Rabies is a viral infectious desease, which may be contracted by both dogs and humans. Infection in dogs invariably takes a fatal course.
About two to eight weeks after the infection, the first symptoms appear. The typical course of the disease consists of two phases. The first phase ("furious anger") is at the beginning above all characterized by behavior modifications. The animal increasingly presents itself aggressive and nervous, possibly becomes snappish. It barks without apparent reason and shows an increased sexual instinct. In later stages, above all paralytic symptoms set in which cause the following symptoms: The animal shows problems when swallowing which is manifested in strong salivating or foam formation before the mouth, it lies around (in case of paralysis of the rear extremities), it leaves its tongue hang out of the mouth or barks hoarsely. In the second phase ("silent anger") which possibly develops already directly in the beginning of the disease, the paralysis and the symptoms associated with it (excluding the behavior symptoms) are present. Additionally, courses deviating from this scheme have been observed which equal those of gastrointestinal inflammations.
Usually, domestic animals (especially dogs and cats) contract in case of contact with rabid wild animals (above all foxes). The transfer is made by spittle of the infected animal whereas the real droplet infection is rather rare. The transfer is rather caused by the contact of the spittle with open skin lesions of the pet, as is the case with bites. The disease can be transferred to human beings. In industrialized countries, rabies can be found above all with wild animals, whereas in developing countries the dog is primary carrier of the rabies virus. Veterinary medicine measures since the 1980ies resulted in a considerable reduction of rabies in Germany. Individual cases of rabies, however, appeared occasionally during the last years. Austria (nearly eradicated since 1990) and Switzerland (since 1999) are considered to be free from rabies.
There are still no therapeutic measures which will grant a healing of the disease. Some experimental measures have been tried, but have never been successful.
If you or your dog get in contact with a rabid animal, please immediately consult a physician or a veterinary hospital and when dealing with the animal pay attention that you will not be bitten. The disease shall be considered an emergency since possibly danger to life emanates from it. Bear in mind that your animal when it became infected does not behave as you are used to. Against rabies vaccination can and shall be administered. Rabies prophylaxis is compulsory and shall be refreshed regularly; the vaccination in Germany, however, does not need to be made annually any longer.