Rabies in dogs has become a common device in popular movies and cartoons, but this is a disease with real consequences affecting hundreds of thousands of dogs worldwide. Find out about the dangers of canine rabies - and the effects of the virus on humans.
What Is Canine Rabies?
Rabies has been portrayed many times in the popular media: dogs out of control, eyes red, foaming at the mouth. How much of this is reality and how much is Hollywood embellishment? There are a few elements of truth behind these representations.
Rabies is a virus which causes inflammation of the brain. It is transferred through the saliva of an infected animal. If rabies is treated before symptoms appear, it can be cured in almost every case. On the flipside, if symptoms have started to show already, it's certain that the disease will lead to death. There is no treatment.
This is true for both dogs and humans, so if you are bitten by a dog you don't know, seek medical attention immediately. The virus can take many weeks before it starts to show, so if you've been bitten any time within the last 3 months or so, get yourself checked out, even if you think you're fine.
What Are The Symptoms of Rabies in Dogs?
Rabies can cause changes in behavior and personality in a dog, particularly and increase in aggressive behavior. But this is not the only possible change. Rabies can cause all kinds of sudden behavioral changes besides aggression.
As for foaming at the mouth, this results from the fact that dogs with rabies are unable to swallow due to paralysis of the throat and jaw muscles, coupled with the fact that they begin to produce more saliva. Another early sign is high fever.
Towards the end the virus causes complete paralysis, coma and eventually death.
It can take months between the time of infection and the first symptoms showing, but after that the dog usually doesn't have more than a few days to live.
What Can You Do About Rabies?
Unfortunately, if severe symptoms have already begun to show, the answer is nothing. The fatality rate for canine rabies after the appearance of symptoms is 100%. For humans, the number of recorded cases of survivors without severe brain damage is low enough to count on one hand.
If you get your dog to the vet quickly after infection, however, treatment is simple and very effective. The dog has a great chance of making a full recovery. Don't be complacent on this - a rabid dog is a danger to you and every other animal around it.
This is why rabies is vaccinated against. So make sure your dog gets all his vaccinations as a puppy, and keep his immunity maintained with regular booster shots and check-ups with the vet. If your Jack Russell is bitten by another dog while out walking, wash the wound thoroughly in soapy water and have him seen to by your vet as soon as possible. In many countries you are legally required to have your dog vaccinated for rabies. I'm lucky enough to live in a rabies-free country, but there are not many of these.