While the risk of a vaccinated dog contracting rabies is low, a rabies vaccination does not provide a 100% guarantee that your pooch is protected. Here, our San Jose vets define rabies and what to do if you suspect your dog may have been exposed.
What is rabies?
This serious illness is caused by a virus that can be transmitted via an infected mammal's saliva to any other mammal, including, livestock, wildlife, humans and pets. If your pet is bitten by a rabid animal or if an infected animal's (dead or alive) saliva, spinal or brain tissue gets into your furry companion's eyes, mouth, nose or an open cut, your pet can contract rabies.
The rabies virus impacts the central nervous system. Signs of rabies in animals include:
- Excessive drooling
- Changes in behavior (depression, aggression, unprovoked attacks)
- Overreacting to touch, light or sound
- Loss of appetite or difficulty drinking or eating
- Biting or licking the wound site where exposure occurred
- Staggering or falling down, with eventual paralysis.
Rabies is almost always fatal. Once symptoms of rabies appear, the animal will usually die within 7-10 days.
What is the incubation period of rabies?
The time between exposure to the rabies virus and when symptoms of the disease start to appear is known as the incubation period.
In most cases, an animal will start to show signs of the disease within 2 weeks after exposure. However, symptoms can sometimes take many months to appear. This is why getting your dog vaccinated and carefully following any direction from your local public health unit if you think your pet may have been exposed is so important.
If your pet has become infected with the rabies virus, the virus can be transmitted to other pets and humans up to 10 days before the animal begins to show any signs of the disease.
Can dogs get rabies after vaccination?
While the rabies vaccine is quite effective in preventing rabies in dogs, it does not guarantee 100% protection.
If your dog in San Jose is exposed to rabies and their vaccination is up to date, they will receive a booster vaccine immediately and will need to be placed into strict quarantine for 30 days and then restrained by the owner (leashed and kept away from other pets or people) for an additional 60 days.
Quarantine and confinement times vary by state and county. You should always report potential rabies exposures to your vet and local public health unit and carefully follow their directions.
Can you get rabies from a dog that has been vaccinated?
While it is unlikely to get rabies from a vaccinated dog, there is still a slight risk. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated pets that bite a person must be quarantined for 10 days. If the dog or cat was infectious at the time of the bite, signs of rabies in the animal will usually follow rather quickly and certainly within 10 days.
How can I prevent my dog from contracting rabies?
The best thing you can do to protect your dog from contracting rabies is keep their vaccinations up to date.
You should also never allow your pet to wander unsupervised, especially at night when bats and other wildlife are most active. In San Jose County, bats are the most likely to be rabid. You should bat-proof your home and should never capture, handle, or keep wild bats as pets.
If you or your pet is bitten you should vigorously wash the bite wounds with soap and water as soon as possible and contact the appropriate authorities right away.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.