dog biting a man's hand

Rabies in pets

Med. vet. Fulya Şafak

For centuries rabies were one of the most feared diseases. However, it still  causes an average of 59,000 deaths a year in the world. With this article, you will learn more about Rabies disease.


Rabies is an infectious and destructive viral disease (Lyssa-virus) affecting mammals, including dogs, cats, and humans. Approximately 98% of rabies cases are “canine rabies” which is transmitted from dogs to humans. Regular vaccination of dogs and cats is therefore mandatory in many countries (1).


Rabies virus is carried in the saliva of the sick animal. The disease is often transmitted by a bite, and to a lesser extent by contamination of the open wound.

Mann, gebissen von einem Hund (12. Jahrhundert)
Man, bitten by a dog

There are 3 stages of the disease but not all of the infected animals show all three symptom stages.

In the first stage, general symptoms may be observed which are not very specific. These are:

  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Fear
  • Variable temperament

In the second phase (aggression) of the disease, other symptoms may start. These symptoms are:

  • Anger and tendency to bite
  • Biting or licking the wound area
  • Overreaction to light
  • Inability to swallow and consequently overflow of saliva
  • Change in barking or meowing sound
  • Inability to recognize the environment
  • Muscle cramps

In the third phase of the disease, neurological symptoms occur. These are:

  • Imbalance
  • Paralysis in the whole body
  • Coma

Death takes shape after the last stage (stumme wut).

Risk factors

  • All warm-blooded animals can develop rabies.
  • Pets that have not been vaccinated or that have an insufficient vaccination.
  • Pets that are in contact with animals at high risk of rabies in wildlife (skunk, bat, fox, etc.).
  • Animals that have not been vaccinated or have been bitten by living beings at risk of rabies.

Did you know?
Rabies can be transmitted by air to animals and humans entering the bat lair (2).


There is no treatment for rabies disease.
If rabies is suspected in any animal with inadequate vaccination with neurological symptoms, quarantine and euthanasia measures are taken.


Although rabies is very rare in Germany, each animal is required to receive a rabies vaccination. Vaccination is the only effective and protective method against rabies.
You should visit your veterinarian regularly and keep your pet’s vaccine up to date by using Petleo Vaccination planner.
When transporting animals from a country where rabies is existing to Germany, make sure that the dog or cat’s vaccines are complete and sufficient.


Remember, rabies is a deadly disease for both animals and humans. The most common transmission occurs from dogs and cats through humans. The only preventive method against Rabies is a vaccination.





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