While there is a very small chance that your vaccinated dog will contract rabies if exposed to the disease, rabies vaccinations don't guarantee 100% protection. Here, our Groton vets explain rabies and what to do if you suspect that your dog may have been exposed to this serious illness.
What is rabies?
Rabies is a very serious illness caused by a virus that attacks your dog's brain and is transmitted through the saliva of an infected mammal, including wildlife, livestock, pets and even people. Your dog can catch rabies if bitten by a rabid animal of if the saliva from an infected creature gets into their eyes, nose mouth or an open cut in some other way.
The rabies virus affects the central nervous system. In animals, rabies symptoms present as:
- Excessive drooling
- Overreacting to touch, sound or light
- Staggering or falling down with eventual paralysis
- Loss of appetite or difficulty eating or drinking
- Biting or licking the wound site where the exposure occurred
- Behavioral changes (aggression, depression, unprovoked attacks)
Rabies is almost always fatal. Once signs of rabies appear, the animal will die, usually within 7-10 days.
What is the incubation period of rabies?
The incubation period for rabies is the time between exposure to the virus and when the symptoms of the disease start to appear.
In the majority of cases, your pet will begin showing signs fo rabies within 2 weeks of exposure. However, sometimes symptoms can take up to months to appear. Because of this, it critically important that you get your dog vaccinated and carefully follow any directions provided by your local public health unit if you suspect that your pet has been exposed.
If your pet is infected with rabies it can transmit the virus to other pets and humans up to 10 days before it starts to show any signs of the disease.
Can dogs get rabies after vaccination?
While the rabies vaccine is quite effective in preventing rabies in dogs, it does not guarantee 100% protection.
If your dog in Groton has been exposed to rabies and their vaccinations are up to date, your vet will recommend that they immediately receive a booster vaccine and then be placed on strict quarantine for 30 days and then kept on a leash away from other people and pets for up to 60 additional days after that.
Quarantine and confinement times vary by state and county. You should always report potential rabies exposures to your vet and local public health unit and carefully follow their directions.
Can you get rabies from a dog that has been vaccinated?
While its highly unlikely to get the rabies vaccine from a vaccinated dog, there is still some risk of the disease being transmitted. Vaccinated and unvaccinated pets that bite a person need to be quarantined for 10 days. If the cat or dog was infectious at that time, the signs of rabies in the animal should follow quite shortly within 10 or so days.
How can I prevent my dog from contracting rabies?
The best thing you can do to protect your dog from contracting rabies is keep their vaccinations up to date.
You should never allow your pet to wander around unsupervised, especially at night when wildlife like bats are the most active. Bats are a very common source of rabies.
If you or your pet is bitten you should vigorously wash the bite wounds with soap and water as soon as possible and contact the appropriate authorities right away.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.