Rabies is an infection that affects the central nervous system and can lead to death if it is not treated. The best way to protect your pet from rabies is to be sure that it receives regular rabies vaccines. Here are some signs that your pet or a wild animal you encounter may have rabies.
After an animal is infected with rabies, the virus grows in muscle tissue. It can go undetected for several days or months. During the incubation, or latent, period, the animal appears healthy. Within six months, the virus spreads to the central nervous system. After that, the disease progresses rapidly.
During the prodromal phase, which lasts two to three days, an animal will show subtle symptoms. One of the first signs of rabies is a change in behavior. The animal may stop eating and drinking and want to be left alone. It may chew at the site of the bite or have a fever. The tone of a dog’s bark may also change.
The next phase, the furious phase, lasts two to four days. Not all animals experience it. During this phase, the animal may try to eat anything, including inedible objects. It may growl and bark constantly. The rabid animal may have dilated pupils, be disoriented, and act erratically or aggressively. It may seem anxious and hyperalert. The animal may appear irritable or restless and may not be afraid of natural predators. It may roam, tremble, have seizures, and be uncoordinated.
The paralytic phase is the last stage. It generally lasts two to four days. The animal may appear to be choking, be unable to swallow, and drool or foam at the mouth. The lower jaw may drop in dogs, and the jaws, throat, and chewing muscles may be paralyzed. Paralysis spreads to other parts of the body, and the animal becomes depressed, enters a coma, and dies.
If you see a wild animal displaying these symptoms, stay away from it and contact a wildlife removal company or your local animal control department. If you notice these symptoms in your pet and it has not been vaccinated, take it to a veterinarian immediately.