Understanding Rabies

If your dog or someone else’s pet has been exposed to rabies there are a number of steps that you need to take in order to make sure that you’re pet doesn’t get sick. You should also make sure that you and your family doesn’t get infected by the rabies that you may have been exposed to.

One of the first things that you need to do is to make yourself aware of all the details of what rabies is. Rabies is defined as a viral disease in mammals, more commonly in house pets. This rabies disease begins to attack and take over the nervous system, eventually causing death in the animal. This disease also causes inflammation in the brain of the animal which is what causes the madness and fury in the animals. Usually when you see an animal with rabies, it will be angry because of the pain and inflammation going on with the brain.

If your pet has been bitten by another animal with rabies, one of the first things you must do is take your dog to your local Atlanta Vet clinic to have your pet checked out. Normally, there are three different stages that your dog will go through if it was bitten by a rabies infected animal. The first stage of the rabies phase is called the Prodomal phase. This stage can generally last anywhere from two to three days depending on the animal. There are a number of signs that you will begin to see in the animal during this first stage of the virus. The animal might show some initial behavior changes, a fever, or even chewing at the site of the bite from the infected animal.

The next stage of the rabies virus is the furious stage. This phase can be the scariest phase because of the way that the animal begins to behave with its owners. This stage will last between 2 and 4 days where the dog will begin to show signs of irritability, aggression, and disorientation. Generally, this is the phase that makes people most scared because the dog will begin to turn on its owner. The reason that the animal becomes vicious is because the pressure being applied to its brain is overwhelming for the animal.

The last stage of the virus is the paralytic stage which will last between 2 and 4 days, depending on the animal. This stage is normally referred to as the beginning of the end. The animal, in this phase, will begin to show signs of paralyses starting with the area that was bitten and growing through the whole body. Once the animal has entered this stage, it will only be a short time before the animal will be dead.

Keeping Up With Your Pet’s Health – Vaccinate With Rabies Shots

A slow, agonizing virus leading to extreme lethargy, madness, and an eventual, but certain death – doesn’t sound very appealing, does it? If you do not vaccinate with rabies shots, your dog or cat faces an uncertain future. Rabies is one of the worst viruses that can affect your pet, and with no preventative measures, such as its annual rabies shots, mortality is, unfortunately, assured. When you vaccinate with rabies shots, you are choosing to extend the life of your pet, protect the community, and follow the letter of the law.

All pet owners should know that rabies is a disease that is caused by a virus that is transmitted from animal to animal and animal to human via a scratch or bite that causes a break in the skin. The virus is in the saliva of an infected animal. Because rabies is fatal to the animal or a human who contracts it, it is vitally important for pet owners to have their vet vaccinate for rabies with either a one year or three year vaccine. In certain regions and/or states with high levels of rabies reports, such as Texas, Virginia, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania (1), you must vaccinate with rabies shots at least once a year.

What Is Rabies Anyway?

The rabies virus is spread through the saliva of infected animals. A huge problem in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America, rabies kills more than 50,000 people and animals worldwide each year; however, most pet owners do not vaccinate for rabies in these regions. Once contracted through a bite or scratch, the virus begins attacking the peripheral nerve cells and central nervous system, which largely consists of the spinal cord and brain (2). The virus works fast, but it is a drawn-out, painful death at best.

Depending upon where the animal was bitten, it may take awhile for symptoms to show. Without any preventative rabies shots, the symptoms begin to appear and the animal normally only has a week to a week and a half to live. Contraction of the rabies virus in animals is broken down into three phases: prodromal, furious, and paralytic (3). During the prodromal phase, the dog or cat will show signs of apprehension and anxiety as well as develop a fever, although cats often exhibit more irregular behavior. The furious phase sees cats and dogs highly irritable, more vicious, and lashing out at anything that moves. The paralytic phrase can occur after either the prodromal or furious phases – breathing becomes more labored and vital organs freeze up. There have been stories of pet owners trying to dislodge a foreign object from the animal’s mouth because they were unaware that the dog had contracted the rabies virus. The animal eventually lapses into respiratory failure and dies (4). When you vaccinate for rabies, you help your dog or cat avoid all of this pain and suffering, which can easily be prevented with annual rabies shots – quickly and rather inexpensively.

Practice Caution – Vaccinate for Rabies Regularly

Animals most at risk for exposure to rabies are stray dogs and cats that frequently roam in and around wooded areas that bring them in close proximity to wildlife that are the carriers of rabies. Wildlife carriers often include raccoons, foxes, coyotes, skunks, and bats.

