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Rabies in Dogs – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Rabies in dogs or canine rabies is one of the most known viral infectious diseases in dogs. Because it is a disease that can be transmitted to all mammals, including humans, it is a zoonotic disease. In addition, dogs are the main transmitters worldwide.

This virus of the family Rhabdoviridae is present in practically every corner of planet Earth except in Australia, the British Isles and in Antarctica. Detecting this pathology promptly is vital to prevent it and avoid contagion to other animals. Since canine rabies is fatal. For this reason, all countries take measures to prevent it and try to eliminate it.

Rabies in Dogs
Rabies in Dogs: Vaccination, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

So in this article, we will focus on canine rabies. Explaining in detail everything you need to know about rabies in dogs, the main causes, the forms of infection, the symptoms of rabies in dogs, diagnosis and prevention. It is a must to read the article. keep reading…

What is Canine Rabies?

The term “rabies” comes from the Latin adjective Rabidus, which translates as “delirious”, “furious” or “ferocious”. Due to the characteristic behavior of a dog that suffers from this pathology, which shows aggressive behaviors.

Rabies is caused by a virus of the family Rhabdoviridae, which mainly affects the central nervous system (CNS), spreading and accumulating in large quantities in the salivary glands of the dog. Causing excessive production of saliva, infected with the virus. This disease is present in the infected animal and can persist in the carcasses of diseased animals for up to 24 hours.

Forms of Contagion of Rabies in Dogs

Rabies usually spread by the bite of an infected animal. However, can also be transmitted by saliva. For example, if the dog licks an open wound or if produced scratches in certain areas such as mucous. However, these are rare situations.

Do not forget that this disease can affect the human being in case of a bite. So it is so important to carry out an adequate plan of preventive medicine and inform doctors about the symptoms and forms of infection. With the aim of guaranteeing the health of the dog or other domestic animals and that of the tutors themselves.

Causes of Rabies in Dogs

Dogs are considered the main carriers of rabies, being vulnerable those dogs that have not been vaccinated and those that come into contact with wild animals such as foxes and bats. However, the most common form of infection is through the bite of domestic mammals such as cats, dogs, and rabbits.

dog with rabies

Direct contact with the skin (without wounds), blood, urine or feces is not a risk factor except in bats. However, it is rare for pets to come into contact with these small mammals. Currently, it is trying to control rabies in countries around the world & focusing its prevention on dogs and cats. Thanks to vaccination campaigns and multiple protection measures. However, rabies remains a frequent pathology that appears in a timely manner even in countries where it is practically eradicated.

Phases of Rabies in Dogs

To understand the progress of canine rabies virus, it is essential to pay attention to the stages of this pathology. During the bite, the virus present in the saliva enters the body and is installed inside muscles and tissues while multiplying at that site.

Then, the virus begins to spread through the surrounding structures. Generally those closest to the nervous tissue. Since it is a neutrophic virus, it has an affinity for nerve fibers. It is important to note that he does not use blood as a means of diffusion. Canine rabies has several phases and they are as follows :

Incubation in Dogs

Refers to the period from the bite to the appearance of the first symptoms. In this stage, the dog seems to be well and is asymptomatic. That is, it does not show symptoms of the disease. We are talking about a phase that can last from a week to several months.

Prodromal in Dogs

At this stage, the dog begins to manifest the incipient symptoms of the disease showing more nervous, frightened, anxious, tired and even withdrawn. It can last from 2 to 10 days.

Aggressiveness in Dogs

This is the phase that characterizes the disease of rabies. The dog becomes irritable, excessively, even biting its owners. It is a high risk stage.

Paralysis in Dogs

It is the final stage of rabies. In it, the dog is paralyzed and may have spasms and even go into a coma, until death occurs.

Now that you know the stages of canine rabies. Now We will explain what are the symptoms of rabies in dogs, fundamental to the suspicion that our dog may be infected.

Symptoms of Rabies in Dogs

Canine rabies virus has a long incubation period, which can range from three to eight week. Although in some cases it can be even longer, which is why it is not always detected early. For Example, In humans, symptoms usually appear around 3 and 6 weeks after the bite.

signs of rabies in dogs

The symptoms of this condition mainly affect the CNS and the brain. Although the phases mentioned above are usually present not all the symptoms are manifested. Which is why it is so important to be alert to the signs that our dog can be sick. Here are the symptoms of rabies in most common dogs

  • Fever
  • Aggressiveness
  • Irritability
  • Apathy
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive salivation
  • Photophobia (aversion to light)
  • Hydrophobia (aversion to water)
  • Difficulty to swallow
  • Paralysis of the face
  • Seizures
  • General paralysis

The rabies is easily confused with other neurological diseases. Therefore, it is always necessary to consult a veterinarian before the appearance of any of the symptoms of rabies in dogs mentioned or if we suspect that our dog may have come in contact with an animal infected.

