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Rabies in Dogs – Discover what it is, what symptoms it has and its treatment

Rabia en Perros – Descubre qué es, que síntomas tiene y su tratamiento

Lobo Azul |

Of all the diseases that our dogs can have, rabies is one of the best known, since there are texts from centuries ago that name and describe it very well, as humans have lived with it, suffering from it and dying when they were infected.

Luckily it is extinct in mainland Spain , and there are only sporadic cases in Ceuta and Melilla, which is why dogs continue to be vaccinated with a frequency that depends on each autonomous community, although in recent years they are more strict due to the cases that occur in these two autonomous cities.

How is it spread?

It is a viral disease present in mammals, such as dogs, cats less frequently, foxes or bats.

The means of transmission is saliva , so the most common way it passes from one animal to another or even to humans, since it is a zoonosis, is the bite.

When an animal bites another or a person, the virus that is in its saliva passes into the blood and begins its incubation period, but sometimes a bite is not even necessary.

Although it is less common, it is known that it can also be spread if an infected animal licks another on a mucosa or in an area where it has a wound.

It is not at all common, since bats are in contact with our dogs, but this mammal is a reservoir of the disease and infection is possible without a bite, only through contact with its urine or feces.

What are the symptoms of rabies?

This disease presents a very broad symptomatology, so much so that it can often be confused with neurological problems that have nothing to do with it.

If there is even the slightest suspicion, it is best to go to the veterinarian , whose expert eye and tests (if considered necessary) will tell us if our pet has rabies or another health problem.


One of the best known is irritability and aggressiveness. Suddenly, an animal that has never caused problems begins to act in a strange way, being aggressive towards us, towards strangers and towards other animals .

This change in behavior should make us suspicious, and although it does not mean that the animal has rabies, it is best to go to a veterinary clinic, as it indicates that something is happening that is affecting our dog's health and requires immediate attention.

Excessive salivation

Salivation is another of those symptoms that we associate with rabies , since in all ancient representations mad dogs are shown with their mouths full of drool, which falls abundantly.

This hypersalivation is due to the fact that one of the parts of the body that this virus attacks are the animal's salivary glands, something that helps it expand, since it spreads through contaminated saliva.

Phobia of light and water

An aversion or phobia of light is not so associated with rabies, but another of the symptoms that has been known since ancient times is a phobia of water .

Dogs do not usually have problems with water, but when they have rabies they do not want to approach it, running away or becoming aggressive if we try to get them wet. Likewise, light bothers them a lot and they tend to hide from it.

Other lesser known symptoms

There are also other symptoms that specialists know well, but that those of us who do not have notions about animal health do not associate with the disease.

Some of them are fever, facial paralysis and general paralysis, which usually appears at the final moment when the dog is about to die from this virus.

Phases of rabies in dogs

From the moment an infected animal bites the dog, rabies begins to develop following a series of phases that are very well studied due to all the time we have been living with the disease.

The phases can occur more or less quickly, but in the end the animal will go through them all if we do not remedy them first, which is impossible in stray dogs, which are the ones that should really worry us, since there is no one to worry. worry about them


When an infected animal bites a dog, it transmits the disease (if it is not immunized through the vaccine), but it does not manifest immediately, but rather goes through an incubation period.

The dog is already infected, but asymptomatic for a period of time ranging from a week to several months .

It seems that this period varies depending on the area of ​​the bite, so that the closer it is to the brain, the shorter the incubation.

It is impossible to know that the dog has rabies at this time, unless we see the animal that has transmitted it and suspect that it is infected due to its behavior or because it salivates excessively.


In this second phase, the first symptoms begin to appear, which are not usually associated with rabies, since the dog appears tired and scared . You may also feel nervous.

There is no aggression and at this moment it hardly represents any danger to humans or other animals, but rabies is there and it will not stop advancing.


After two to ten days of the previous phase, the risk begins, the moments in which a dog with rabies is a danger to anyone around it, regardless of whether it is animal or human.

This is when the symptoms associated with rabies occur, such as aggressiveness and excessive salivation , with retraction of the lips due to a spasm that makes the teeth look very good, which intensifies the feeling of danger.

It will try to bite other animals, people and even its own owners if they do not take precautions and it is best to lock it up while the vets come.


We reach the end of the disease, when the throat and jaw become paralyzed. Little by little, the dog loses control of movement and collapses, becoming paralyzed and even falling into a coma until it eventually dies, which can take several days.


There are two ways to make the diagnosis. With the oldest one, you had to wait for the dog to die and take a sample of the brain tissues, in which the virus can be seen.

Now it is also used if the animal has died and it is believed that the cause was rabies, since it is the simplest test and the one with the least risk.

If the dog is alive, the veterinarian can do a blood test to find out if the symptoms are due to a neurological disease or the dog has rabies, thanks to the polymerase chain reaction.

Treatment of rabies in dogs

There is no treatment for rabies in dogs. It is a deadly disease against which we can do nothing more than notify the authorities, since the laws force us to do so.

Seeing what happens as the phases of the disease progress, the best thing for the animal is to sacrifice it, otherwise the only thing we will achieve is for it to suffer terrible suffering.

Furthermore, we must not forget that the disease can be transmitted to us if we do not act quickly, which is also very serious in humans and causes death if not treated in time.

Although it is hard to think that we cannot do anything for our pet, rabies makes it a danger and if we do not euthanize it in the end it will still die suffering unnecessarily, paralyzed and from asphyxiation.

Prevention of rabies in dogs

Luckily, preventing rabies in dogs is very simple and all we have to do is follow the vaccination schedule of our autonomous community.

It is important to know when to vaccinate the animal, since it is not an optional injection, but rather it is mandatory so that this terrible disease continues to be eradicated in our country.

Sometimes, this calendar is a bit confusing, because in recent years it has changed a few times, with some communities even eliminating the mandatory nature of the vaccine or giving it every two years.

Now the schedule is more strict and even puppies have to be vaccinated, so the best way to stay up to date with vaccines is to ask our trusted veterinarian , who is aware of all legislative changes.

Due to how important rabies vaccination is, campaigns are carried out in all Spanish municipalities, so residents do not have to leave their towns in order to vaccinate their dogs, since veterinarians are the ones. who travel to give the injections.

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