Rabies is a virus that can be passed onto people and pets from the bite of an infected animal. Once clinical signs are observed, the disease is almost always fatal. This is a preventable disease in dogs who are vaccinated against rabies. There is a lot of information out there about this virus. Here are eight common misconceptions about rabies and the actual truths.
- 01 of 09
My Mainly Indoor Dog Doesn't Need to be Vaccinated Against Rabies
Wildlife are the main carriers of the rabies virus, however, there have been reports of rabid domestic animals. People have more contact with domestic animals than with wild animals in the United States. Because there is a chance that your dog can be infected when bitten by a rabid wild animal, it is best to keep them up to date on their rabies vaccine. If they spend the majority of their time indoors, they should still be vaccinated. This will prevent possible transmission to your family and other people.
- 02 of 09
Rabies is Always Transmitted Through a Bite Wound
Rabies virus is transmitted through direct contact with saliva or brain/nervous system tissue from an infected animal. This typically occurs when an infected animal bites a human or another animal. Although bite wounds are the main mode for most rabies infections, transmission may occur through other routes as well. Contamination of mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, nose, mouth), aerosol transmission, and organ transplantations have been documented.
- 03 of 09
Rabid Dogs Always Foam or Salivate at The Mouth
Dogs with rabies may show a variety of signs, including fearfulness, aggression, excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, staggering, paralysis and seizures. Although foaming or salivating at the mouth is a common behavior, this does not happen in every case. Sometimes it is absent. Keep this in mind when interacting with a wild animal, or one that has bitten you or your dog.
- 04 of 09
Bite Wounds Are Always Obvious
Bats are common carriers of rabies in the U.S. They are primarily outdoors. However, they sometimes fly inside homes. Because of this, bites can occur while sleeping and may not be obvious. To help protect you and your dog, avoid contact with bats. Make sure your dog is up to date on its' rabies vaccination. There are also ways to bat-proof your home.
- 05 of 09
- 06 of 09
My Dog Must Be EuthanizedI If Bitten By a Wild Animal
Each state and country handle rabies bites differently. The best scenario for your dog is if he has been vaccinated against rabies. In this case, the likelihood of contracting rabies is slim to none. If your dog is overdue for the rabies vaccine, they may need to be temporarily quarantined to look for signs of rabies. If your dog has not received a rabies vaccine, the process can become more complicated. He will most likely be quarantined. If he starts exhibiting signs of rabies, it is highly likely he will be euthanized. For more information on how your state handles rabies bites, contact animal control in your city. They can provide the most accurate information.
- 07 of 09
My Dog was Vaccinated against Rabies as a Puppy and is Protected for Life
The initial vaccine, unfortunately, will not protect a dog for their entire life. Puppies should receive their first rabies vaccination between three and four months of age. It takes 28 days for them to be fully protected. During this time, they are only protected for one year, and must receive a booster at their one year birthday. Depending on where the owner lives, the rabies booster may be given once a year, or once every three years. Your veterinarian will be able to answer questions about the frequency your dog should receive the vaccine.
- 08 of 09
Rabies Vaccines are Painful for Dogs to Receive
Rabies vaccines are typically given under the skin using a small gauge needle. The initial insertion of the needle into the skin may be noticed. With some distraction, most dogs won't realize if it has been given. If your dog is not a fan of receiving vaccines, let your veterinary team know. They have tricks to help divert their attention. If they are food motivated, treats can be helpful. Some dogs may experience mild discomfort where the vaccine was given. This usually subsides by the next day. Contact your veterinarian if you have questions about vaccines and reactions.
- 09 of 09
- Smith Jr., DVM, DiplACVIM, Francis W. K. and Tilley, DVM, DiplACVIM, Larry P. et al. Blackwell's Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline 5th Edition. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 2011. West Sussex, UK. Kindle file
- Rupprecht, VMD, MS, PhD, LYSSA LLC, Charles E. Rabies - Nervous System - Veterinary Manual. Veterinary Manual, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/nervous-system/rabies/rabies?query=rabies.