Pet owners should also be cautious by avoiding contact with wildlife that are normally nocturnal (active at night) and are normally fearful of and avoid contact with humans. Rabid wildlife are not fearful of humans and may aggressively attack. Be careful of leaving food outside for cats and dogs, which tends to attract wildlife and brings them up close and personal with our pets. Also, be careful about approaching cats and dogs that appear to be feral or roaming about. One bite or scratch is all it takes for exposure to rabies to occur, and if the animal that bites cannot be captured, prophylactic treatment for rabies may be necessary. Unfortunately as well, any preventative measures in the form of rabies shots are far too late to be administered at this point.

It is also vitally important to report all animal to animal and animal to human bites to the animal control agency in whichever county or area the bite occurs. Many people are reluctant to do this if the offending animal belongs to a neighbor or someone they know. However, if the vaccination history of the dog or cat that bites is not known, then the animal or person bitten is at risk for exposure. Pets should be safely confined and dogs should be on leash when off their property. Finally, once you vaccinate for rabies, make sure your pet wears its rabies tag at all times.

Neglect is Costly: Maintain Current Rabies Shots

Rabies shots for dogs and cats are required by the law for the life of the pet. Neglecting to keep you and your family, your pet, and your community safe from rabies is a costly mistake and one that should never be allowed to occur. You have the power to vaccinate your pet from this easily preventable virus. Remember, keeping up-to-date and choosing to vaccinate with rabies shots is the first line of defense to keep the public safe from this deadly disease.


1. CDC.gov/ncidod/dvrd/kidsrabies/Statistics/usmap.htm
2. CDC.gov/ncidod/dvrd/kidsrabies/TheVirus/rabvir.htm
3. PetEducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+1556&aid=347
4. Ibid.

Rabies: What To Know And What To Do

It’s a common misconception that the rabies virus has been eradicated in this country, and it still poses a very real danger to animals including humans in rural and urban areas alike. Rabies attacks any warm-blooded animal, including humans, usually. Although there are only about 55,000 human deaths worldwide per year, mostly in Asia and Africa (31,000 and 24,000 respectively,) rabies has a 99% mortality rate, and the slow road to coma and death isn’t a pretty one. Prevention is as simple as a vaccination, but lack of education and unavailability of the vaccine pose a problem to most of the world, and we are privileged in this country to have access to vital information and enough vaccines.

97% of human contractions worldwide come from dog bites, but other potential carriers of the virus that would be of greater risk to humans include raccoons, monkeys, foxes, cattle, coyotes, dogs, wolves, and skunks. Other potential carriers of the rabies virus posing a smaller risk to humans include domestic farm animals, bears, groundhogs, weasels, and other wild carnivores. Raccoons are the most common carriers in the United States simply because wild and stray dogs aren’t as prevalent in this country as in other parts of the world. Many municipalities have programs in place to control the stray population, and programs to make sure all animals are vaccinated. The spaying and neutering of pets has been shown to decrease the likelihood of contracting rabies from wildlife because the procedures make the household pets more docile and therefore less likely to run away.

After initial infection, rabies will usually proliferate into showing symptoms anywhere from two to two months after the bite, but there have been cases of periods as long as two years between the bite and the onset of symptoms. At its onset, rabies will cause encephalitis, or a swelling of the brain, to exhibit flu-like symptoms, and then quickly progress to slight or partial paralysis, cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, insomnia, confusion, agitation, abnormal behavior, paranoia, terror, and hallucinations, progressing to delirium. Tear and saliva glands go into overdrive and produce huge amounts of tears and saliva, but the paralysis makes it difficult or impossible to speak or swallow, and so much fluid is lost, and the subject becomes dehydrated and very thirsty. Hydrophobia can occur due to the inability to control mouth muscles for swallowing liquid, and so comes the “madness” for which the Latin language named rabies. Near the end, a subject will slip into a coma and die, usually from not breathing adequately due to cerebral dysfunction. Rabies in animals can be recognized by a loss of coordination, stumbling or apparent dizziness, and an animal control agency should be quickly notified if a nocturnal animal is seen active in the daytime. Insomnia and madness will often bring rabid nocturnal animals like raccoons out in the day. If you see a raccoon out in the day, notify an animal control agency immediately, especially in urban areas where they could pose a threat to neighborhood children or humans in general. Animal control experts know what they are doing, so please do not try to handle the situation on your own, even if it is just a small raccoon!

