Rabies is probably one of the best known and deadliest zoonotic diseases in the world. It has been around for thousands of years and strikes fear in people everywhere.


During the period of cerebral infection, the classic behavioral changes associated with rabies develop. Rabid animals of all species exhibit signs typical of central nervous system disturbance.

The clinical course, particularly in dogs, can be divided into three phases: the prodromal, the excitative, and the paralytic. The term furious rabies refers to cases in which the excitative phase is predominant. Dumb or paralytic rabies refers to cases in which the excitative phase is short or absent. The disease progresses quickly to the paralytic phase, characterized by flaccid paralysis that leads to eventual death due to respiratory and/or cardiac failure.

In any animal, the first clinical signs of rabies are seen in the prodromal stage. These signs can include a change in behavior, which may be indistinguishable from a variety of other disorders, such as gastrointestinal disorder, injury, a foreign body in the mouth, poisoning, or an early infectious disease. Body temperature change is not significant, and slobbering may or may not be noted. Animals usually stop eating and drinking and may seek solitude. Frequently, the urogenital tract is irritated or stimulated, resulting in frequent urination, erection in the male, and signs of increased sexual desire.

After the prodromal period of 2 to 4 days, animals either become vicious or show signs of paralysis. Carnivores, pigs, and occasionally horses and mules bite other animals or people at the slightest provocation. Cattle may butt any moving object. Rabid domestic cats and bobcats attack suddenly, biting and scratching viciously. Rabid foxes frequently invade yards or even houses, attacking dogs and people. Rabid foxes and skunks are responsible for most pasture cattle losses from rabies and have even attacked cattle in barns.

A rabid raccoon is characterized by a loss of fear of humans, frequent aggression and incoordination, and abnormal activity during the day (raccoons are predominantly nocturnal animals). In urban areas, rabid skunks and raccoons often attack domestic dogs. Skunks are the leading reservoir of rabies in large areas of the United States. Bats flying in daytime are probably rabid.

The disease progresses rapidly after the onset of paralysis, and death is virtually certain within 10 days of the first clinical signs.

Oct 1, 2016 | Posted by in EXOTIC, WILD, ZOO | Comments Off on RABIES

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