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The Facts About Rabies

What do you know about rabies?


This week held World Rabies Day, which is held every year by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control to promote awareness of this deadly disease. Rabies is a disease dog owners fear, but since we actually see it so rarely, do you know what rabies actually is?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, rabies is a virus transmitted from the bite of one animal to another. The virus attacks the central nervous system and leads eventually to death. Some of the early symptoms include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • general weakness and pain

As the disease gets worse, symptoms include:

  • anxiety
  • lack of sleep
  • excitation and agitation
  • paralysis, slight or partial
  • hallucinations
  • an increase in saliva and difficulty swallowing
  • fear of water (hydrophobia)

Your dog may be at risk for rabies if it is bitten or scratched by a wild mammal or a bat. The CDC reports that small mammals (rats, mice, hamsters, squirrels, guinea pigs, chipmunks, rabbis and hares) are almost never infected with rabies and have not been known to cause rabies in people. Rodents, particularly woodchucks, have a high rate of rabies. In fact between 1985 and 1994, woodchucks were responsible for 86% of the 368 cases of rabies in rodents reported to the CDC.

If you are concerned about rabies in your location, the CDC suggests contacting your state health department. Each state keeps track of rabies with more detailed information than what is submitted to the CDC. In the United States, over 90% of rabies cases reported to the CDC are related to rabies in wild animals. This is a big change - prior to 1960, the majority were domestic animals.

To learn more about rabies, visit the CDC and GARC web pages, and talk to your veterinarian!

Sources: Rabies; Rabies Facts.

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