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Healthy Dogs

Rabies in Dogs

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How Long After Infection Do Signs of Rabies Show?

The virus usually incubates from two to eight weeks before signs are noticed. However, transmission of the virus through saliva can happen as early as ten days before symptoms appear.

Which Dogs Are Most at Risk for Contracting Rabies?

Unvaccinated dogs who are allowed to roam outdoors without supervision are most at risk for infection. They’re exposed to wild animals and have a greater chance of fighting with infected stray dogs or cats.

How Is Rabies Diagnosed?

There is no accurate test to diagnose rabies in live animals. The direct fluorescent antibody test is the most accurate test for diagnosis--but because it requires brain tissue, it can only be performed after the death of the animal.

How Is Rabies Treated?

There is no treatment or cure for rabies once symptoms appear. Since rabies presents a serious public health threat, dogs who are suspected of having the virus are most often euthanized.

How Can Rabies Be Prevented?

Keeping your dog up to date with vaccinations is not only essential to prevention, it’s the law. Check with your veterinarian about the right vaccine and vaccination schedule for your dog. In many areas of the country, it’s mandatory that all domestic dogs and cats are vaccinated after the age of three months.

Vaccinating your pet not only protects him from getting rabies, it protects him if he bites someone. Dogs who have bitten humans are required to be confined for at least 10 days to see if rabies develops, and if the animal’s vaccination records are not current, a lengthy quarantine or even euthanasia may be mandated. If you’re not sure of the laws in your town, consult your local animal affairs agency.

Avoiding contact with wild animals is also necessary to prevention. You may greatly decrease chances of rabies transmission by walking your dog on a leash, and supervising him while he’s outdoors.

What Should I Do If I Think My Dog Has Had Contact With a Rabid Animal?

Call your veterinarian for an immediate appointment! Report the incident to your local health department and follow their recommendations. You’ll also need to contact local animal control officers if the animal who bit your pet is still at large; they will be best able to safely apprehend and remove the animal from the environment. After having contact with a rabid animal, the rabies virus may remain alive on your pet’s skin for up to two hours. It is best not to touch your dog during this time. If you must handle your dog, wear gloves and protective clothing.

A dog who is up to date with his vaccinations and who has been bitten by a possibly rabid animal should also be given a rabies booster immediately and kept under observation for 45 days.

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