While the chances of a vaccinated dog contracting rabies are low, a rabies vaccination does not guarantee 100% protection. Today, our PetVet Care Centers member vets discuss rabies and what to do if you suspect your dog might have been exposed to this serious disease.
What is rabies?
Rabies is a serious illness caused by a virus that can be transmitted through saliva from an infected mammal to any other mammal, including wildlife, pets, livestock, and humans. Your pet can get rabies if it is bitten by a rabid animal or if it gets the saliva or brain/spinal tissue of an infected animal - dead or alive - in their eyes, nose, mouth, or an open cut.
The rabies virus affects the central nervous system. In animals, rabies symptoms present as:
- Behavioral changes (aggression, depression, unprovoked attacks)
- Loss of appetite or difficulty eating or drinking
- Overreacting to touch, sound or light
- Staggering or falling down with eventual paralysis
- Excessive drooling
- Biting or licking the wound site where the exposure occurred
Rabies is almost always fatal. Once signs of rabies appear, the animal will die, usually within 7-10 days.
What is the incubation period of rabies?
The incubation period is the time between exposure to the rabies virus and when symptoms of the disease begin to appear.
In most cases, your pet will begin to show signs of the disease within 2 weeks of exposure, but sometimes symptoms can take many months to appear. This is why it's important to get your dog vaccinated and to carefully follow any direction from your local public health unit if you think your pet may have been exposed.
If your pet is infected with rabies it can transmit the virus to other pets and humans up to 10 days before it starts to show any signs of the disease.
Can dogs get rabies after vaccination?
While the rabies vaccine is quite effective in preventing rabies in dogs, it does not guarantee 100% protection.
If your dog in is exposed to rabies and their vaccination is up to date, they will receive a booster vaccine immediately and will need to be placed into 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 their directions.
Can you get rabies from a dog that has been vaccinated?
While it is unlikely to get rabies from a vaccinated dog, there is still a slight risk. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated pets that bite a person must be quarantined for 10 days. If the dog or cat was infectious at the time of the bite, signs of rabies in the animal will usually follow rather quickly and certainly within 10 days.
How can I prevent my dog from contracting rabies?
The best thing you can do to protect your dog from contracting rabies is keep their vaccinations up to date.
You should also never allow your pet to wander unsupervised, especially at night when bats and other wildlife are most active. In most US states bats are the most likely to be rabid. You should bat-proof your home and should never capture, handle, or keep wild bats as pets.
If you or your pet is bitten you should vigorously wash the bite wounds with soap and water as soon as possible and contact the appropriate authorities right away.
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.