Rabies in Shiba Inu: What you need to know

Rabies is a deadly disease that affects dogs. It is a rapidly progressing virus that takes less than ten days to develop and has no cure. Sadly, when signs start to appear, it is often too late and death is no longer preventable. 

What is Rabies in Dogs?

Rabies is a fatal and viral disease that owners wish their dogs wouldn’t catch. 

The rabies virus attacks the dog’s central nervous system, spreading through its nerves and into the brain. Infection can lead to paralysis and worse, death. 

It’s not only dogs that are vulnerable to rabies. The disease can affect any mammal, including humans. The possible spreaders of rabies are skunks, weasels, and bats. 

How do dogs get rabies? 

The most common way a dog can become infected with the rabies virus is through a bite from a rabid animal. However, the virus can also be transmitted if an infected animal’s saliva comes in contact with a scratch, an open wound, or areas like the mouth, eyes, or nose. 

Symptoms of Rabies

Once bitten by an infected animal, the virus will develop in stages. 

Prodromal stage

Within the first two to three days, dogs will display a change in personality and behavior. They will become agitated, anxious, and fearful. 

Your friendly Shiba Inu might become aggressive and vice versa. Other symptoms include: 

  • Avoiding people and other animals
  • Licking bite wounds
  • Hypersensitive to light, sound, and touch
  • Fever

Furious stage

Dogs in this stage show signs of restlessness, irritability, and sensitivity to light and sound. They will start roaming around and attacking objects, animals, and people. 

This stage can last one to seven days and disorientation and seizures will soon follow. 

Paralytic stage

The paralytic stage occurs after the prodromal or furious stage. This usually develops two to four days after the first symptoms. The mouth will foam because of the paralysis of the throat and jaw muscles. 

Other signs are labored breathing, choking, and respiratory failure which will eventually lead to death. 

For two to eight weeks, the virus incubates inside your dog’s body and this is even before the symptoms begin showing. 

The infected saliva passes through the nerves and spinal cord and to the brain. Once the brain is infected, the virus multiplies and spreads to the salivary glands, which is when signs of the virus begin to appear. 

If your dog is bitten or scratched by another animal, it is strongly recommended to see a vet immediately and not wait for signs to begin showing. 

How is rabies diagnosed and treated? 

There is no definite way to diagnose rabies in a living animal, so what veterinarians can do is observe and accurately interpret symptoms. 

The most accurate way to test rabies is by examining the brain tissue with direct fluorescent antibody testing once the dog has died.  

Unfortunately, there is no treatment or cure for the rabies virus. And if your Shiba Inu is unvaccinated, death is unpreventable. 

Once infected, your dog increases the risk of transmitting the virus to other animals and humans, so most often, infected dogs are humanely euthanized. 

How to prevent rabies in dogs?

Prevention is key and the best way to protect your Shiba Inu is through routine rabies vaccinations. Not only is it the only way you can prevent transmission, but in some countries, it is also the law. 

Aside from vaccinations, minimizing exposure is also another way to avoid rabies infection. If you are in wooded areas with possible wild animals, do not allow your dog to roam around unsupervised and off-leash so you can limit interactions with unknown species. 

Here are a few ways you can reduce the risk of your dog acquiring rabies from wildlife: 

  • Do not keep wild animals at home and as pets
  • Avoid direct contact with wild animals (alive or not)
  • Avoid animals who have unruly behavior
  • Do not allow interactions between your pet and wildlife
  • Report all stray animals 
  • Avoid wild animals that seem friendly or unafraid of humans, especially raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes
  • Never touch a bat (alive or dead)

Vaccinated dogs that were bitten by infected animals can be administered a booster vaccine to strengthen their immunity and reduce the chances of the virus developing. Still, they are required to be observed for up to seven to ten days. 

If your dog is bitten by another’s pet, get as much information as you can, especially vaccine history. 

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