If a Puppy Bites You Can You Get Rabies?

by Brian McCracken
    In many cases, those infected with rabies develop hydrophobia, a fear of water.

    In many cases, those infected with rabies develop hydrophobia, a fear of water.

    Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Rabies is a preventable, but serious disease. In October of 2013, a family in Vermont adopted a puppy from the shelter who had somehow contracted rabies, according to news site WCAX. Everyone in contact with the puppy had to go through a treatment that involved getting multiple shots over a period of 14 days. You can get rabies from an infected puppy, but only if he has begun showing signs of infection and hasn't been vaccinated. If you get bitten by a pet or any animal, call your doctor and vet immediately.

    Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system of any infected mammal, including dogs, cats and humans. Rabies has no cure, and animals who begin to show signs of infection typically die within five days. The only way to test for rabies is to examine the brain of a deceased animal. Rabies can't be tested for in animals who are still alive. Most states have laws mandating vaccinations for both cats and dogs.

    An animal infected with rabies may exhibit changes in behavior initially, appearing more friendly, aggressive or anxious than usual. As the condition worsens, animals may become extremely sensitive to light and sound. They may have seizures or become savage. They can lose coordination, bump into things, snap randomly at moving objects, other animals or humans. Sometimes they lick and bite excessively at the place where they were bitten. They may begin eating strange things and hiding in dark places. During the final stage, they may run a fever and suffer paralysis of the nerves in their head and throat. Eventually, the infected animals go into respiratory failure and die.

    Rabies can infect any warm blooded mammal, but animals can only spread the virus once they start exhibiting the signs of rabies. Also, if your puppy is 12 weeks or older when you adopt him, he must be vaccinated. If he has been vaccinated, then he shouldn't carry the virus. The virus spreads primarily through saliva, most commonly through bites inflicted by an infected animal. It can spread whenever infected saliva contacts a mucous membrane or open wound. The risk is higher if your pet has contact with wild animals, especially bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes. It is most prevalent on the East Coast, from Florida to Maine.

    Learn your state's laws around rabies and its regulations on vaccination. Most states require that pets be given their first vaccination when they are 12 weeks old, again a year later and then every three years from then on. If your pet bites another domestic animal or person, report it to your vet right away. Most states require vets to report bits to the local health department and provide proof of your pet's vaccination. If your pet gets bitten by an unknown or wild animal, consult your vet immediately. He may suggest a rabies booster.

    Photo Credits

    • Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Brian McCracken lives in Portland, Ore., where he writes on pets and animal wildlife as well as a wide array of other topics, ranging from real estate to personal development.

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