While the chances of a vaccinated dog contracting rabies are slim, rabies vaccination does not provide complete protection. Today, the vets from Washington Dog and Cat Hospital talk about rabies and what you should do if you suspect your dog has been exposed.
What is rabies?
Rabies is a serious illness caused by a virus that can be passed from an infected mammal to any other mammal, including wildlife, pets, livestock, and humans, through saliva. Rabies can be transmitted to your pet 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 wound.
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 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 show signs of the disease within 2 weeks of exposure, but symptoms can appear months later. This is why it's critical to have your dog vaccinated and to carefully follow any advice given by your local public health unit if you suspect your pet has 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 does prevent rabies in dogs, it does not guarantee 100% protection.
If your dog in Los Angeles is exposed to rabies and their vaccination is up to date, they will receive a booster vaccine immediately and will be placed in strict quarantine for 30 days, followed by an additional 60 days restrained by the owner (leashed and kept away from other pets or people).
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 getting rabies from a vaccinated dog is unlikely, there is a slight risk. Pets that bite a person, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, must be quarantined for 10 days. If the dog or cat was infected at the time of the bite, rabies symptoms in the animal will usually appear fairly quickly, if not 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 to keep their vaccinations up to date.
You should never leave your pet unattended, especially at night when bats and other wildlife are most active. Bats are the most likely to be rabid in Los Angeles County. You should bat-proof your home and avoid capturing, handling, or keeping 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.