Rabies what is it really, and can you prevent it?

You come home excited cause you got a new pup, of course, you drop everything to play with him, you don’t think “What is Rabies?”. As you play more and things get a bit too rough and exciting, it’s unavoidable to get those slightly painful play-bites from your canine friend. Rather than just brushing it off, you look at your slightly punctured skin and you pause to think “Wait, what if I just got an infection? It could be Rabies.”

What is Rabies?

“Rabies” originates from the Latin word which means “to rage.” According to the World Health Organization, it is a zoonotic disease (disease transmitted from animals to humans) caused by a Lyssavirus within the Rhabdoviradae family. The virus can be transmitted in the saliva of a carrier and enters the body either via infiltration of saliva into a wound (e.g. scratches) or direct exposure of the virus to mucosal surfaces (e.g. bites). Common rabies carriers are raccoons, bats, skunks, and foxes. Even so, 99% of transmission cases occur between dogs and humans.

When bitten by a rabid animal the incubation period for the virus varies. Typically, it takes 1-3 months but it can also range from 1 week to 1 year and progression of viral infection depends on the severity of the bite wound, amount of virus, presentation of clinical symptoms. Symptoms vary depending on rabies’ form of manifestation. There are two types—Furious form and Paralytic form.

What is RabiesFurious Rabies

Furious Rabies accounts for 80% of human cases. Symptoms include:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Hypersalivation
  • Hydrophobia or Aerophobia
  • Infection leads to coma and death by cardio-respiratory arrest

Paralytic rabies

This type of rabies accounts for 20% of human cases. Symptoms include:

  • Flaccid muscle weakness
  • Gradual paralysis
  • Infection leads to coma and death by respiratory failure

But what is rabies in dogs? Well, dogs are no different than humans and can suffer death when infected by this virus. As such, the symptoms of rabies in dogs is very similar to humans:

  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Hydrophobia
  • Jaw is dropped
  • Inability to swallow
  • Lack of muscular coordination
  • Unusual shyness or aggression
  • Constant changes in attitude or behavior
  • Hypersalivation

Rabies is fast-moving and often fatal but it is definitely 100% vaccine-preventable. Therefore, to ensure the safety of both you and your dog, take a trip to the vet to have them vaccinated.


According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), Rabies vaccines are the only vaccines administered by veterinarians that are required by law. Being a resident of a State that requires this vaccination can get you legally in trouble if you don’t. Consequently, states regulate the age at which rabies is first administered, the vaccines can be administered as early as 3 months of age (for puppies). Booster administration depends on the type of rabies vaccine used (1-year or 3-year). What is the vaccination requirement? State law varies from state to state. For more information, see the CDC.

Vaccination is the best way of protecting yourself, your dog, other people and animals from this deadly disease. Prevention is the key and the best option you could take as a responsible pet parent!


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