called hydrophobia or hydrophobia. With the development of microbiology, it became known that the causative agent is a deadly virus that affects the brain of all warm-blooded, including humans. Pets are infected by stray brethren who become infected by forest dwellers. The disease is dangerous because rabies in dogs in the first stages sometimes goes unnoticed. It is important not to neglect the prevention, which can save the life of a four-legged pet and the whole family.

What is rabies in animals

Rabies is a viral disease characterized by severe damage to the peripheral nervous system. Infection affects warm-blooded animals, including farm animals and domestic animals, most birds and humans. The virus is resistant to chemical disinfectants and low temperatures. It can be stored in the bodies of dead individuals for several years. It dies instantly at a temperature of 100 degrees and for 10-15 minutes under the influence of ultraviolet radiation.

Infection with rabies virus inevitably leads to death. There is no treatment, so pet owners should take preventative measures. In the natural environment, the carriers of the virus are wild carnivores: foxes, wolves, raccoons, jackals, hedgehogs, rodents, bats. In the city, stray cats and dogs carry the infection. Cases of rabies infection are periodically recorded in all countries of the world..

How is transmitted

The disease causes an RNA virus belonging to the family Rhabdoviridae (rhabdoviruses). Once inside the body, the pathogen is localized in the lymph nodes and salivary glands. From there it spreads to other organs. Having penetrated the spinal cord and brain, the virus causes irreversible changes in the functioning of the central nervous system. The release of the pathogen into the external environment with saliva is the main cause of the spread of rabies.

Infection may occur:

  • in direct contact with a sick animal at the time of a bite;
  • when saliva of an infected individual gets into open wounds, through the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose
  • aerogenically, that is, by airborne droplets;
  • alimentarily, when an infection enters the body through the mouth with food or through licking objects;
  • through transmissible transfer, i.e. through insect bites.

Although these multiple pathways of the virus are possible, the only relevant, repeatedly proven method of infection is direct bite. The probability of infection depends on the number and depth of the wounds received, on the virulence of a particular pathogen and on the individual susceptibility of the organism.

The risk group includes pets living near forests. An annual rabies vaccine is an effective way to prevent it. Strong immunity is established after the third vaccination. The probability of infection in a vaccinated dog is negligible. It is only 2%. Immunized immunocompromised animals infected with any other infection or exhausted by surgery may become ill..

Two dogs

Can a puppy get rabies

Rabies in puppies develops faster than in adults. In some, the first symptoms appear on the fifth day after infection. The rapid spread of infection is associated with weak immunity and small body size. The causative agent of rabies refers to the viruses of the encephalitis group. It travels through neurons at a certain speed. The length of neural chains in babies is less, so the virus gets to the brain faster. For the same reason, the latent stage in small breeds is shorter than in large.

Incubation period

The incubation or, in other words, latent period, when the disease does not manifest itself externally, ranges from one to three months, but there are cases when signs of the disease appeared six months or even a year after infection. Such a difference is associated with immunity stability, body size and body characteristics of the infected individual. In an apparently healthy, but already infected dog, the virus is detected in saliva 5-10 days before the clinical signs of the disease appear. By this moment it becomes contagious.

Manifestation forms

Depending on the symptoms and nature of the course of the disease, there are several forms of the disease. Their features are listed in the table:








5-12 days

3-5 days

It flows in a wave-like manner with an interval between seizures of several weeks

Ends with recovery

Up to six months


The most famous and common form. Changes in behavior are pronounced. Apathy gives way to strong aggression, then paralysis occurs

Aggression is practically absent. Deterioration is happening rapidly

Repeated transition from apathy to aggression with breaks between attacks

A rare and poorly studied form that ends in recovery.

Characteristic symptoms are absent. The disease has signs of gastroenteritis: vomiting, diarrhea. Because of this, it is often not recognized.

First signs

Regardless of the form of the disease, the first symptoms of rabies in dogs, as a rule, are hardly noticeable to the owners and have nothing to do with the picture that most people present at the mention of the disease. The pet becomes inactive, does not play, does not run during walks, lies, tries to hide from the light. The animal drinks a lot, while refusing to eat.

On the second or third day, saliva begins to flow, breathing problems appear. Some dogs begin to eat earth, stones, sticks and other inedible objects. You can observe problems with swallowing water and food, the pet often chokes. This is a silent stage of the disease. It is the same for all forms of rabies, except atypical. The further course of the disease is different. The atypical form has lubricated symptoms similar to food poisoning, so often the infection remains unidentified.


Veterinarians distinguish several forms of the disease. Symptoms and behavior of a rabid dog with different types of ailment are different. The most common is a violent form of infection. Its symptoms constitute a well-known picture of the disease. There are 5 forms of rabies in total:

  • violent;
  • quiet
  • returnable;
  • abortive;
  • atypical.
Crazy dog

Wild form of the disease

Symptoms in violent form last from 5 to 12 days. The disease proceeds in three stages:

  • prodromal;
  • manic;
  • paralytic.

