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Incubation Period Of Dog Rabies



Reviewed By: Dr. Joel Robertson

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Rabies is a deadly viral disease primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected animal.

In dogs, the incubation period of rabies refers to the time from exposure to the rabies virus until the onset of clinical symptoms.

This period can typically range from a few weeks to several months, but it can also vary significantly.

Factors influencing the length of the incubation period include the location of the virus entry and the viral load.

Understanding the incubation period of rabies in dogs is crucial as it helps in the timely identification and management of this fatal disease.

Incubation Period Of Dog Rabies

Incubation Period Of Dog Rabies

The incubation period of rabies in dogs ranges from a few weeks to several months, with an average duration of 2 to 3 months.

However, this period can be influenced by several factors including the amount of virus introduced, the location of the entry point in the body, and the individual dog’s immune response.

The incubation period has been known to be as short as a week or as long as a year. In rare cases, it can even extend beyond a year.

It’s important to note that during the incubation period, the dog is not infectious to others as the virus is not yet present in the saliva.

Once symptoms begin to appear, the disease progresses rapidly and is almost always fatal.

Therefore, if a dog is suspected to have been exposed to the rabies virus, it is crucial to consult with a vet immediately for appropriate intervention.

How Long Can a Dog Live With Rabies?

Incubation Period Of Dog Rabies

A dog will usually die within 7 to 10 days of showing the first signs of being rabid, though some may survive a bit longer.

Once a dog starts showing clinical signs of rabies, its condition typically deteriorates rapidly.

The incubation period, which is the time from exposure to the virus until the appearance of symptoms, can vary greatly.

It typically ranges from a few weeks to several months. But in rare cases, it can be as short as a few days or as long as a year.

Once clinical symptoms appear, rabies is virtually 100% fatal.

Therefore, if a dog is suspected of having rabies, it is critical to prevent any potential exposure to humans or other animals and seek immediate assistance from animal control or public health officials.

What Are The First Signs of Rabies In Dogs?

The first signs of rabies in dogs can be quite varied and may initially resemble symptoms of other illnesses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), early symptoms may include lethargy, fever, vomiting, and anorexia.

Behavioral Changes

Dogs may display drastic alterations in their behavior. This can range from becoming unusually aggressive to overly affectionate. You might also notice increased restlessness or anxiety.

Furious Rabies

In this form of disease, dogs become highly excitable and may indulge in strange behaviors. These include eating and chewing on non-food items like stones or earth.

Staggering Gait

Rabies can affect a dog’s coordination, resulting in difficulty walking. The dog may appear as if it’s staggering or stumbling.


Despite its name, hydrophobia is not a fear of water. Instead, it’s a difficulty or discomfort in swallowing that causes dogs to avoid drinking water.

Excessive Salivation

One of the most recognized signs of rabies is excessive salivation or foaming at the mouth. This is due to the dog’s inability to swallow saliva.

Heightened Sensitivity

Dogs with rabies may become exceptionally sensitive to light, sound, and touch.

How Is Rabies Diagnosed In Dogs

Rabies in dogs is diagnosed through a specific test known as the direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) test, which looks for the presence of rabies virus antigens in brain tissue.

This test is highly accurate and is considered the gold standard for diagnosing rabies.

However, it’s important to note that this test can only be performed post-mortem. This means the animal must be euthanized before the test can be conducted.

This is because the test requires brain tissue. That cannot be obtained from a living animal without causing severe harm or death.

In cases where a dog is suspected of having rabies but is still alive, the animal is typically quarantined and observed for signs of the disease. If the animal develops symptoms consistent with rabies, euthanasia, and testing are usually recommended.

It’s also worth noting that there is no blood test that can reliably diagnose rabies in a living animal. The DFA test remains the most reliable method for diagnosing rabies.

Are 10 Days Too Late For Rabies Vaccine?

No, it is not too late to get a rabies vaccine 10 days after potential exposure. There’s no definitive time limit for the administration of Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), which includes the rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin.

The rabies virus can incubate within the body for several weeks, months, or in rare cases, years before symptoms appear.

Once symptoms do appear, rabies is almost always fatal. Therefore, if there’s a possibility of exposure, it’s crucial to start the vaccination process as soon as possible, regardless of the time elapsed since the potential exposure.

However, if the animal that potentially exposed an individual to rabies is available for testing or observation, different rules may apply.

If the animal is healthy at the end of a 10-day observation period, then no rabies exposure occurred and the person bitten will not need rabies vaccination.

Remember, while delays in receiving the vaccine aren’t ideal, getting the vaccine late is infinitely better than not getting it at all if there’s been a potential exposure to rabies.

In Conclusion

The incubation period of rabies in dogs is not fixed and can range broadly from a week to several months. In some cases, it can last for even up to a year in rare cases.

This period represents the time from when a dog is bitten by a rabid animal to when it starts showing symptoms of the disease.

Factors influencing this timeline include the location of virus entry and the amount of virus introduced into the body.

Understanding this incubation period is vital as it informs decisions on post-exposure prophylaxis and guides public health responses to potential rabies exposures.

Please take the time and leave a comment below if this article helped you, or you have any additional questions.

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