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Dog Bites: Rabies 101

Dog bites can carry many diseases that can prove serious or even life-threatening.rabies-101-mazow-mccullough However, one disease in particular has reached a level of notoriety unmatched by others: rabies. Rabies is easily the most well-known animal related disease in popular culture, with whole films based around it, but how much do you really know about it? Here are the answers to your most pressing questions about this frightening virus.

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a virus unique to mammals. It’s primarily a neuro-virus, affecting the brain and other parts of the nervous system. Left untreated, it is universally fatal.

How is Rabies Transmitted?

Rabies is transmitted through the saliva of infected mammals, with bites being the mechanism to spread this saliva to other hosts. Other means of transmission, such as infected organ transplants, have been reported but are rarely documented.

Humans cannot spread rabies to other humans unless they are already infected by the disease. However, an animal with rabies can easily transmit the disease to a human through a single bite.

What are the Symptoms of Rabies?

Rabies first manifests in a manner similar to the flu—general discomfort, weakness, fever and/or headaches.

If left untreated, these symptoms progress to the more well-known symptoms of rabies: mental dysfunction, anxiety, confusion, and agitation. This leads to delirium, abnormal and aggressive behavior, hallucinations, and insomnia. Rabies also causes the body to overproduce saliva (as the principle mechanism of the virus’s spread) and causes difficulty swallowing. This overproduction of saliva is what gives rabid animals the appearance of foaming at the mouth. Perhaps as a combination of this, late-stage rabies is often marked by hydrophobia—the fear of water—due to an inability to drink properly.

How Long Does Rabies Take to Affect the Body or be Fatal?

Rabies works quickly—the disease becomes acute after 2 to 10 days. If the symptoms of rabies appear, the chances of the victim’s survival become slim.

Can Rabies be Cured?

Yes, but success depends heavily on catching and treating it as early as possible. Once the symptoms manifest, survival becomes incredibly unlikely. This is why it is vital to seek medical attention immediately when you have been bitten by a wild animal, an ownerless or stray dog, or by any animal that might have the possibility of being infected.

If you haven’t been exposed to rabies before, your doctor should vaccinate you with the rabies vaccine and passive antibodies to help your body fight the disease.

If you have been previously exposed and treated, or have been previously vaccinated, you should only receive the vaccine. Your body should know how to produce the antibodies necessary already.

In either case, you will need multiple vaccines at regular intervals to fully combat and treat the disease. If your doctor or hospital is unable to arrange regularly scheduled treatments, make sure that they arrange treatments with another facility or with the government so you continue to receive treatment.

There are treatments available to people who are suffering from the symptoms of rabies, but these are rarely successful. Again, if you are bitten by a wild or aggressive animal, seek treatment immediately.

What Should I Do if my Dog Was Bitten by a Rabid Animal and It Wasn’t Properly Immunized?

If you didn’t have your dog vaccinated against rabies, and you have reason to suspect that it was bitten by an animal carrying rabies, the CDC recommends that you have your pet euthanized immediately.

Obviously, that is a traumatizing recommendation, and a lot of owners will have trouble doing so without explicit proof that the attacking animal is rabid, as it can be unclear without testing. In those cases, the CDC advises owners to put their dog under quarantine for at least six months for observation, and to vaccinate it at least a month before the quarantine ends.

What is the Best Way to Prevent Rabies Infections?

The best way to control rabies among people is to control rabies in our pets. Dog bites are the most common cause of rabies cases in the United States, with children being the most common victims. Keep up to date and diligent about your dog’s rabies vaccines and make sure they are supervised when outdoors. Additionally, spaying or neutering your pets will reduce the number of unwanted stray animals, who are more likely to become infected and transmit the disease.


If you’ve been bitten by a dog and suffered from high medical costs, lost wages, or emotional trauma as a result, the experienced dog bite attorneys of Mazow | McCullough, PC can help you obtain the legal settlement you deserve. Call us today for a free consultation.

All information sourced from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


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