The first stage of the disease lasts about three days. The manifestation of rabies in dogs in the prodromal stage may go unnoticed, but during this period the maximum amount of virus is released into the environment. You should pay attention to any changes in the behavior of the pet. The dog hides in secluded places, avoids the light. An obedient pet stops responding, responding to commands. Sometimes, on the contrary, the dog requires increased attention, fins, licks his hands.

Animals lick, comb the site of the bite with claws, wounds and scratches appear on the body. As the disease progresses, anxiety builds up. Symptoms become severe. Larynx muscle paralysis gradually develops, which leads to difficulty in swallowing movements, profuse salivation. The dog is out of air. She yawns, makes grasping jaws..

Then the disease goes into the stage of arousal or, in another way, manic, which lasts 3-4 days. Animals cease to recognize owners, show causeless aggression. Reactions are inadequate, a rabid beast eats land, garbage, attacks inanimate objects. The grasping movements are extraordinarily powerful, which sometimes leads to a fracture of the jaws. Attacks of excitement give way to periods of apathy.

Pets lose their appetite, lose weight. There is a fear of water, due to the inability to swallow fluid due to spasms of the swallowing muscles. There is a slight increase in temperature. The dog’s mouth is constantly open, the saliva released is very foaming. Due to paralysis of the tongue and muscles of the larynx, the timbre of the voice changes, it becomes hoarse. The pupils are dilated, do not respond to light, sometimes strabismus, a loss of orientation in space.

The paralytic stage lasts from one to six days. At this point, disturbances in the central nervous system are already clearly visible. There is paralysis of the hind limbs, tail, internal organs, which leads to spontaneous urination, defecation. The sound of pouring water causes panic. The temperature rises by 1-2 degrees. In the blood, the number of leukocytes drops. A weakened pet ceases to respond to stimuli, falls into a coma and dies.


A depressive or quiet form of the disease is swift: the animal dies on the third or fifth day. For sick dogs, apathy is characteristic, excessive tenderness, sometimes replaced by an increase in anxiety. Aggression is absent. The pupils are dilated. Rapidly developing paralysis of the tongue and pharynx leads to difficulty swallowing, profuse salivation. There is an unsteady gait. Deterioration occurs rapidly, the dog is tormented by coughing attacks. Sometimes cramps occur. Death comes from internal organ failure.


The disease in a return form is characterized by a wave-like course. At first, all manifestations of the infection come to naught. The disease recedes, but after some time an exacerbation occurs, and the symptoms return. Sick animals are characterized by inactivity, which is replaced by aggression, increased salivation, a distortion of appetite. The transition from a quiet stage to a violent one is repeated many times. Although several weeks may elapse between attacks, the animal is doomed. Each time the symptoms intensify. Lethal outcome is inevitable.


A little-studied and rare form of infection is called abortive, that is, interrupted. Before the second stage, it proceeds typically, and then comes the recovery of the dog, which has all the signs of rabies. Why this happens is a mystery to veterinarians. It is believed that only 1-2% of infected people have an abortive form. It is believed that if rabid animals were not euthanized in the initial stages, this percentage would be greater.


The atypical form is characterized by a gradual worsening of the condition and a long course of the disease: from three months to six months. Aggression is absent. Distinctive features are disorders of the digestive system: lack of appetite, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, leading to exhaustion and death. It happens that due to an uncharacteristic course, the owners do not recognize canine rabies in the disease, and an animal infected with a deadly virus can infect unsuspecting owners.

Lack of appetite in a dog

Dog Rabies Test

If a bite mark is found during an external examination, and rabies vaccination has not been carried out, the pet should be tested for the detection of a deadly virus. When the clinical signs of the disease have already manifested, laboratory diagnostics will help to rule out other infectious diseases with similar symptoms: Aujeszky’s disease, encephalomyelitis, plague.

A deadly virus spreads along neural chains and is rarely detected in the blood, therefore, if infection is suspected, it is advisable to examine the cerebrospinal fluid. Within 10 days, while the results are being processed, the animal must be isolated, quarantined in a single cage, and taken for a walk strictly on a leash, avoiding contact with other dogs. If the infection is confirmed, unfortunately, the animals are euthanized..

To determine the immunity of a dog after vaccination, a test exists for the presence of specific anti-rabies antibodies in the blood. The analysis is carried out only by accredited laboratories, which are in some veterinary clinics. The cost of the procedure is high, but this test is necessary when taking the dog abroad. Many countries prohibit the import into their territory of animals that do not have the results of such an analysis..

It makes sense to do an expensive test one month after rabies vaccination, when immunization is formed, and no later than 30 days before the second vaccination. Results will be ready in 10-20 days. If the number of anti-rabies antibodies is less than necessary, the animal is revaccinated and after a month lead for re-analysis.

