Dog bites are painful injuries, and the possibility of contracting infectious diseases from bites is equally worrisome. Most domesticated dogs receive shots to prevent rabies infections, however, bites from feral or unvaccinated dogs can cause rabies in humans. Rabies is an extremely dangerous medical condition requiring immediate treatment. Anyone who suffers a dog bite injury needs to know the warning signs of a rabies infection.

The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system and can pass to humans from dogs through bites or scratches. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that almost 59,000 people worldwide die every year from rabies infections, and 99% of those infections happen from dog bites. There are only two or three rabies deaths each year in the United States, largely due to easy access to vaccines. Rabies is easily curable with prompt care.

Early Warning Signs of Rabies

After suffering any type of animal bite, the victim should assess whether the biting animal was a rabies risk. Humans can contract rabies from bites from dogs, cats, raccoons, bats, rabbits, skunks, and other mammals. It’s best to err on the side of caution and see a doctor as soon as possible in any scenario involving an animal bite. There is no diagnostic test that doctors might perform to detect a rabies infection aside from identifying symptoms. Immediate care is therefore essential. If a rabies infection progresses past the initial symptoms, it is almost always fatal.

An early onset of rabies in humans starts with flu-like symptoms including aching joints, weakness, and fever. The injury site may also tingle or burn. The rabies virus also causes inflammation of the brain. The longer an infection goes untreated, the worse the damage will be. If the infected individual does not seek treatment in time, the rabies virus will develop into one of two possible forms:

  • Furious rabies. This condition is likely to be the source of the common image of an aggressive animal frothing from the mouth. A human infected with furious rabies will start displaying agitation, confusion, anxiety, insomnia, excess perspiration, excess salivation, and hallucinations. A rabies-infected person will also display hyperactivity and erratic behaviors.
  • Paralytic rabies. This form of rabies applies to about 30% of all rabies infections, according to WHO data. A paralytic rabies infection will paralyze the victim, eventually causing him or her to slip into a coma and then die.

It’s wise to have the animal tested for rabies (if possible) and see your doctor for a vaccine if any animal bites you. Vaccinating as soon as possible after a bite from a rabies-infected animal will prevent the disease from developing. If you or someone you know contracts rabies from a dog bite and can identify the owner, the dog’s owner will more than likely be liable for the damages so speak with a West Virginia dog bite lawyer as soon as possible. Dog owners must promptly vaccinate their animals. Any dog owner who allows a rabies-infected dog to go untreated is grossly negligent.

Aside from vaccination, one of the best methods for preventing rabies infections is proper dog training. A dog that recognizes its owner as the alpha is far less likely to bite, even during play. Should a dog contract rabies, aberrant behavior will be more apparent. This will help dog owners quickly identify changes in their dogs’ behaviors and seek treatment as quickly as possible.