Rabies: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Health, last updated 11th, May 2017, Neha Manchanda

Rabies is one of the most common and deadly viral disease that attacks animals and is transmitted to people through bite and saliva of infected animals. An infected dog can take 3 - 4 weeks to develop and show symptoms in a dog, however, once the symptoms have started, the virus spreads rapidly. As pet parents, once will have to ensure that puppies and dogs are vaccinated against rabies right from the beginning.

Rabies Causes:

In countries of Southeast Asia and Africa, one of the most common causes of spreading of rabies are stray dog bites. Rabies is spread through lyssaviruses and can spread if the infected animal bites another animal or human being. It can also spread when infected saliva from an infected animal comes in touch with an open wound. Dogs, especially the ones who have not been vaccinated and have access to other animals who may not have been vaccinated are at a higher risk of contracting rabies.

Some of the animals that are a high risk to transmit rabies are dogs, cats, bats, goats, horses and monkeys.

Types of Rabies

There are two types of Rabies - Paralytic and Furious.

  • Paralytic Rabies: It is the first stage of symptoms in dogs. The dog will show mild signs of CNS abnormalities. This stage lasts from 1 - 3 days and the dog may show signs such as anxiety, nervousness, mood changes and even fever. In this form of rabies, the dog may also lose limb coordination and may develop paralysis.
  • Furious Rabies: This rabies is the second stage where the dog displays extreme behavioural changes such as aggression or depression.

Rabies Symptoms:

For dogs it may take 3 - 8 weeks for the virus to incubate and affect the central nervous system. Rabies, being an acute viral infection, gradually shows symptoms. Once the virus has infected the brain, it will further spread to salivary glands. The following are the symptoms that an infected dog may show:

  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Hydrophobia
  • Drop jaw
  • Inability to swallow food and water
  • Change in behaviour
  • Lack of muscular coordination
  • Highly shy or aggressive
  • Constant changes in mood
  • Excessive salivation

Rabies Diagnosis:

In case your dog has been bitten by a rabid dog, or you suspect your dog has rabies, connect with a veterinarian. In case your dog is behaving viciously or aggressively and you feel that you are at a risk of being bitten, it will be advisable to call animal board to quarantine the dog. Once quarantined, blood tests will have to be conducted to confirm the virus. If the dog begins to show progressive signs, the veterinarian may suggest euthanizing the dog to prevent further discomfort to the dog and hence reduce the probability of spreading the virus.

Rabies Treatment:

It is advisable to vaccinate your dog against rabies. Rabies is always fatal especially for unvaccinated dogs. In case a dog is rabid, it must be quarantined for atleast 10 days or till the dog either shows changes in behaviour or has to be euthanized.

Management in case of Infection:

If there is a rabid dog in your house, use strong disinfectant to clean the house and get rid of the virus. Connect with a vetrinarian to know the extent of the infection in your dog. It will be advisable if you do not come in contact with the rabid dog in any form, especially its saliva, as chances of transmitting become very high. If due to unfortunate circumstances you are bitten, seek immediate medical help. You may have to take anti - rabies vaccination and follow up with the doctor on the treatment. 

About the Author


"An ardent writer, a devoted pet parent and a foodie at heart, I believe life is all about new experiences and expressions"

Connect with the author via: Twitter.

Connect with the author via: Linkedin.