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Rabies Symptoms in Dogs

Rabies is perhaps the cruelest and most fatal of all viral infections that can afflict your beloved canine. Read about rabies symptoms in dogs in this article, to identify the earliest signs of infection so that you can brace yourself to handle the situation.
Ishani Chatterjee Shukla
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2018
The possibility of contracting rabies exists for all mammals. This viral infection gets transmitted via the saliva of the infected organism and the rabies virus attacks the central nervous system. It reaches the brain by following the route via the peripheral nerves and eventually causes inflammation of the brain. The rabies virus belongs to the genus Lyssavirus and is neurotrophic in nature. The structure of a virus of this type consists of a negative-sensed single-stranded RNA genome contained within a viral envelope.
Before reaching the brain, the rabies virus also sneaks into various other organs of the infected creature's body. However, the highest concentration is in the salivary glands, making it easy for this parasitic life form to get transmitted to other hosts via saliva contact through bites or through licks on broken skin.
Signs and Symptoms
Most often, rabies in dogs is responsible for rabies in humans in urban regions, as dogs are the most common mammals susceptible to this fatal viral infection that come in frequent and regular contact with humans. Different symptoms appear in subsequent stages of a viral stronghold over the dog's system. Early symptoms may manifest as nervousness, hesitation, anxiety, with an overall feeling of disorientation, and the infected canine would show signs of being ill at ease even in non-threatening and familiar surroundings. This is the prodromal stage. These early symptoms usually surface around three to eight weeks after the canine gets infected and generally last for two to four days. Remember, the symptoms of rabies start showing only when the virus has traveled to the brain, and since the virus is a slow-moving predator, it may take quite some time to suspect an abnormality in the affected organism.
The prodromal stage is usually characterized by a radical change in the overall personality of the dog. A playful and active dog may become calm and lethargic, whereas a previously friendly dog may show sudden signs of aggression. The furious stage follows the prodromal stage. This stage is characterized by the dog exhibiting signs of extreme irritability and sensitivity to light and sounds. This is the stage where an infected dog is most likely to attack even at the slightest instance of contact with other animals or humans. These symptoms of rabies in cats are almost similar to those of dogs. The furious stage may last anywhere between one and seven days.
Fatality is assured when the dog enters the third stage, which is known as the paralytic stage. The infected dog loses control of the jaws and limbs and has difficulty in breathing. It also tends to salivate a lot during this phase. The dog gradually loses its ability to drink and swallow, resulting into the development of hydrophobia-like symptoms. As the viral infestation of the brain, causing the organ to swell, keeps increasing, the dog starts losing control over many of the organs and functions that are regulated by the brain and nerves. In this stage, the dog may also find difficulty in recognizing its owner and family members. This stage leads to death from respiratory failure due to paralysis of the facial muscles.
On suspecting a sudden change in the dog's behavior as rabies symptoms, you should immediately take your pet for diagnosis. The usual mode of diagnosis available as of today is conducting tests on the saliva, urine, or skin samples. These tests may not reveal the correct cause of the ailment. The most accurate diagnosis is done by testing a brain culture of the infected animal, but this can only be done after it has died.
Once the aforementioned symptoms of rabies in dogs start showing, nothing can be done to prevent its death. The best way to protect your canine family member from the clutches of this deadly virus is by getting it vaccinated against rabies. Your dog may experience certain minor rabies vaccine side effects like vomiting, lethargy, facial inflammation, fever, as well as some serious ones like loss of consciousness, circulatory shock, and seizures. These side effects usually show up within three days of taking the shot. However, certain side effects may show up even months after getting vaccinated. Prevention is better than cure and in case of rabies, prevention is the only way - there's no cure once the infection invades. Be alert to any abnormality and stay up-to-date about this and other dog health questions. It could save your beloved canine's life.