Definition of Rabies
Rabies, also called acute viral encephalomyelitis, is a fatal viral infection of the nervous system. It can affect all warm-blooded mammals and is spread in infected body fluids, especially saliva and blood. Transmission usually happens from bites or other open wounds. Once the virus enters a dog’s body, it travels through nerves to the spinal cord and ends up in the brain, where it multiplies rapidly. Eventually, the rabies virus moves into the dog’s salivary glands. Rabid dogs often have an initial “furious” phase, where they become irritable, excited and extremely aggressive. This typically is followed by a so-called “dumb” phase, which involves depression, incoordination, drooling and difficulty swallowing. Symptoms of rabies usually show up between 3 and 5 months after a dog is bitten by an infected animal, although sometimes they show up sooner. Rabies is an extremely serious, dangerous infectious disease. Owners who notice significant behavior changes in their dogs should take them to a veterinarian right away.