Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nerves and brain. Though it affects cats and humans, it’s most common in dogs.

Rabies is passed on to dogs through a bite from an infected animal. Dogs can also get the disease through a scratch or contamination of open wounds or mucous membranes with saliva from a rabid animal.

Your dog is likely to get rabies if they interact with wild animals often. The most common carriers of rabies include bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes.

According to the World Organization for Animal Health around 59,000 succumb to rabies every year. With the most vulnerable being children in underdeveloped countries.

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Signs your dog has rabies

Once a dog has been bitten by a rabid animal, the disease progresses in phases. During the first phase, the dog manifests a change in temperament. Quiet dogs become agitated and active dogs become shy or nervous. This phase lasts for two to three days.

After the temperament change, rabies can manifest itself in two forms:

1.     Furious rabies

The rabid dog develops an uncontrollable appetite and eats inedible items such as stones, earth and rubbish. The dog eventually becomes paralyzed and is unable to eat or drink. The dog finally dies in a violent seizure.

2.     Dumb or paralytic rabies

This is the most common type of rabies in dogs. The dog experiences paralysis in their limbs, their face may distort and they may experience difficulty in swallowing.

Because of the jaw or throat paralysis, a dog has problems swallowing which can cause slight drooling or frothing.

Be very careful as you examine a dog that appears to have something stuck in its mouth or throat as rabies can be transmitted through saliva. Eventually, the dog falls into a coma then death follows.

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Treatment for a dog with rabies

There is no treatment for a dog with rabies. Therefore, if you suspect that your dog has rabies, you should isolate it so that you can prevent it from injuring someone. However, you can increase the chances of survival by giving your dog anti-rabies serum immediately after it has been bitten.

Nonetheless, the best way to combat it is by administering the rabies vaccine. The vaccine will prompt the production of antibodies against the rabies virus. In Kenya, the rabies vaccine costs around Sh100. This year, over 200,000 dogs have been vaccinated against rabies.

Today is World Rabies Day. The day is marked annually to create awareness about rabies prevention and to highlight the progress made in eliminating the disease. One organization that has been at the forefront of creating awareness on rabies is the World Animal Protection. This year, one message they are trying to push is, “Killing dogs is not the solution to stopping rabies – the only way to eliminate the virus is through mass vaccination”.