Rabies is a devastating viral disease that affects not only dogs but all mammals, humans included. It is a serious viral disease seen in mammals that adversely affects the central nervous system, leading to death. Rabies is a zoonotic (can be transmitted to humans) disease that is typically transmitted through bites from infected animals. It specifically affects gray matter of the affected animal and its central nervous system (CNS).
In dogs, rabies virus transmits through bite from a disease carrier: foxes, raccoons, skunks, and bats. Infectious virus particles are retained in a rabid animal's salivary glands to better disseminate the virus through their saliva.
Once inside the body, the virus replicates in the cells of the muscles and then progresses to the nearest nerve fibers and then reaching central nervous system (CNS) through fluid within the nerves. Symptoms can take up to a month to develop but once developed, the virus progresses rapidly.
Rabies can be differentiated into two types, Paralytic and Furious. During early stage (prodomal) only mild signs of CNS abnormalities are apparent. With two to three days, most affected dogs progress to either paralytic or furious stage or a combination of the two, while others succumb to the infection without displaying any major symptoms.
Furious rabies is characterized by extreme behavioural changes such as restlessness or apprehension, both of which may be compounded by aggression. Friendly dogs may become irritable, while normally excitable animals may become more docile. A dog may bite or snap at any form of stimulus, attacking other animals, humans and even inanimate objects. They may constantly lick, bite and chew at the site where they were bitten. A fever may also be present at this stage.
As the virus progresses, an infected dog may become hypersensitive to touch, light and sound. They may eat unusual things and hide in dark places. Paralysis of the throat and jaw muscles may follow, resulting in the well-known symptom of foaming at the mouth. Disorientation, incoordination and staggering may occur, caused by paralysis of the hind legs. Other classic signs of rabies include loss of appetite, weakness, seizures and sudden death.
The following are some of the symptoms to watch for in your dog:
Jaw is dropped
Inability to swallow
Change in tone of bark
Muscular lack of coordination
Unusual shyness or aggression
Constant irritability/changes in attitude and behavior
Paralysis in the mandible and larynx
Excessive salivation (hypersalivation), or frothy saliva