- The rabies virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. According to Pet Education, a dog who is bitten by an animal that is infected with rabies only has a 15 percent chance of contracting the disease. Skunks, raccoons, coyotes, foxes and bats are common spreaders of the rabies virus.
Action of the Virus
- The virus is most commonly transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. The saliva enters a dog's blood stream and infects the dog. Once the virus is in the dog, it will begin replication in the muscle cells before spreading to the nerve fibers. Soon, it will take over all motor, sensory and peripheral nerves. From there, it will spread to the central nervous system.
- If a dog is bitten by an infected animal, there is a good chance that it will not fall prey to the virus. However, a bitten dog may become a carrier of the virus, a condition which will last the rest of its life. This means that even though it does not suffer the fatal effects of the virus, the dog may pass the virus on to other animals or humans if it bites them.
- The transmission of rabies can be prevented through limiting possible exposure. Dogs that are allowed to wander or to run off leash in wilderness areas are more likely to be bitten by infected wildlife. The best defense against rabies, however, is vaccination. Dogs can be vaccinated at the age of 3 months, and then again at the age of 1 year. When the dog is 2 years old, it can be given a three-year shot that can be repeated throughout its life.
- The transmission of rabies can only be diagnosed through an autopsy after the animal has died. Because there is no sure way to identify whether the dog has been infected, possibly infected, unvaccinated animals should be euthanized immediately. If the owner is unwilling to euthanize the dog, the dog may be placed in isolation for six months to see if the virus is active.