What to Do If a Rabid Dog Bites Someone

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. May 17, 2017
What to Do If a Rabid Dog Bites Someone

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If you have recently suffered a dog bite and are suspicious that the dog may have rabies, you must act quickly. To start, it is essential to know the typical manifestations of the disease. But, nevertheless in its early stages there are no obvious symptoms.

Today there are hardly any rabid dogs around, although it can happen under certain circumstances. Rabies usually occurs among bats, raccoons, squirrels and other wild mammals that populate all corners of the Earth, except Australia.

To learn how to react appropriately to any rabid animal bite read this AnimalWised article, to know what to do if a rabid dog bites someone.

What is rabies?

It is an acute and infectious zoonotic viral disease. It is transmitted through saliva and secretions from infected animals or individuals. It is fatal in 99.9% of cases when symptoms are evident. However, recently there have been cases among infected people where artificial commas were induced and they were cured.

What to Do If a Rabid Dog Bites Someone - What is rabies?

Manifestations of rabies in a dog

Hydrophobia as an alarm signal

Rabies is also known as hydrophobia (fear of water). This reaction is a definite symptom to confirm that a person or animal has the disease. The hydrophobia is so obvious that those attacked by this infection froth at the mouth because they are unable to swallow their own saliva.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that each year 65,000 people die infected with rabies each year. 60% of rabies cases happen in Asia, and less that 10% of dogs are given the rabies vaccine.

Rabies through food

In many Asian countries, such as China or Vietnam, eating dogs and cats as food is an ancient culinary tradition, as seen in Yulin, the dog meat festival. It is therefore not an uncommon circumstance to contract rabies after cooking animals infected with Rhabdoviridae - which causes the pathology. Eating them is not so dangerous because baking or roasting manages to destroy the virus. However, handling infected carcasses is very dangerous.

Food cultural tradition, or going hungry in an impoverished society, explains why the reason for this sad consumption. But what is puzzling, is that in Western countries, without these traditions and where hunger can be alleviated by going to social services, there are people dedicated to feeding on all sorts of road kill. There are families who dedicate time to travelling in their motor homes to collect bodies of dogs, badgers, owls, etc., to feed on them.

These are 'ultra-environmental and recycling' philosophies. These people believe that eating this way prevents waste and gives a positive sense to the accidental death of the animal. However, driving round and round on roads looking for dead animals and consuming fuel that pollutes the air is not particularly environmentally friendly. It is better to give children a good plate of lentils or chickpeas than a badger burger in poor condition.

What to Do If a Rabid Dog Bites Someone - Manifestations of rabies in a dog

What to do if we suspect that a dog has rabies

When an adult is bitten by a stray dog he or she should tell their local animal authority immediately. Then they can take the dog away and monitor them for 10 days. This task should be undertaken by the parents if the person attacked is a minor. It is important to avoid contact with the dog we suspect has rabies. It is better to keep them in a confined space where they cannot hurt other citizens.

It is very important to proceed without delay. If after examination the dog is found to have no rabies, a simple injection of immunoglobulin will solve the problem. Sadly, if the dog has rabies, they will be put down immediately to avoid a long and terrible agony for the poor animal. And of course, prevent them infecting more animals and people.

What to Do If a Rabid Dog Bites Someone - What to do if we suspect that a dog has rabies

Rabies today

Today the treatment and prevention of rabies has improved a lot, but this disease is far from eradicated. The reason is bats. These tiny winged mammals are rabies reservoirs, as many are carriers of the latent virus whilst others have the disease. To find out if a bat has rabies you must look at three things:

  • When they fly, they collide.
  • They come out during the day.
  • They fall to the ground.

And it is when falling to the ground that the bat becomes vulnerable and can be eaten by a dog, a cat, a raccoon or any other animal. Thus, the hunter of the bat becomes infected with the disease.

What to Do If a Rabid Dog Bites Someone - Rabies today

Symptoms of rabies in a dog

After an incubation period of between 3 and 8 weeks the dog starts to manifest symptoms of the disease. This involves three distinct phases.

  • Prodromal stage. There is a distinct change in the dog's normal behavior. It becomes sullen, nervous, scary and has fever. This first stage lasts about 3 days, during which the dog becomes isolated.
  • Furious stage. This second phase ranges from 1 to 7 days, usually. During this period our dog will be very aggressive, suffer from seizures and attempt to bite anything. They will be hyperactive, irritable, disoriented and will not rest.
  • Paralytic stage. Before reaching this third phase many dog's die. Its symptoms are: Frothing at the mouth, head and neck paralysis, respiratory failure.
What to Do If a Rabid Dog Bites Someone - Symptoms of rabies in a dog

Current rabies treatments

If a dog or other wild animal bites you and you cannot locate them, you must attend an urgent medical check up and treatment for rabies. Previously you will have thoroughly washed and disinfected the wound at home, covering it with gauze.

The doctor will heal the wound and give you the prescribed medical treatment to follow. There are two or three different ways to prevent the disease. All of them are annoying, but nothing to do with the way the disease was treated some years ago. Today 4 or 5 injections are needed to mitigate the spread of rabies. These are applied on the arm.

The most common guideline to follow is to inject HRIG (human anti-rabies immunoglobulin), and then follow a treatment formed of 5 injections in the arm of human diploid anti-rabies vaccination. These will be administered following the guidelines of treatment on days 1, 3, 7, 14 and 28.

There are places where intradermal injections are used (between the muscle and skin), the results are satisfactory and the treatment is cheaper.

What to Do If a Rabid Dog Bites Someone - Current rabies treatments

Preventing rabies

The best method to combat rabies is prevention. For this vaccinating our dog is required. Also, for people dealing with animals on a daily basis a preventative vaccine is highly desirable (veterinarians, trainers, laboratory personnel, volunteers of animal shelters, etc.)

What to Do If a Rabid Dog Bites Someone - Preventing rabies

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to What to Do If a Rabid Dog Bites Someone, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

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