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Infections and the true risk of rabies from stray dogs

When you're working outside and see a stray dog approach, you are likely to freeze. If the animal didn't approach you in a friendly manner, there is a risk that it's nervous or planning to attack. While many stray dogs are family pets that have escaped and unlikely to cause harm, there is a risk that it is one in pain or infected with a dangerous disease.

When a dog contracts rabies or other illnesses, it begins to act oddly. Recognizing the signs of rabies is the first step to make sure you don't end up with the disease yourself.

How do dogs behave if they have rabies?

The symptoms of rabies are fairly extreme and obvious, making it relatively easy to identify, even in the early stages. Dogs that have contracted it are likely to be restless, aggressive and apprehensive.

Other symptoms of rabies include foaming at the mouth due to the paralysis of the jaw and throat muscles, disorientation and staggering. Near the end of the virus's progression, there is a loss of appetite, the potential for seizures and sudden death.

Rabies, interestingly, also has a symptom where victims are terrified of water. This is a late-stage symptom primarily caused by the inability to drink. The muscles spasm and make it difficult to swallow, leading to a fear of water. This is a particular reason for the disease's older nickname, hydrophobia.

What should you do if you're attacked by an animal with rabies?

It's of the utmost importance to seek medical attention immediately. The animal, if possible, should be quarantined to determine if it has rabies. If it does, it will likely be euthanized, since rabies is not curable in the majority of cases. In fact, it's said that rabies is 100 percent fatal, although there are a very few number of people who have survived rabies following infection.

Normally, it's advised to get a vaccine immediately following a bite. Why? It gives your immune system time to develop an immune response. If rabies spreads to the brain, it is fatal in 100 percent of cases, if you don't include the handful of people who have survived. In 2004, the first documented human to survive rabies was saved by a pediatrician in Milwaukee, suggesting that a drug-induced coma could be one way to save patients who suffer from this condition. Since the discovery of the technique, another 5 out of 41 patients have survived. As you can see, this technique is not guaranteed, and many question its validity. Regardless, the point is the same. Get a vaccine as soon as you come into contact with any animal bite.

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