Pets & Animal Dog Breeds

Rabies Incubation in Dogs

    Function

    • The rabies virus is transmitted in most instances via the bite of an infected animal. Most dogs infected with rabies in the United States are exposed by the bites of infected wild animals. Rabies virus is found in the saliva of an infected animal; however, a bite by a rabid animal doesn't guarantee that infection will take place. If the bite results in infection, the virus slowly moves through the dog's nerves toward its brain, causing encephalitis. The virus can be present in the dog's saliva for up to 10 days during incubation and before symptoms develop, according to the Dog Owner's Guide.

    Time Frame

    • The first stage after symptoms begin lasts only a few days and includes nervousness, anxiety, changes in behavior and fever. In the next stage, which can last from one day to a week in dogs, the dog is restless and irritable. Dogs often become vicious and bite at enclosures before going into seizures and then dying. At any time after the disease moves from incubation to symptomatic, dogs can go into the phase in which they constantly salivate because they are unable to swallow fluids. This results when the virus begins to affect the nerves of the head and throat.

    Identification

    • Diagnosing rabies is not possible in a living dog. The only way to identify the disease is to examine the deceased animal's brain under a microscope. If a rabid animal bites an unvaccinated dog and the dog's guardian doesn't euthanize the pet for microscopic examination of the brain, the dog is generally confined and strictly isolated for six months -- the longest known time for incubation in a dog. Vaccinated dogs that are bitten by a rabid animal are observed for 45 days, according to Doctors Foster and Smith.

    Considerations

    • All warm-blooded animals can be infected with the rabies virus, according to the Dog Owner's Guide. Once an animal -- dog, cat or human -- is infected with the rabies virus, there is no cure. In nearly every instance, death is certain. Only one person is known to have survived the rabies virus, according to Reuters. The Wisconsin girl who survived the virus was put into a medically induced coma. There are anecdotal reports of wild canines surviving the virus, but no proven instances.

    Prevention/Solution

    • All states require that dogs be vaccinated against the rabies virus. A properly vaccinated dog is unlikely to be infected with the rabies virus, even if bitten by an infected animal. While dogs in the United States can still be infected by rabies from the bite of a wild animal, according to Reuters, because of strict vaccination protocols in this country, the strain of rabies most likely to infect dogs hasn't been seen in the United States since 2004.



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