Rabies is a very serious disease that can infect both humans and animals alike. Depending on where you live and spend time, you and your dog may or may not be at risk of contracting the disease. There are preventative steps that can be taken to lessen your risk of getting rabies. If you suspect an animal has rabies, then get help immediately.

First, it is important to understand how the rabies virus is transmitted and what it does to the host body. The rabies virus is a viral disease. It is usually passed from an infected animal to a non-infected animal through saliva. Bite wounds are the most common way of passage. The saliva enters the body through the wound. Once contracted, the disease makes its way into the nerves of the body, and slowly starts moving toward the brain. Basically, the disease attacks the central nervous system and causes the brain and spine to swell. It can take up to 60 days before the virus reaches the brain; although, symptoms can start in under 20 days.

A mammal that has rabies will exhibit the disease in certain stages. During the first stage, the voice will start to change, and there will be a noticeable change in personality. There is no certain trait the animal will exhibit; it will just be different than usual. The next stage, which will occur a couple of days after the first, is the most recognized stage of the disease. The animal will start drooling, because of its incapability to swallow. It will also appear crazed, because it is experiencing hallucinations. Other animals are often bitten during this stage, because the animal is out of control. A couple of days after the crazed stage, the animal will experience paralysis and will have trouble breathing. A concerned owner trying to care for a pet can often contract the virus during the last stage. Once the disease has reached the brain, there is no cure. If untreated, the symptoms will lead to death. Other signs you can look for in a rabid mammal, throughout the stages of the disease, include anxiety, fever, headache, and insomnia. If you witness a wild animal in your area that is exhibiting the signs of rabies, call your local animal control center immediately.

So, what can you do to protect yourself and your pet from contracting rabies? Many people assume that they will never have to worry about the problem if they live in a city or away from the “wild.” It is true that certain living arrangements, such as camping and oversees travel, increase the chances of coming in contact with a rabid animal; however, no one is completely safe from the disease. Pre-exposure vaccinations exist for both humans and animals. Every state requires that your dog be vaccinated. Each state has its own requirements for the frequency of booster shots. If you plan on traveling outside of the country, then it is a good idea to get the human form of the vaccination before you depart.

If you are camping or spending time in a wilderness area, then keep a close eye on your pooch. Skunks, raccoons, bats, and foxes are known to be common carriers of the disease. Even if you live in a gated neighborhood, your pet may still be at risk. For instance, what if your neighbors traveled to a country where rabies was rampant and did not know that their dog was bitten by a rabid animal. If undetected, this animal can spread the disease throughout the neighborhood. If your pet, or you, are bitten by an animal (whether you suspect rabies or not), call your veterinarian immediately. You should wash the wound with warm soap and water as soon as possible. Even if you and your dog are vaccinated, you will both require medical attention and booster shots. Please, think of a bite wound as a deadly emergency. It cannot wait until you return home. If treated early on, then virus can be defeated.

Rabies is a scary virus. It attacks the nervous system and can cause death. A rabid animal will show symptoms such as a change in personality and foaming at the mouth. You should always take prevention steps, such as a pre-exposure vaccination, which is required for your dog. If you feel that you have come in contact with a rabid animal, or if you or your pet has been bitten, the call the vet immediately and wash the wound. Rabies is an emergency and should not be left untreated.

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