We are all familiar with the term and we all know that are dogs should be vaccinated against it (in fact, rabies vaccinations for dogs are required by law in all 50 states). We’ve even seen it portrayed in movies and literature… remember Atticus Finch having to save his family from a rabid dog in To Kill a Mockingbird? But, what is rabies?
Rabies is a disease transferred by the saliva of an infected animal. This can happen from a bite, causing an exposed wound that is directly infected with saliva, or from infected saliva meeting an already open wound or a newly created wound from a scratch from the infected animal that then comes into contact with infected saliva.
Rabies is a fatal disease that, once contracted, travels to the brain and causes inflammation. This is followed by changes in behavior (typically vicious behavior, but not necessarily) and foaming of the mouth or drooling caused by difficulty swallowing. As the disease progresses, paralysis develops followed by death.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment for rabies once it has been contracted, however, vaccinations are very effective. This underscores the importance of ensuring your pet is vaccinated. If a vaccinated dog is bitten by an infected animal, they should be revaccinated immediately – take them to your local emergency vet. The dog must then be quarantined based on local health regulations. The quarantine period for a vaccinated pet is typically between one and three months.
If an unvaccinated pet is bitten but does not appear to have contracted the rabies virus, they must be quarantined for a prolonged period of time without human or animal contact. This quarantine is typically around six months. At the end of this period, if the animal shows no signs or symptoms or rabies, he or she may be released to return home 30 days after a rabies vaccination.
The sad news is rabies is a scary disease with fatal consequences. He good news is that it is easily prevented by smart pet owners. Keep your pet and your family safe and ensure all of your pet’s vaccinations are up to date.