The Fear of Rabies is Very Real

For those who have heard of rabies — which is known clinically as hydrophobia — the fear of rabies is very real to them. This is probably because the ways and means by which rabies afflicts those who suffer from it are truly horrible. Rabies as a virus can instill a phobia about contracting it (which is known as hydrophobophobia) that can almost paralyze some sufferers with fear.

This fear of contracting the rabies virus or disease is but one of literally hundreds of phobias that have been identified by those working in the mental health field. For certain, it is a very real and definable condition that can create conditions of extreme terror in many cases. Some of this is due to how rabies has insinuated itself into the popular culture, and also how horrible it can be.

One reason people become so fearful of possibly contracting the rabies virus is that it has been nearly 100% mortality rate, meaning that those who actually contract the disease will almost certainly die. Even though there is a 100%-effective anti-rabies medication, people still can’t get the stories of foaming-at-the-mouth vicious dogs and animals out of their minds.

It doesn’t really help that there have been a number of movies over the years that have taken advantage of the rabies theme, particularly one that was released in the early 1980s that featured a large St. Bernard who eventually developed rabies and became, basically, a killing machine. In people, the fear of contracting rabies, then, can become almost visceral in its intensity.

Certainly, there are a number of effective therapies that have been developed to help people deal with this phobia, but some can take years of concerted treatment. Fortunately, there have been certain recent advancements in treating this sort of phobia that can actually lead to it being eliminated or cured in a relatively shorter amount of time.

The actual fear of rabies in the clinical sense, which is known as hydrophobophobia, is very real to many people, though the odds of someone contracting rabies from a bat bite or some other animal bite are very small. What’s for certain, though, is that this phobia is treatable and doesn’t have to be the nearly-debilitating condition that exists in many who suffer from it.

Rabies Symptoms and Their Identification in Humans

With only three reported cases of rabies in humans in 2006, the last year data was available, you might not think that worrying about rabies symptoms is warranted. However, that same year 45,000 Americans were exposed to rabies and had to undergo treatment. In almost all cases, rabies is transmitted through the bite of an infected host animal. Rabies only exists in an infected animal’s carcass for twenty-four hours, so contraction in these cases is very unlikely. Since identifying an infected animal is not always easy, let’s take a look at rabies symptoms in humans.

Around the world, approximately one person dies from rabies every ten minutes. That is a staggering number, and when you realize that rapid treatment of rabies symptoms is nearly one-hundred percent effective, you can see the need for effective, quick identification.

Only fifteen percent of those animals and people exposed to the rabies virus becomes infected. That puts the odds in your favor, but since the incubation time in humans is three to six weeks in before brain function is affected, you should treat any bite from a wild animal as rabies, and get an inoculation immediately. That having been said, there are three phases of rabies symptoms that are revealed after the virus attaches to the brain.

1 – The Prodromal Phase

In this early stage, rabies symptoms are noted as an increase in nervousness and anxiety. A person may become withdrawn, and a fever may accompany the hermit-like behavior. One strange change in behavior here is that friendly people can become aggressive, short-tempered and ill-willed, whereas mean, dominant people will tend to become kinder and gentler. This phase lasts from three to seven days.

2 – The Furious Phase

After the prodromal phase, some humans might enter the furious stage; This phase of rabies symptoms is revealed for a period of one to seven days, and displayed by restless, irresponsible behavior and an increase in reactions to auditory and visual stimuli. Generally well-centered people may complain of a desire to move about more often, and are sometimes beset with “wandering sickness”. They just can not seem to stay still.

3 – The Paralytic Phase

This phase can come after either the furious or prodromal phase. It is usually noted two to four days after one of the previous phases has been noted. This is where the frothing at the mouth legend of rabies symptoms expresses itself. Very heavy, difficult breathing and a freezing or locking of facial muscles also occurs here. People may sound like they are choking, and eventually, if not treated, respiratory failure and death follow. This is a very painful stage.

Once rabies symptoms have appeared, the virus is well into its life cycle, rabies has been contracted, and there is no treatment. Death is a virtual certainty once symptoms have become apparent. That is why it is so critical to be treated for any animal bite immediately, while the virus is weak and can be eradicated. Don’t wait for the onset of rabies symptoms to get checked out.