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Rabies in animals
Animals with rabies may act differently than healthy animals.  Wild animals may move slowly or act tame. Also, some wild animals, like foxes, raccoons, and skunks, that normally avoid porcupines, may receive a face full of quills if they become rabid and try to bite these prickly rodents. A pet that is usually friendly may snap at you and try to bite.

There are two common types of rabies. One type is "furious" rabies. Animals with this type are hostile, may bite at objects, and have an increase in saliva. In the movies and in books, rabid animals foam at the mouth. In real life, rabid animals look like they have foam in their mouth because they have more saliva.

The second and more common form is known as paralytic or "dumb" rabies. The dog pictured below has this type. An animal with "dumb" rabies is timid and shy. It often rejects food and has paralysis of the lower jaw and muscles.

dog with rabies

Signs of rabies in animals include:

  • changes in an animal’s behavior
  • general sickness
  • problems swallowing
  • an increase in drool or saliva
  • wild animals that appear abnormally tame or sick
  • animals that may bite at everything if excited
  • difficulty moving or paralysis
  • death

Animals in the early stage of rabies may not have any signs, although they can still infect you if they bite you. The incubation period is the time from the animal bite to when signs appear. In rabies, it is usually 1-3 months. But it can last as long as several years. Once the virus reaches the brain or spinal cord, signs of the disease appear.

Rabies in humans
In humans, signs and symptoms usually occur 30-90 days after the bite. Once people develop symptoms, they almost always die.  This is why it is very important to tell an adult and go to your doctor right away if you have been bitten by an animal that might be rabid.

Early symptoms of rabies include fever, headache, sore throat, and feeling tired. As the virus gets to the brain, the person may act nervous, confused, and upset.

Other symptoms of rabies in humans include:

  • pain or tingling at the site of the bite
  • hallucinations (for example, seeing things that are not really there)
  • hydrophobia ("fear of water" due to spasms in the throat)
  • paralysis (unable to move parts of the body)

As the disease advances, the person enters into a coma and dies.

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Viral and Rickettsial Zoonoses Branch (VRZB)
Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases (DVRD)
National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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This page last reviewed February 6, 2003

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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