How to know if my Dog has Rabies?

If you suspect that your dog may have been bitten by a stray dog, a homeless cat or come in contact with a wild mammal carrier. You may want to find out how to know if a dog has rabies. Pay attention to the following step by step process to know

Look for Wounds or Signs of Bite

This disease is usually transmitted through saliva. If your dog has fought with another dog or pet you should, immediately look for any injuries that may have caused.

Pay Attention to the Possible Symptoms

Although during the first phase there is no obvious signal. After a few weeks after the bite, the dog will begin to manifest strange behaviors and although they are not symptoms that can confirm the transmission. They can alert you. Remember that dogs can have muscle aches, fever, weakness, nervousness, fear, anxiety, photophobia or loss of appetite, among other symptoms.

how do you know if a dog has rabies

At a more advanced stage, your dog will begin to show a furious attitude that is the most characteristic of the disease and that gives the name “rabies”. The symptoms that will present will be that of excessive salivation (may present the typical white foam with which the disease is related), an uncontrollable desire to bite things, excessive irritability (before any stimulus the dog will become aggressive, growl and try to bite us), loss of appetite and hyperactivity. Some less common symptoms may be lack of orientation and even seizures.

Advanced phases

If we have not paid attention to the previous symptoms and we have not taken the dog to the veterinarian. The disease will enter the most advanced stage, although there are dogs that do not even get to suffer them. Because before they are euthanized or die. At this stage, the dog’s muscles will begin to paralyze from its hind legs to the neck and head. He will also be lethargic, will continue to foam white through his mouth, will bark abnormally and will have difficulty swallowing due to the paralysis of the muscles.

Quarantine for Rabies

In Many Countries, there is a protocol for action against bites or domestic animal aggression, with the aim of minimizing the risk of contagion to other animals and people. A study is made on the case, an initial evaluation is made and the Dog is kept under observation for a period of 14 days. Fundamental to ensure that the mammal was not infective at the time of the attack even if it did not present rabies symptoms in dogs.

how do dogs get rabies

Then, if the animal has tested positive, an epidemiological investigation period of 20 days is carried out. In addition, there are several levels of alert according to the presence of rabies in the territory.

Diagnosis of Rabies in Dogs

In the past, the diagnosis of rabies in dogs was carried out by means of a direct fluorescent antibody staining test (DFA) by analyzing the brain tissues thus showing the viral agents. For this, euthanasia of the dog was necessary.

However, nowadays when a case of rabies in the dog is suspected or the appearance of rabies symptoms in dogs. The veterinarian can proceed to isolate the dog and start a series of serological tests that confirm or not the presence of the virus such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

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Treatment of Rabies in Dogs

Unfortunately, canine rabies has no cure or treatment as the intensity of the rabies symptoms in dogs and their rapid spread cause the accurate death of the animal. However, it is possible to prevent the spread of this disease by vaccination of the dog. Therefore, before the dog gets infected, the veterinarian will advise us to proceed to the euthanasia of the dog. In order to avoid animal suffering and possible infection.

Treatment of Rabies in Dogs

We remember that after the bite of an infected dog we expose ourselves to suffering from rabies in humans. For that reason, it is of vital importance to wash the wound with soap and water and go as soon as possible to a medical center to receive promptly the rabies vaccine.

How to Prevent Rabies in Dogs?

Through strict monitoring of the vaccination schedule of the dog, we can prevent our dog from suffering this terrible deadly disease. Generally, the first dose is applied around 16 weeks and on an annual basis, reinforcement is applied. So that the dog’s organism remains active against the virus.

Likewise, even before the appearance of the first symptoms of rabies in dogs. If we have observed that our dog has been bitten by another dog or wild animal we should go to the veterinarian.

How Much Does a Dog Live with Rabies?

It is not possible to determine exactly how long a dog lives with rabies. Since the incubation phase can vary greatly depending on the location and severity of the bite. For example, the virus transmitted by a deep bite in the leg will spread much faster than in a superficial wound in the tail.

How Much Does a Dog Live with Rabies

We should know that the life expectancy of a dog with rabies is relatively short. Since it can vary between 15 and 90days, being even shorter in puppies. Likewise, once the CNS has been affected and after an evident manifestation of the symptoms of rabies in dogs. The death of the dog occurs between 7 and 10days…

In any case, if you suspect that your dog may suffer from rabies. Go as soon as possible to your veterinarian to properly isolate the Dog, do the relevant tests and avoid the risk of spreading to other animals and to people through euthanasia.


Hence, you have learned completely about Rabies in dogs, Rabies symptoms and the treatment for rabies in dogs in detailed. Check the complete article and explore your self to the most common causes and symptoms of rabies in dogs to prevent them faster from this disease. Feel free to ask your questions in the comment box below. We hope you like this article & willing to share the article with your friends and families. Stay tuned to dogsfud for more dog related articles.

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