Rabies In Dogs – Symptoms, Treatment And Prevention

Rabies in dogs

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The rabies virus is perhaps one of the most feared viruses in the world. It is perhaps because of its quick progression and painful death. Any mammal can get rabies and the mortality is close to 100%. Even those who recover from rabies have permanent brain damage and are not able to live a normal life. Heres what you need to know about the symptoms, treatment and prevention of rabies in dogs.

Rabies In Dogs

Here’s everything you need to know about rabies in dogs.

How Do They Get Rabies

The most common way to get rabies is by getting bitten by another infected dog/mammal. However, a less common way of getting rabies would also be by getting in contact with the saliva of an infected dog/other mammals.

If the saliva comes in contact with your dog’s mucus membrane, they are very likely to get rabies.

Humans and all other mammals get rabies in the same manner.

Is Rabies Treatable?

Rabies can be treatable only before the symptoms arrive. There is a small window between the time your dog is bitten by a rabid animal, to the time the virus enters the nervous system and reaches the brain.

If you can take the dog to the hospital as soon as it’s bitten, you can save them. The same goes for you or anyone you know. If you can take them to the hospital as soon as they are bitten, you can save them from the virus.

The progression of the virus depends a lot on where the dog was bitten. For instance, if the dog is bitten on the neck or shoulder, it may take weeks before the symptoms start to show. If your dog is bitten on the leg or tail it may take a span of months to even a year before the symptoms show. 

The duration taken for the illness to progress depends largely on the time taken for the virus to reach the brain. So naturally, if the bite spot is further away from the brain, it takes longer for the symptoms to show.


When the virus first enters the bloodstream, it multiplies within the protein cells. During this time, the body exhibits no real symptoms. Some may have a mild fever but most animals and humans feel and behave normally.

When the virus migrates to the brain, that’s when your dog starts to show symptoms. Common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Exessive discharge of mucus
  • Painful spasms on the throat
  • Since rabies virus affects the brain, you may notice severe behaviour changes; a formerly docile dog may suddenly become active and aggressive or a formerly aggressive dog may suddenly become docile
  • Frothing of the mouth is perhaps the most popularly known symptom of rabies in dogs

If your pet dog is vaccinated, you don’t have to worry about them getting any of these symptoms. However, if you see any street dog with these symptoms, you should inform your local authorities.


Usually, once a dog is suspected to have rabies, the municipality is most likely to euthanise the dog. As we said before, it is close to impossible to save an animal from rabies once they start to exhibit symptoms. So, it is the most humane to euthanize the animal. It is also the only case in which the government allows euthanisation of stray dogs and cats in India.

If your vaccinated dog is bitten by a rabid animal, your vet may give them a rabies booster as a safety measure. But in most cases, if your dog is up to date with their vaccinations a rabid animal bite will do them no harm.

In the case of bitten dogs that are unvaccinated or even humans for that matter, doctors will give you a post-exposure vaccination. This vaccine is given even if the bite spot is not infested with the rabies virus.

This is done because it is close to impossible to detect rabies in any test. Credible rabies tests are only possible after the subject is dead. Hence, the best way a doctor can identify if the person/animal has the rabies virus is by finding out more about the animal that bit them in the first place.

Doctors may ask you to describe the nature and behaviour of the animal that bit your dog. Were they exhibiting rabies symptoms? 

These questions are asked mostly to protect society because the unvaccinated patient will undergo the same treatment irrespective of whether the dog had rabies or not.

Fighting Against Rabies – A  Social Responsibility

Statistics show that India has the highest number of human deaths from rabies, with around 20,000 deaths from rabies every year. Rabies, in India, is most commonly passed onto humans from rabid stray dogs. Hence, we cannot state how important it is to vaccinate all animals – both strays and pets.

It is mandatory to vaccinate all pet dogs and cats in India. Even if you don’t take your cats out on walks, it’s best to vaccinate them in case they run out of the house by accident or come in contact with a rabid rat in the house.

Apart from vaccinating pet animals, we should take responsibility for vaccinating the large stray population living very close to humans. By ensuring that animals get vaccinated every once in a few years we not only keep the stray population safe from rabies but also make sure that all other mammals, including humans, don’t get this dreadful virus.

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About Dheepakh

About Dheepakh

Dheepakh is a dedicated pet parent. His love for his dogs turned him into a pet food enthusiast. He has dedicated all his life to understand pet food nutrition and is eager to learn everyday.

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