Is rabies treated

There is currently no cure. A pet that has shown signs of illness is doomed. The virus multiplies rapidly and, moving along neural circuits, reaches the brain and causes inflammation in it, leading to paralysis and death of the animal. In order not to torment the infected beast and exclude infection of other pets and humans, the most humane method is painless euthanasia with veterinary drugs.

The first references to rabies virus infection in history are found in the annals of the sixteenth century. Since then, doctors and scientists have been trying to find a cure for it. In the twenty-first century, rabies was tried to be treated with a coma, into which the patient was artificially injected. The first and only successful experience of such treatment was recorded by American doctors in 2005.

The meaning of this technique is as follows: when you turn off most of the nervous system, the body manages to develop the right amount of antibodies. With repeated use of the treatment, success was only in 1 out of 24 cases. Perhaps the patients had an abortive form of the disease, and recovery is not associated with the activities of doctors. The method has not been tested on animals. There is only a valid vaccine.


The creator of the rabies vaccine is French microbiologist Louis Pasteur. In 1880, a scientist, struck by the torment of a child dying from a deadly virus, began lengthy experiments on the creation of vaccination material. He experimented with rabbits, isolating a virus from their brain and subjecting it to special treatment. The vaccine was first tested in dogs. 50 individuals were vaccinated. The same number of animals left for control.

All dogs received a rabies pathogen at a time. The results were astounding: none of the vaccinated animals became ill. In humans, the vaccine was tested in 1885. A nine-year-old boy was bitten by a rabid dog. Doctors unanimously declared that the child is doomed. Then Louis introduced his vaccine. The boy did not get sick, which brought Pasteur world fame.

Domestic and foreign rabies vaccines are successfully used to prevent the spread of a dangerous virus. The drug and vaccination schedule are selected by the doctor. Inoculate healthy animals. Pregnant and lactating females, weakened individuals are not subject to vaccination. Before vaccination, the dog is given anthelmintic drugs.

Rabies vaccination is carried out in several stages:

  1. the first vaccination is given to puppies of two months of age;
  2. the second – after 3 weeks;
  3. the third dose of the drug is administered to puppies after changing milk teeth.

After that, the dog acquires a stable immunity. Revaccination is carried out annually at the same time. After the vaccine is administered, the doctor makes a vaccination mark in the veterinary passport. Without this document, animals are not allowed to participate in exhibitions, competitions, transportation on airplanes and trains. It is strictly forbidden for the owners to take out the vaccine-free pets for hunting. State veterinarians vaccinate for free.

When an unvaccinated dog is bitten, the drug is administered urgently. A disease can be prevented if, within a few months after an urgent vaccination, avoid hypothermia or overheating of the animal, excessive fatigue and nervous tension. These risk factors weaken the effect of the vaccine. All objects in contact with sick animals, bedding, toys, bowls should be burned.

Dog vaccination

What to do if a dog is bitten

If your pet is a victim of stray dogs, the main thing is not to panic. Remember that all manipulations should be carried out using protective equipment: rubber gloves and a mask. Saliva of patients with rabies of animals, having fallen from a pet’s wound on damaged skin or mucous membranes of a person, can cause infection of the host. To help your pet, proceed as follows:

  1. After bringing the dog home, put on a muzzle, and a protective mask and rubber gloves.
  2. Cut hair around the wound.
  3. Wash the bite site thoroughly with soap and water. It is advisable to use laundry soap and douche to create a strong jet pressure.
  4. Take the animal to the vet. The doctor will prescribe immunostimulants that enhance the action of the vaccine.
  5. If the pet has not been vaccinated, it is urgent to introduce an anti-rabies drug and quarantine the animal. Revaccination is carried out after 2 weeks.
  6. In any case, the dog must be closely monitored for at least two weeks..

What to do if a rabid dog bites

For people, rabies is a deadly disease. An infected person will only survive if a timely course of vaccination is completed before the first symptoms of the disease appear. Infection occurs through saliva. A disease can develop at lightning speed if the wounds of the face and neck become the inlet for the virus. The bites of the hands are of great danger, since many nerve endings are concentrated there. The virus entering the body through wounds on the legs corresponds to a long incubation period.

If you were bitten by an unfamiliar dog, as well as a hedgehog, mouse, fox or other wild animal, you need to take the following actions:

  1. To wash a wound with laundry soap.
  2. Treat the bite site with hydrogen peroxide and bandage.
  3. Contact your nearest emergency room for a course of rabies vaccine..

Remember that there is no need to visit the clinic at the place of registration. Any trauma unit is required to provide assistance to a person bitten by animals, even in the absence of a passport and medical insurance policy. Emergency rooms work around the clock. Previously, with a suspected rabies virus infection, the patient was prescribed 30-40 injections into the abdominal muscles. Now apply up to 7 doses of the vaccine, which inject into the shoulder area.

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