Animal Rabies

©Daniel Stewart

The pathogenesis for animal rabies is much the same of human rabies-the virus entering the body through wounds or by direct contact with mucosal surfaces. Though the major burden of rabies is attributed to dog-mediated transmission (99% of all human rabies cases), transmission does occur through wildlife (e.g. bats, foxes, raccoons).

What are the clinical features of rabies in dogs? Dog rabies is characterized by changes to its normal behaviour, such as:

  • biting without any provocation
  • eating abnormal items such as sticks, nails, faeces, etc.
  • running for no apparent reason
  • a change in sound e.g. hoarse barking and growling or inability to make a sound
  • excessive salivation or foaming at the angles of the mouth – but not hydrophobia (fear of water).

It is estimated that at least 50 million dogs are vaccinated each year against rabies either in private practices or during national campaigns organized by ministries of health or agriculture. However, in many parts of Asia and Africa the vaccination coverage established in the dog population (30% to 50%) is not high enough to break the transmission cycle of the disease. Mass vaccination campaigns should achieve coverage of at least 70% of the canine population in order to see reductions in number of rabies cases.

More information on rabies