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Rabies in Dogs

Rabies in Dogs

Whether or not your pup spends a large amount of time outdoors or enjoys being indoors, all dogs are at risk of contracting rabies. In this post, our New Ulm vets talk about the effect of rabies on dogs, why it is important to vaccinate your dog and how often it should be done.

The Impact of Rabies on Dogs

The deadly rabies virus can severely impact the brain and is transmitted through contact with an infected animal's saliva. This virus can affect all types of mammals including humans.

The CDC sees about 5,000 cases of rabies in animals annually, most of which are cases occurring in wild animals. Bats, raccoons, foxes and skunks are the animals most likely to carry this virus. 

This virus is almost always fatal. The infected animal usually dies just a few days after the symptoms appear.

The Spread of the Rabies Virus

So how can a dog get rabies?

To contract rabies, a dog would need to come into contact with the saliva of an infected animal, or by being bitten by an infected animal. Typically, it will take between 10 and 14 days for your pooch to start showing symptoms.

However, symptoms can take months or years to appear depending on how your pet was exposed to the virus. 

What are the signs of rabies in a dog?

As a dog owner, you may be wondering how to know if your dog has rabies. Dogs with rabies may exhibit numerous signs and symptoms, including:

  • Barking differently
  • Excessive drooling
  • Uncharacteristic aggression, fearfulness or even affection 
  • Overreaction to touch, sound or light 
  • Biting at the site where they were exposed to the virus 
  • Difficulty swallowing 
  • Loss of balance when walking 
  • Partial or complete paralysis
  • Falling 
  • Seizures

How to Test a Dog For Rabies

Along with wondering how to tell if your dog has rabies, you may also wonder if there are any tests to help diagnose this disease. Unfortunately, if your pet comes into contact with an infected animal and isn't vaccinated against rabies, you will end up having to make some very difficult choices. 

Since animals cannot be tested for rabies, and the signs of rabies in your dog may not also appear, you may find yourself in the position to decide whether to quarantine your pet and wait for symptoms to appear or to euthanize a beloved family member. Quarantined pets are unlikely to survive even if they do not initially show symptoms. 

There is No Cure For Rabies in Dogs

Once your dog has become infected with rabies, there is nothing a veterinarian can offer to treat the disease. Quarantine or euthanasia are your only options. This is why prevention is so critical. 

Dog Rabies Vaccinations

Rabies vaccines are highly effective and immunogenic. The vaccines are typically successful at helping to prevent the occurrence of rabies in pets.

Requirements regarding pet vaccinations vary from city to city and state to state, but keeping your pet's rabies vaccines up to date protects both your dog and the people in your household against this deadly neurological disease. 

You may be wondering 'Can I vaccinate my own dog for rabies?', and our vets would like to take a moment to advise against this as you cannot guarantee a safe product, dosage or method of administering the shot. You may cause your dog irreparable harm or even death.

When should my dog be vaccinated?

The rabies vaccine is an important one on the list of many puppy and dog vaccinations your pooch needs to protect their health and prevent a variety of deadly diseases. Some areas even make the rabies vaccine a legal requirement when owning a cat or dog.

Our New Ulm vets recommend the rabies vaccine as a core vaccine to be given to puppies starting between ages 14 to 16 weeks. It is also part of our core kitten and cat vaccinations. 

Because vaccine antibodies wane over time, the rabies vaccine will begin to lose efficacy. This is why follow-up booster doses must be administered. 

Boosters, which are designed to immunize any animals that failed to respond to the initial dose, should be administered once your dog reaches 12 to 16 months old and every 1 to 3 years depending on the type of vaccine your veterinarian uses. 

Can my dog get rabies if they are vaccinated?

While there is still a risk of your dog contracting rabies even while vaccinated, the odds are very low. In fact, the rabies vaccine is so effective that dogs who have been vaccinated rarely become infected. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Would you like to schedule your furry friend for their routine vaccinations? Our New Ulm vets can administer your pup's vaccines.

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