My Puppy Bit Me – Will I Get Rabies?

Rabies is a virus that attacks the nervous system and has the highest mortality rate – 99.9%.

Getting rabies is unlikely if your puppy was vaccinated before you he bit you. But, if your puppy fought with a rabid animal before he bit you, you are at a higher risk for contracting rabies.  Human rabies cases are rare in the USA, but it can be deadly if not treated with caution. It’s important to visit your doctor before you display any symptoms. 

Let’s talk about the symptoms of rabies in dogs and humans and the treatment options available for you.

Symptoms of Rabies in a Puppy

Rabies sets in quickly and the survival rate is low. It helps to know rabies symptoms so you can take timely action. Here are some symptoms of a dog with rabies:

LETHARGY

If your dog is acting tired or has low-energy, it could be a symptom of rabies.

FEVER

Dogs suffering from the virus may have a fever because high temperature is the body’s primary response to a viral infection.

VOMITING

Vomiting is a sign that your dog is sick. If you have reason to suspect that your dog has rabies, it’s time to visit the vet.

EXCESSIVE DROOLING

Foaming at the mouth is a quintessential rabies symptom. A dog with rabies has problems swallowing, which can cause excessive drooling. Your dog may be suffering from jaw or throat paralysis.

SENSITIVITY

Dogs suffering from rabies have heightened sensitivity to light, touch, and sound. Photophobia, or sensitivity to light, is the most common rabies symptom. Sensitivity to touch and sound can be harder to detect. These sensitivities can become severe and result in a seizure.

ODD BEHAVIOR

Infected dogs may show behavioral changes such as restlessness or aggression. Friendly and affectionate dogs may become irritable, while normally excitable dogs may become more docile. Your dog may also bite other animals and humans. They may constantly lick the site where they were bitten.

Other Common Symptoms:

The dog may show abnormal behavior, such as:

  • Unprovoked abnormal aggression (e.g., biting people, animals, and inanimate objects without provocation)
  • Incoordination and paralysis
  • Unchecked aggression
  • Hallucinations
  • Self-mutilation, such as non-stop gnawing at the infected wound
  • Unsteadiness or disorientation
  • Abnormal vocalization (e.g., hoarse growling and barking or inability to make a sound)
  • Hypersalivation or foaming at the edges of the mouth.

Causes of Rabies

Rabies can be transmitted to dogs, puppies, and other animals through an infected animal’s bite.

The virus secretes through the infected animal’s saliva and transmits into the bloodstream. Dogs can also contract rabies when a scratch or open wound comes in contact with the virus via a mucosal membrane. Puppies left to roam free can encounter wild animals that have rabies. Raccoons, foxes, bats, and skunks pose the highest risk of transmitting rabies. Should your puppy run into an infected creature on its outing and contact ensues, be sure to consult your veterinarian immediately.

Causes of Rabies in Puppies

Rabies is commonly transmitted to dogs or other animals through a bite from a rabid animal. The virus transmits through the rabies-infected animal’s saliva and enters the bloodstream. Your dog can contract rabies through a scratch or an open wound. Puppies left to roam free can encounter rabid animals that carry rabies. Raccoons, foxes, bats, and skunks pose the highest risk of transmitting rabies. Should your young puppy run into such a creature and contact ensues, be sure to consult your veterinarian immediately.

HOW DO HUMANS CATCH RABIES?

Dogs with rabies transfer the virus to people via a bite or a scratch. Any contact with an open wound or the mucous membranes can also spread the virus. For humans who contract this disease, a bite from an unvaccinated or rabid dog is the most common culprit. Human-to-human transmission of rabies is rare, but there have been some cases reported.

Once an infected dog bites a human, the virus spreads through their blood to the brain. If you’re bitten on the head or neck, seek professional help as soon as possible.

Following a bite, the rabies virus spreads to the brain. Once in the brain, the rabies virus multiplies rapidly. This activity causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord and deteriorates a person’s health.

Symptoms of Rabies in Humans

You won’t notice any symptoms right away. Rabies can lay dormant in the human body for up to three months. Symptoms will appear once the rabies virus travels through your central nervous system and attacks your brain.

The first sign of rabies is fever. You might feel tired or weak. You may also feel pain, tingling, or a burning sensation at the wound site. As the virus spreads through your nervous system (CNS), you’ll develop more severe symptoms. They include:

  • Inability to sleep (insomnia)
  • Confusion
  • Slight or partial paralysis
  • Hyperactivity
  • Anxiety
  • Being easily agitated
  • Hallucinations
  • Salivating
  • Difficulty swallowing

In time, these symptoms give way to heart or lung failure and death.

A Puppy Bit Me – What to Do?

Wash your wound right away with soap and water. That’s the best way to reduce your chances of infection.

Consult a doctor as soon as possible. They’ll treat your wound and decide whether you need a rabies vaccination. If you’ve been exposed to rabies, they’ll run a number of tests (blood, saliva, spinal fluid, skin, and hair) to check for the virus or antibodies.

If your doctor suspects rabies, they’ll begin treatment with the rabies vaccine – postexposure prophylaxis (PEP). The vaccine is always successful if it’s given right after exposure. You’ll get a single dose of fast-acting rabies immune globulin, which will prevent the injection. Then, you’ll get four rabies vaccine shots over the next fourteen days.

Note: If you are pregnant, rabies vaccination is safe for you and your baby.

Who is at a higher risk of contracting rabies?

The risk of contracting rabies for most people is low. However, there are certain circumstances that may put you at a higher risk. These include:

  • Traveling to developing countries
  • Living in a rural area with greater exposure to wild dogs and little or no access to rabies vaccines and immunoglobulin preventive therapy
  • Frequent camping and exposure to wild animals
  • Being under the age of fifteen (rabies is most common in this age group)

How Do Doctors Diagnose Rabies?

There is no test to diagnose the early stages of rabies infection. After the onset of symptoms, a tissue or blood test can help a doctor determine whether you have rabies. If you have been bitten by a rabid dog, doctors will administer a preventive shot of rabies vaccine to stop the infection.

Can Rabies Be Cured?

After being exposed to the virus, you can have a series of shots to prevent the infection from setting in. Rabies immunoglobulin gives you an immediate dose of antibodies to fight the infection. It prevents the rabies virus from getting a foothold. Getting the rabies vaccine is critical to avoiding the disease.

Animal control will try to find the dog that bit you. They’ll test your dog for rabies. If your dog isn’t rabid, you can avoid rabies shots. However, the safest thing is to take preventive shots.

What Happens When You Get Rabies?

Side Effects of Rabies Treatment

The rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin can cause some side effects, including:

  • Pain, swelling, or itching
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Dizziness

Related Questions

Do all dogs have rabies?

All dogs don’t have rabies, but all dog bites should be treated with caution.

How long do dogs with rabies live?

The infected dogs usually die within seven days of becoming sick.

Can puppies recover from rabies?

There is no cure for rabies in puppies, and it is almost always fatal. Once clinical signs occur, an infected dog dies within seven days. The only way to test for rabies is by examining the brain tissue of a dead dog.

Watch this video to know the effects of rabies on a human body:

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