By Androscoggin Animal Hospital Voted #1 in the 2019 Downeast Dog News Best of the Best Contest
As a fellow dog lover and owner, everyone has heard of rabies, but most have very little, if any, experience with the disease. It’s easy to think of rabies as a disease of the past or one that affects only wild animals, but rabies is still a concern for people and pets around the world.
The rabies virus specifically affects mammals and is transmitted through the bite or scratch of an infected animal. Once infected, the rabies virus resides in the muscle tissue for a short period of time before making its way to the local nerves. The virus continues to spread throughout the nervous system before finally ending up in the brain, at which point symptoms appear. The time between initial exposure and the onset of symptoms (and ultimately death) is about 3-8 weeks in dogs and 2-6 weeks in cats.
The symptoms of rabies appear in three distinct stages: Prodromal stage – You may notice subtle personality changes in the beginning phase of the disease. Changes in vocal tone, irritability, weakness, or other unusual behaviors aren’t uncommon.
Excitative stage – This is the stage most people associate with the disease. It’s usually accompanied by hyperactivity, aggressiveness, hallucinations, and sensitivity to light and sound.
Paralytic stage – The final stage of the disease occurs as the motor neurons in the brain are damaged. The infected animal becomes weak, unable to swallow, and may drool excessively. The animal will ultimately die when the breathing muscles become paralyzed.
Doing Your Part
The number one way to protect your pet is to make sure they remain current on their rabies vaccination. Remember, rabies is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted to people, so vaccinating your pet is also a preventive measure for the whole family.
Other ways to minimize your pet’s risk include:
Don’t allow your pet or children to interact with or investigate wildlife.
Feed your pet indoors, and do not leave their food outside where it can attract wildlife. Make sure trash bins are properly secured.
Stay away from any animal that’s acting aggressively or behaving strangely; report the incident to animal control immediately.
Be aware of your surroundings, especially as the weather gets colder. Wildlife is often looking for warm, dry areas, such as garages, sheds, and under cars.
Report stray animals to animal control, as they may not be
Seek veterinary help immediately if you or your pet comes into contact with wildlife.
In the event of accidental escape or if a wild animal (such a bat, squirrel, or raccoon) makes its way into your home, indoor pets should also be vaccinated.