Why Does a Dog Need to Be Quarantined for 10 Days After Biting Someone?

by Adrienne Farricelli Google
    A simple jab saves Rover's life and the lives of others.

    A simple jab saves Rover's life and the lives of others.

    Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

    Unless you live in Hawaii, the only rabies-free state, you may have to say Aloha to your dog for 10 days if he recently bit somebody. While you're at it, you can also say Mahalo, because things could have been much worse. Unvaccinated dogs who bite humans may be euthanized immediately or placed in a lengthy quarantine at the owner's expense depending on your local laws.

    Risks

    If your dog recently bit someone, there are much bigger concerns than the bite wound itself and the risks for bacterial infection. Rabies is a viral disease that can infect all mammals and can be transmitted from dogs to humans. Because there is no cure for rabies, and it's almost always fatal, it's imperative to take measures to protect the injured person from any risks by letting that person know he needs preventative vaccinations immediately. Although your dog may have been vaccinated against rabies, rare cases of vaccinated dogs contracting rabies have been reported.

    Transmission

    If your dog is home for most of the day and looks healthy, you may wonder why he must be quarantined. The fact is, unless your dog is supervised 24 hours a day, there are still chances he may have had contact with a rabid bat, skunk, fox or raccoon when he was sent outside to potty. Once bitten, the rabies virus travels to the brain where it multiplies. The virus is then shed in the saliva and introduced to people or other mammals through a bite, or more rarely, through an open cut.

    Observation

    The main purpose of the 10-day quarantine is to keep your dog under observation. Once the virus is in the animal's saliva, the animal will show the first recognizable signs of the disease within a few days. This 10-day period allows sufficient time for the bitten person to receive preventive treatment should the dog appear to be rabid. Depending on your dog's vaccination status, your dog can be kept under quarantine at your home or at a designated isolation facility such as an animal control facility or veterinary clinic.

    Behavior

    With strict confinement during the 10-day period, any changes in behavior can be readily recorded and your dog is prevented from escaping or getting injured. An unusual personality change is the most consistent sign of rabies. This may include shy or unusually friendly behavior, sluggishness and excitability. As the disease progresses, dogs may develop voice changes, weakness, paralysis in the jaw and throat muscles along with difficulty eating or drinking. At the first signs of disease, the person bitten would receive immediate vaccination and the dog would be humanely destroyed for further testing.

    The Aftermath

    If your dog doesn't show any signs of the disease by the end of the 10 days, then it's safe to assume there's no risk to the bite victim. As much as the quarantine period sounds like a bummer, it ultimately keeps your dog alive. Without quarantine, there is no way to tell if your dog is infected other than by submitting brain tissue for testing, which would require your dog to be put down. Thanks to the quarantine, your dog can survive and the bitten person won't require the expensive and unpleasant series of shots to prevent rabies unnecessarily.

    The Law

    Like it or not, the 10-day quarantine is mandatory. Failure to comply to quarantine requirements might turn out being a costly affair resulting in a fine costing anywhere in between $100 to $1,000. Additionally, depending on where you live, failure to comply with your dog's 10-day quarantine may lead to your personal "quarantine" consisting of a 60-day imprisonment. So play it safe and have your dog vaccinated against rabies; after all, it's the law.

    Photo Credits

    • Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Adrienne Farricelli has been a writer since 2005, serving as an editor, steward and writer for several online publications. She brings expertise in canine topics, previously working with the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification as a dog trainer from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Farricelli offers reward-based training and behavior consults at Rover's Ranch Home Boarding and Training.

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