Archive for July, 2010


We always try and make sure our furry friends stay safe, whether or not they stay predominantly out of doors or not. For those who do live outside or who go in and out frequently, we have to be extra cautious – motorists, and unforeseen hazards can put an end to your gorgeous boy’s life but quick. The risk is increased if you live an area where wild animals are prevalent, such as coyotes. What can happen to Dante and how can you protect him?

In the 1800s, Louis Pasteur became famous for inoculating the first human patient against the rabies virus. (A contemporary, one Emile Roux actually came up with the vaccine). While the rabies virus has been all but eliminated in pets and wild animals within the United States, owing to strong vaccination programs and coordinated animal control action, there still does exist a chance that your boy could pick it up, the chances are slight, but they still exist. Rabies is slow to progress, yet virulent once it gets going, so if you hope to keep your dogs safe from getting it, you’ll have to act swiftly. Before we clear up the details on ‘how’ to safeguard your furry friend, let’s find out how the disease is transmitted and just what happens.

Rabies transmission almost always comes about through the bite of an infected animal, be they skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, opossums, and bats are the likeliest culprits. Outside of a host body, the virus can’t survive for very long, and typically only remains viable for 24 hours in the corpse of a former host. There are a series of symptoms that your dog may go through if he contracts it – not every animal goes through every phase. Given that the disease is slow progressing, it may be some little time before you notice a change in your pet’s behavior. A rule of thumb for incubation limits is this: three to eight weeks for dogs and two to six weeks for cats. (Human gestation of the virus is roughly the same length as for dogs). The phases of the disease are:

Prodromal phase
Lasting about two to three days in dogs, apprehension, nervousness and a desire for solitude are the norm, as well as a possible fever. Your dogs may even do a 180° turn on their personality – if they’re friendly, they may become shy or irritable. If they’re aggressive, they may become affectionate or docile. Many animals also lick the site of the wound in a rather obsessive manner.
Furious phase
After the prodromal phase, dogs (and cats both) are at risk for the furious phase. They become restless, angry and hypersensitive to sights and sounds. Viciousness is also commonplace, as are seizures (during which your pet may or may not die). Hallucinations are also one symptom that doctors believe occurs in this stage.
Paralytic phase
Assuming your boy survives the furious phase, two to four days after the first symptoms present, the paralytic stage is next. As rabies affects the central nervous system, the third phase targets nerves in the head, neck and face, causing excessive salvation or drooling. As the virus attacks the body, it also paralyzes the muscles, which govern the throat and neck. In addition to causing great thirst and intense pain when the pet attempts to swallow, hydrophobia is also common. This is usually the last phase, as the body shuts down; the dog will suffer respiratory failure and die a rather agonizing death.
Vaccinations are always the best policy when it comes to rabies. While there is no cure for pets and humans alike if it isn’t caught early, timely action when you even suspect an infection may save your boy’s life. Your vet will administer several shots in order to kill the fledgling virus. The difference in treatment options is this: Injections administered after an exposure are composed of both the vaccine itself and a single dose of rabies immunity antibodies. Conversely, vaccination prior to exposure only means three doses of vaccine and no immunity antibodies are necessary.

Now that we’ve discussed the harrowing trial that is rabies, let’s talk about how you can prevent Dante from getting it in the first place. If he is an outside dog, make sure that he has his vaccines annually, and that his enclosure is sturdy and well protected. Don’t let him roam around (or off) the property, and keep a sharp look out for any wild animals that he may come in contact with. If you see any, don’t try to handle them yourself, call animal control – it’s their job to deal with such things. Any animal you may see might not be infected, but they’re still wild, and still dangerous.