Rabies is a type of virus, known as a rhabdovirus, that causes a condition known as acute viral encephalomyelitis. The virus has the ability to infect all types of mammals, and it can be spread from mammal to mammal when infected body fluids, such as blood or saliva, enter the tissues of another mammal usually through bites or in some cases open wounds. Once the virus enters the body, it travels to the spinal cord and up to the brain.
Animals with rabies may show a variety of different signs. Most of them relate to the effect of the virus on the brain. Rabies can appear in two basic forms: Dumb rabies and Furious rabies.
Symptoms of Rabies in Dogs
Owners may notice that their animal is depressed, and trying to hide in isolated places. Wild animals may lose their fear of humans, and appear unusually friendly. Wild animals that usually only come out at night may be out during the day. The animal may have paralysis. Areas most commonly affected are the face or neck, causing abnormal facial expressions or drooling, or the body, usually the hind legs.
Animals may become very excited and aggressive. Periods of excitement usually alternate with periods of depression. The animal may attack objects or other animals. They may even bite or chew their own limbs.
What should I do if I think an animal is rabid?
If it's a wild animal, stay away from it. Owners of pets and livestock should keep their animals confined in isolation, away from other people and animals. Rabies is a reportable disease. This means that if you suspect that an animal is rabid, or you think that your animal has been exposed to rabies, you are required by law to report it.
What should be done if a person has been exposed to a suspect animal?
Medical authorities recommend that you immediately wash the wound or exposed surface with soap and water. Remove any clothing that may have been contaminated. Call your family doctor, or go to the nearest hospital emergency department. The doctor who treats you will notify the local medical officer of health. As long as you seek treatment promptly following exposure to a rabid animal, the disease can be prevented.