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Rabies in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments


Rabies is one of the most well known of all the viruses that may affect the brain and spinal cord of all mammals, including dogs. Also called acute viral encephalomyelitis, rabies is a fatal viral infection that affects the nervous system of animals. The rabies virus can affect all warm-blooded mammals and is spread in infected body fluids, especially blood and saliva. Usually, transmission of the virus happens from the bites or other open wounds.

Once the rabies virus enters the body of dog, it travels through his nerves to the spinal cord and ends up in the brain, where this virus multiplies rapidly. Eventually, this virus moves into the salivary glands of dogs. In this article, we have explained all the important information about this fatal disease that helps you in effective care of your canine companion.

  • Causes of Rabies

The rabies virus is transmitted through saliva- primarily via bite wounds. In addition to this, it can be spread by infected saliva entering a wound or open cut, or contacting a mucous membrane, such as those in the nasal cavity, mouth, or eyes. This virus can be carried by warm-blooded mammals such as Human, dog, cat, monkey, cow and cattle, skunk, wolf, coyote and fox, bat, squirrel, raccoon and rabbit. Other non-mammals such as bird, fish, reptiles and amphibians don’t carry rabies disease.

When the rabies virus enters the body of animals, it spreads through the nerves to reach the brain. After reaching in brain, the virus multiplies quickly, and after that clinical signs appear. Then, the virus moves from the brain to salivary glands and other parts of the body. Here it is important to note that an animal can be infectious or able to transmit the virus a few days before showing clinical signs.

  • Symptoms of Rabies

The infection of rabies virus is divided into 3 stage, viz. Prodromal, Furious (or Excitative) and Paralytic. All these three stages are explained below:

First Stage- The first stage is ‘Prodromal Stage’, which can last up to six months long as the virus slowly spreads over the nervous system and travel to the brain. During this period of virus infection, the dog sometime may not show any signs or symptoms at all. Some symptoms that are shown by many dogs in this stage are:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Changes in behavior
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tone of bark change
  • Chewing at the bite site

Second Stage- The second stage is ‘Furious or Excitative Stage’, which may last for several days (usually 2-4 days) after the first stage. However, not all dogs experience this stage. It is the most dangerous period, as infected pooch can spread rabies disease. The symptoms of this stage are as follow:

  • Extremely mean and aggressive
  • Break it own teeth by biting objects
  • Totally uncontrollable
  • Biting
  • Constant growling
  • Restless
  • Dilated pupils
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures

Third Stage- The third stage is ‘Paralytic Stage’, which last for two to four days. The symptoms of this stage are given below:

  • Choking
  • Unable to swallow any food
  • Dropping of the lower jaw
  • Paralysis of jaw, throat and chewing muscles
  • Foaming at the mouth

After the third stage i.e. paralytic stage infected dogs will usually be in coma. The infected dog may also experience some fatal respiratory problems.

  • Diagnosis of Rabies:

If you suspect any of above mentioned symptoms in your dog, call your vet immediately. The only way to diagnose the virus of rabies in dogs is through dFA test (direct fluorescent antibody test) that’s too can be done only after the death of animal. In humans, multiple tests can be run with samples of blood, saliva, hair and skin, but these are not absolute and they are also not available for the animals.

Diagnosis of rabies virus in the living animals is presumptive and based upon patient history and clinical signs. For affected pets a quarantine period is necessary to watch for the signs of the disease. Usually, the pets with no vaccine history are euthanized.

  • Treatment of Rabies:

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for the rabies. Dogs with advanced and obvious signs of rabies must be euthanized. This is done to avoid unnecessary suffering of the animal and to prevent further transmission of the virus of rabies to humans and other animals.


Shikha Sharma believes that Mother Earth is our mutual abode, where all creatures have an equal right to live with dignity. This belief is clearly reflected in her wonderful writing pieces that revolve around animals and their well-being. She is the blog editor of Pets World.

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