How long can a dog have rabies before showing signs? Simple and Effective Tips

Is it possible to survive a bite from a rabid animal?

There are isolated and poorly documented reports of both dogs and people surviving. In some cases, there may have been very little rabies virus present in the saliva at the time the rabid animal bit its victim. In this situation, the victim may not develop rabies.

However, as Louis Pasteur was the first to show, it is possible to interrupt the progression from an infected bite to the onset of signs by the early post-bite use of anti-rabies serum. This antiserum contains specific immune antibodies to the virus. The most important method for preventing the progression of rabies is by administering a dose of rabies vaccine. The vaccine stimulates the bitten animal to develop its own neutralizing antibodies to the rabies virus. Without vaccination and rapid post-exposure treatment, the chances of survival are poor.

Signs & symptoms of rabies in dogs

Once a dog is bitten by a rabid animal, the rabies disease progresses in stages.

Prodromal stage: Dogs will exhibit a change in personality and behavior by becoming agitated, anxious, and fearful. Friendly dogs may become aggressive and vice versa. Signs present themselves with the first 2-3 days. Other indicators include:

  • Anxiety
  • Withdrawal from people and other animals
  • Licking the site of the bite wound
  • Hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch
  • Fever
  • Change in tone or bark
  • Furious stage: Dogs in the furious stage begin to show signs of restlessness and irritability and show a sensitivity to light and sound. They will start wandering around, attacking inanimate objects, animals, and people. Signs in this stage can last 1-7 days. Disorientation and seizures will follow.

    Paralytic stage: This stage can develop after the prodromal or furious stage and usually develops 2-4 days after the first symptoms. Paralysis of the throat and jaw muscles can follow resulting in foaming of the mouth. Other symptoms are labored breathing, choking, weakness, respiratory failure, and ultimately, death.

    The virus usually incubates from 2-8 weeks before signs are noticed, although transmission of the virus can happen as early as 10 days before any signs or symptoms appear. The infected saliva travels through the nerves and spinal cord toward the brain; once the brain is infected, the virus multiplies and spreads to the salivary glands, which is when the symptoms appear.

    If your dog is bitten or scratched by another animal, they must see a vet immediately. Do not wait for signs or symptoms to present themselves as it will be too late to save your dog.

    Contrary to what people may believe, there is more than one way a dog can become infected with the rabies virus. The most common is through a bite from a rabid animal, as animals infected with rabies secrete large amounts of the virus in their saliva. However, rabies can also be transmitted if an infected animal’s saliva comes into contact with a scratch, an open wound, or areas like the mouth, eyes, or nose.

    The highest risk comes from wild animals; any unvaccinated dog allowed to roam alone without supervision has a greater chance of being bitten by another animal. The most common carriers of the rabies virus are raccoons, bats, skunks, and foxes.

    How long is the incubation period for rabies in dogs?

    The incubation period for rabies, or the time it takes for signs to appear, can vary from ten days to one year. However, the average incubation period for infected dogs is between 2-8 weeks.

    The time it takes for the symptoms to appear can vary depending on the severity of the bite, the amount of the virus injected, and the location of the infection. The closer the infection is to the spinal cord or the brain, the quicker it will reach the nervous system and begin to present severe effects.

    The only way to definitively diagnose rabies is through a direct fluorescence antibody (dFA) test, in which samples of brain tissue are removed and tested. The test is performed by a state-approved laboratory and can only be done on dogs after they have died or been humanely euthanized.

    A rabies diagnosis in living animals is based upon the clinical signs exhibited along with patient history. It can be difficult to confirm rabies in areas where the virus is not common. Early stages of the virus can also be confused with other medical conditions.

    There is no cure for the rabies virus, and for any unvaccinated dog, the result is fatal. Because rabies presents a severe health risk, to prevent further transmission of the disease to other animals and humans, the dog is most often euthanized.

    In dogs that have been vaccinated against rabies, a booster vaccine is administered if there is a possibility they have been infected. This helps to strengthen the dog’s immunity to rabies and reduces the chances of the virus developing. Even if a dog has been vaccinated, if rabies is suspected, he may still be required to undergo observation for up to 7-10 days.

    If your dog is bitten by another person’s pet, try to obtain as much information on that animal as possible, particularly vaccine history and a rabies tag number or dog license number (if available).

    A rabies diagnosis is required by law to be reported to the local health department. Unvaccinated dogs bitten or exposed to a rabid animal must be quarantined for up to six months, according to local and state regulations. A vaccinated dog that has attacked another animal, or human, will also be quarantined in an approved facility, and can still face euthanization.

    Identifying Rabies in Dogs (2021)

    Rabies is a rare but serious disease caused by a virus. It affects the nerves and brain.

    The virusis usually transmitted by a bite from an infected animal. Rabies can be prevented if the bitten person gets treatment quickly. If a person isnt treated and develops rabies, it is almost always fatal.