If your dog has been vaccinated the chances of them getting rabies is low, however, the vaccine doesn't offer 100% full protection. In this blog, our Grand Prairie vets explain what rabies is, provide more details on the vaccine and its level of protection, as well as what to do if your pup was exposed to rabies.
What is rabies?
Rabies is a dangerous illness caused by a virus that spreads through saliva from an infected mammal to any other mammal such as pets, livestock, wild animals, and people. Your dog can get rabies if they have been bitten by a rabid animal or if the saliva or brain/spinal tissue of an infected animal (living or dead) gets in their eyes, nose, mouth, or an open wound.
The rabies virus affects the central nervous system and an infected animal including dogs can develop the following symptoms:
- Excessive drooling
- Behavioral changes (aggression, depression, unprovoked attacks)
- Biting or licking the wound site where the exposure occurred
- Overreacting to touch, sound or light
- Loss of appetite or difficulty eating or drinking
- Staggering or falling down with eventual paralysis
Once your dog starts displaying symptoms of rabies the virus is almost always fatal. Infected animals usually pass away within 7-10 days after their symptoms first appear.
What is the rabies incubation period?
The incubation period for rabies is from when your dog is first exposed to the virus to when they start to display symptoms.
Most of the time, when pets are infected they will start showing signs of the disease within about 2 weeks after being exposed, but sometimes symptoms could take months to arise. This is why it's very important to vaccinate your dog against rabies and to carefully follow any instructions provided to you from your local public health unit if you believe your animal companion might have been exposed.
If your dog is infected with rabies they can spread the virus to other pets and humans up to 10 days before they start showing any signs of the disease.
Does the rabies vaccine prevent rabies in dogs?
While the rabies vaccine is very effective at preventing rabies in dogs, it doesn't guarantee 100% protection.
If your dog is exposed to the rabies virus and their vaccinations are up to date, they will be given a booster shot immediately and will have to be placed in strict quarantine for 30 days and then restrained by the owner (leashed and kept away from other pets or people) for an additional 60 days.
Quarantine and confinement times vary by state and county. You should always report potential rabies exposures to your vet and local public health unit and carefully follow any instructions that they provide you with.
Can people get rabies from a vaccinated dog?
While it's unlikely to get rabies from a vaccinated dog, there is still a minor risk. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated pets that bite a person have to be quarantined. If the dog or cat was infectious at the time they have bitten you, signs of rabies in the animal will typically appear fairly quickly, usually within 10 days.
How can I protect my dog from getting rabies?
The best thing you can do to keep your dog safe from rabies is to make sure their vaccinations are current and kept up to date.
You should also never let your dog wander unsupervised, especially at night when bats and other wildlife are most active. In Grand Prairie, bats are the most probable wild animal to be rabid. You should bat-proof your home and never capture, handle, or keep wild bats as pets.
If you or your dog is bitten you should vigorously wash the bite wound with soap and water as quickly as possible and contact the appropriate authorities immediately.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.