Rabies in Dogs, Pros Cons of Euthanasia, Nerve Damage Symptoms

Rabies in dogs is a very serious and deadly condition…

The disease includes nerve damage and also symptoms affecting the spinal chord.

To help protect your dog against the disease it is very important that your dog has a vaccination schedule.

Due to the seriousness of this disease in it’s advanced stages you and your family may need to weigh up the pros and cons of euthanasia…as this may be the kindest option for your beloved pet.

Rabies in Dogs

Rabies is more often found in animals that live in the wild rather than domesticated dogs, cats or other animals.  However, this doesn’t mean that your beloved dog can’t catch it should he be unlucky enough to be bitten by an infected animal…

The Cause of Rabies in Dogs…

  • Rabies is caused by your dog being bitten by an infected creature/animal. The saliva and virus from the infected animal is then passed to your dog.
  • The virus will then travel through your dog’s nervous system up the spinal chord and into your dog’s brain.
  • Your dog won’t show any signs and symptoms of the disease until the virus has spread to your dog’s brain.
  • The incubation period for the virus can vary dramatically from two up to eight weeks.

Signs & Symptoms of Rabies in Dogs…

Although rabies can be prevented it can’t be treated or cured – so if your dog is infected with the disease – unfortunately he will die. Below we have listed the stages that your dog will through after being infected with the virus.
Prodromal Stage

  • During this phase your dog will appear nervous and anxious. An aggressive dog may appear more docile but a family orientated and friendly dog may become shy and avoid spending time with the family.
  • Your dog will spend large amounts of time licking and paying close attention to the wound where they were initially bitten.
  • This stage tends to last about 2-3 days.

Furious Stage

  • At this point infected dogs will show more erratic behavior. Infected dogs may have an urge to eat anything edible or inedible.
  • An infected dog will be aggressive and restless sometimes walking and pacing around the House. If your dog is is in a crate or cage he may start attacking and biting it.
  • Your dog may have seizures and become increasingly disorientated.
  • This stage can last from 1-7 days and it is possible for your dog to die during this stage or continue on to the next stage.

Paralytic Stage

  • The virus will now have spread to the nerves in the head and throat. This may cause your dog to start drooling and be unable to swallow. Because of this dogs at this point will avoid drinking. Another name for rabies in dogs is ‘hydrophobia’ which means fear of water.
  • You may notice that your dog’s jaw is hanging down this is due to the muscles in the jaw and diaphragm being paralyzed.
  • Your dog may even have respiratory failure and as the disease progresses death will follow.

Rabies Diagnosis

  • Rabies in dogs is actually quite difficult to diagnose due to the fact that dogs who have the disease will behave pretty normally up to the point where the virus starts to attack the brain.
  • The virus may already be dividing within the cells of your dog’s body but your dog may still not show any physical symptoms.
  • Your dog’s vet is unable to do any blood tests to determine if the disease is present and a definitive conclusion can only be reached through brain tissue being extracted after your dog has died.
  • Unfortunately if your dog has developed the disease he will need to be put to sleep so you will need to discuss the pros and cons of euthanasia with your dog’s vet sooner rather than later.

Rabies Treatment and Prevention

As previously mentioned there is no cure or treatment for the disease. However, rabies in dogs can be prevented with a vaccination schedule and shots. This involves your dog being injected with a small amount of the disease which will then trigger your dog’s antibodies to start fighting the virus if your dog is unlucky enough to be infected in the future.