Rabies in dogs: course of the deadly disease

First things first: rabies in dogs is extremely rare and is even considered to be eradicated in Germany. However, since the course of the disease always ends fatally, vaccination can be useful. Read here how the disease is transmitted and what symptoms express it. Image: Shutterstock / Mila Atkovska

Rabies in dogs is triggered by the so-called Lyssavirus. Once the disease has broken out, there is no cure. Both infected animals and humans die from rabies. The onset of the disease should therefore be prevented with regular vaccinations.

How rabies is transmitted to dogs

Rabies in dogs is usually transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. In theory, however, it is also possible to become infected through contact of the mucous membranes or skin injuries with the saliva of sick animals. In Europe, if at all, wild animals such as foxes, badgers, martens, and in principle bats are also carriers of rabies - the risk of a rabid bat biting a dog or even getting close to it is negligible. In the US, skunks and raccoons can also spread rabies.

Against rabies in the fox, which was considered the main carrier, vaccine baits were designed for so-called oral immunization in Germany, France, the Benelux countries, the Czech Republic and Italy, among others. If a fox bites the bait, it takes a vaccine and becomes immune to the rabies virus. The campaign has borne fruit; little by little, foxes have contracted rabies, so they have not been able to infect other animals, and since 2008 the Federal Republic has been considered to be almost rabies-free.

Nevertheless, your four-legged friend can become infected with the virus, for example, when traveling to countries with a high risk of rabies or from animals that come from there. India and the rest of Asia in particular, as well as Africa and Latin America, are still struggling with frequent rabies cases. Not only wild animals, but also stray dogs and cats can transmit the virus there.

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Course of rabies in the dog

After being infected with rabies, the course can be divided into three stages:
● The prodromal phase as the initial stage
● The excitation phase with the typical rabies symptoms
● The paralysis phase shortly before death

At the beginning, the symptoms of the disease are still quite diffuse. A change in behavior is noticeable, the affected dog appears nervous and restless. Dogs that were previously afraid are suddenly no longer as reluctant, and the animal also salivates remarkably and suffers from difficulty swallowing. The excitation phase then goes hand in hand with the aggression characteristic of rabies; the dog snaps, bites and is overexcited. In the end, the sick animal suffers from paralysis, which eventually leads to unconsciousness and end in death.

The course of rabies in dogs is very fast, and the end stage is reached after just a few days. However, the symptoms are not always the same, the course can vary. Unfortunately, it is only certain that the disease always ends in death. It is therefore advisable to discuss a rabies vaccination with the veterinarian to protect the four-legged friend.