Rabies Symptoms in Dogs

Table of Contents

Rabies is a worrying disease that can affect both animals and humans but is thankfully under control in many countries. Although most dogs are vaccinated against rabies as it’s required by law in many areas, it’s a good idea for pet parents to know about this disease in case they spot an infected animal.

So in this article, we’ll explain the symptoms of rabies in dogs by answering the following questions:

  • How do you know when a dog has rabies?
  • Can a dog survive rabies?
  • What are the stages of rabies in dogs?
  • How long after a dog bite do rabies symptoms appear?
  • How long will a dog live with rabies?

Disclaimer: Please refer to the information in this article as a guide only. Rabies is a very serious, and notifiable disease. If you suspect you’ve seen an animal with rabies, it’s important to contact the relevant authority immediately. Talk to your veterinarian directly regarding vaccinating your pet against rabies.

How do you know when a dog has rabies?

It’s important to understand that humans and all mammals are susceptible to the rabies virus. The disease progresses through the stages we described earlier very quickly and can show the following signs according to the American Veterinary Medical Association:

  • Neurological signs – seizures and paralysis.
  • Increased production of saliva and problems with swallowing.
  • Behavioral changes – such as increased fear and aggression.

It’s good for pet parents to be aware that wildlife is considered the main source of infection for pets and humans and many wildlife vaccination campaigns are in place. If you think that you see wildlife acting abnormally or with the symptoms above, then it’s best to stay away from them and call your local authority to report it.

Diagnosing rabies is sadly pretty difficult and is only possible after an animal has died. This is because it requires looking under the microscope at a sample of brain tissue. Additionally, once an animal is showing signs of rabies, it is no longer possible to treat them.

Can a dog survive rabies?

In nearly all cases, rabies is very sadly fatal. However, the chances of a pet dying from rabies can be reduced following vaccination. Vaccination for diseases such as rabies is always recommended by veterinarians and you can read more about this topic in our article Side effects of the rabies vaccination in dogs.

How long after a dog bite do rabies symptoms appear?

The length of time it takes for rabies to develop depends on the location where the dog was bitten and how much of the rabies virus was inside the saliva of the infected animal. There are cases that report symptoms occurring from weeks to months to years after first contact with the virus. 

We’ll talk more about how the symptoms of rabies develop in a later section.

What are the stages of rabies in dogs?

The stages of rabies following a bite from a rabid animal or a wound coming into contact with their saliva are as follows according to the MSD Veterinary Manual:

  • The prodromal phase – during this phase, the animal has non-specific symptoms for a few days before progressing to one of two forms of rabies:
  • The furious form – animals are aggressive, alert, and may attack. They have frequently been observed chewing or eating abnormal objects. They usually die after becoming paralyzed.
  • The paralytic form – animals who develop this form don’t usually try to bite and have paralysis which quickly spreads to all areas of their body followed by a coma and the animal dying. 

How long will a dog live with rabies?

As we mentioned earlier, rabies is a serious and usually fatal disease. This means that following contact with infected saliva, dogs who are not vaccinated are unlikely to live very long.

When it comes to rabies, vaccinating your dog provides the best possible chances of them surviving rabies, but it’s important to know that it is still possible your pet can develop symptoms or die as a result of the infection.  

Dog Relax Toys

As we mentioned earlier, rabies vaccinations in dogs are obligatory in many states. To help keep your pet calm before their vaccination, we’ve listed some toys below.


We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article about rabies symptoms in dogs. Knowing about this serious disease is one way to help keep your pet safe and make informed decisions about helping to protect them with a vaccination. 

Vaccinating your pet, treating them against parasites, and scheduling regular veterinary general and dental check-ups are great ways to keep your pet happy and healthy and are recommended by veterinarians.

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