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Rabies or How Dogs, Cats and Forrest Cuties Can Kill You

rabies dog

By Zack Hargrove

Rabies is one of the most common viral diseases that everyone heard of but at the same time almost no one really knows about. For the last few years there hasn’t been discovered anything new about this old horrible disease. But since it hasn’t gone anywhere and in the era of social distancing, we might want to feed or pet a little wild animal we should always be aware of risks we’re taking by succumbing to this temptation and consequences that may come with it.


What is Rabies?

Rabies is an acute infectious disease accompanied by the development of encephalitis and arising from the transmission of the virus with saliva of infected mammals.

The clinical picture includes lethargy, increased body temperature, which can lead to excitement, increased salivation and hydrophobia.

According to there are three main forms of rabies:

  • encephalitic
  • paralytic
  • atypical 

Diagnosis can be determined by skin biopsy with antibodies fluorescence. Rabies vaccination is obligatory for people at risk. With timely and careful implementation of post-exposure prophylaxis, including wound care, as well as passive and active immunoprophylaxis, rabies is almost always preventable from causing the death of the patient.

rabies dog

Stages of Rabies

In a typical case, the progression of disease can be divided in four periods:

  1. Incubation Stage
    The time period from moment of bite to manifestation of disease (latent or incubation period) on average takes from 30 up to 50 days, although sometimes it can from 10 up to 90 days. In rare cases - more than 1 year. In extremely rare cases – 6 years and in extremely rare and unconfirmed cases – more than 10 years. Chances to save the patient are high.
  2. Prodromal Stage
    Lasts 1 - 3 days. It is accompanied by an increase in temperature to 37.3 ° C, depression, poor sleep, insomnia, anxiety of the patient. Pain at the site of the bite. Chances to save the patient are low. 
  3. Stage of Heat
    Lasts 1 - 4 days. Sharply increased sensitivity to the slightest irritation of the sensory organs: bright light, various sounds. Noise causes muscle cramps in the limbs. Hydrophobia, aerophobia, hallucinations, delirium, sense of fear and increase of salivation. No chances to save the patient. 
  4. Period of Paralysis
    Paralysis of the eye muscles, lower extremities and zygomatic muscles occurs (drooping jaw). Decrease of appetite. The state of a person no longer exists. Respiratory muscle paralysis causes death (suffocation).

First Aid

Washing the wound with soap is crucial for the life of the patient. The virus cannot stand alkali, so it is better to do it with a classic laundry soap bar. It will slow down and minimize the probability of infection. It is important to do it before you go to the emergency room. Since potential traffic jams or long lines of patients at the hospital will create better chances for rabies to get you.


Unfortunately, in most cases, manifestation of symptoms means that the patient cannot be saved. Therefore, pre-bite and pre-symptomatic vaccination plays a defining role.

Treatment of patients that already have symptoms usually consists of using strong sedatives such as ketamine, midazolam and the rest. Cases of recovery after the onset of the symptoms of rabies are very rare. In most cases, patients undergo immunization before they show the signs of disease. There is evidence that vaccination after the onset of symptoms can lead to a more severe course of the disease.

Vaccine Facts

  • Rabies vaccines require 4 to 6 shots to the shoulder at intervals of several days, plus the option of another shot to the bite site;
  • Vaccines do have side effects, but you cannot die from it. Either way if you don’t get a vaccine you will have more chances to die from rabies;
  • You still may need a vaccine if you were bitten by an inoculated animal.

Rabies Transmission

You cannot get rabies from another person. But it can be transmitted artificially, after organ transplantation surgery. The main transmitter of rabies is saliva of mostly carnivorous mammals. These are their most common examples and details you should be aware of.


Bats may not suffer from rabies, but they do cultivate it and serve to us as a natural reservoir of infection. In America bats are currently the main cause of human deaths from rabies.


Any bird that has salivary glands can transmit rabies:

  • Eagles;
  • Golden eagles;
  • Etc.


Unlike other wild predators in some rare cases dogs can recover from it and also be a full functioning rabies transmitter.

Signs of infection:

  • hoarse barking;
  • sagging back;
  • frothy drool;
  • eyes turn yellow during the light-check (eyes of a healthy dog turn green).


It is a popular belief that wolves are almost fearless animals. But in reality, wolves are pretty timid. They rarely show up and come up to people consciously. And that is why if a wolf does run up to you in an aggressive manner – chances are his behavior caused by rabies. Wolf can be in that state of activities up to 4 days.

It is important to remember that wolves aim their bites in the face and the neck of the victim. And as it was said earlier – the closer would to the head to less time the patient will have. Virus travels through nerve endings. The shorter their distance, the shorter the incubation period.


People like foxes and find them cute for a number of reasons. Because of their small size and the fact that people rarely get to see them, they assume that foxes are not that dangerous.

But not everyone knows that foxes are one of most common rabies carriers. But they have a high speed of breeding. Their fertility starts 6 months after their birth, and that is why the decrease of their lives from rabies is instantly being compensated by the replenishment of their offspring.

The good news is that because they are small, they usually bite on the feet. Which gives the patient more time to get help from the doctor.


Cats are especially dangerous as they can transmit rabies to people not only with their bites but even with scratches. Because as we all know, they have a habit to lick and as a result cover themselves (and their paws in particular) with saliva.

You should also keep in mind that because of the thin structure of the cats’ teeth you won’t be able to wash wounds successfully.

Number of other animals you should also look out for

  • Cattle
  • Racoons
  • Raccoon dog
  • Jackals
  • Elks
  • Horses
  • Camels (A.K.A. spitters)
  • Ferrets
  • Hamsters
  • Rats
  • Mouses
  • Rabbits
  • Hedgehogs

Thus, if you do want to pet an animal without taking risks to get rabies, insects, snakes and lizards will be a far better option. The only officially approved and effective way to avoid rabies in case of risk of infection is timely vaccination. By neglecting this globally accepted rabies preventing method, you put your life and the lives of your loved ones at risk.

About the Author:

Zack Hargrove is a remote editor at His teammates are willing to provide you professional help in case you are about to type “fix my cv” in your search engine. You can find him on twitter @zackhargrovejr.

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