Rabies is a very dangerous viral disease that is very rare in animals in the United States. Because of laws requiring vaccination, very few, if any, domesticated animals contract rabies.

Wild animals are far more likely than domesticated animals to carry the rabies virus.

Symptoms of Rabies

Symptoms of rabies can take anywhere from one to three months to appear, and in rare cases may not appear for over six months. However, once symptoms appear, the disease is almost always fatal.

Early rabies symptoms in people may not be recognized for what they are because they are general. These include:

  • fever
  • general feeling of being unwell or tired
  • headache.

Later on, more symptoms can appear. These include:

  • a difficulty swallowing
  • easy agitation
  • easy excitation
  • feelings of anxiety
  • feelings of confusion
  • insomnia
  • hallucination
  • partial paralysis in certain parts of the body
  • unusual convulsions
  • unusual salivation.

Symptoms and severity may depend on the location that rabies entered the body.

In animals, similar symptoms can occur and will affect all aspects of the body and the animal’s personality. The most recognizable symptom of rabies in an animal is often the excess salivation, often referred to as “foaming at the mouth.”

Spread of Rabies

Rabies is generally spread through the saliva of an infected animal. Most often, the transmission occurs when a rabies-infected animal bites a non-infected animal or non-infected person. The rabies-infected saliva gets into the bloodstream of the non-infected person or animal through the bite wound.

Rabies can also be transmitted if a rabid animal licks another animal or a person and the saliva gets into:

  • an open wound
  • the eyes
  • the mouth
  • the nose.

However, transmission through licking is far less likely than transmission through a bite.

Rabies Prevention

Because of the severity of the rabies virus and the danger it poses to humans, dogs are required by law to be vaccinated for rabies once a year. This prevents the dog acquiring rabies or spreading the virus to other animals or people.

The rabies vaccine is one of the core vaccinations for dogs. A core vaccination is recommended for all dogs, most often because the disease it protects against is either very common or very dangerous. Non-core vaccines are only recommended for some dogs who are particularly at risk for a certain disease.

Other than the vaccine, there is very little people can do to prevent the disease if they come into contact with an infected animal. However, rabies is very rare and is usually not a problem for people who stay away from animals in the wild.

Treatment of Rabies

Treatment for rabies should begin as soon as possible. If you suspect that you or your pet has been exposed to rabies, see a doctor or veterinarian immediately.

Treatment most often involves a series of rabies vaccines or rabies shots over a short period of time. This will help the body produce antibodies, or disease fighters, that will attack the rabies virus.