Rabies is a deadly virus that is transmitted to humans from the saliva of infected animals, normally through a bite. Rabies is more prolific in certain parts of the world, and, although rare, cases continue to be reported in the United States. Once the victim becomes symptomatic, rabies is normally fatal.
The disease is most commonly spread in the United States by bats, but symptoms can occur in a variety of wild animals, including raccoons, dogs, cats and skunks. There is a risk of infection in family pets, and understanding the symptoms of rabies in an animal could prevent subsequent human or animal infection.
Strange behavior. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, which results in neurological symptoms as the infection progresses. Initially, this can include insomnia, anxiety and disorientation, followed by more serious behavioral symptoms. Animals that are behaving unusually (for example, a nocturnal animal seen during the day) may be showing the symptoms of rabies.
General malaise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the early symptoms of rabies tend to be non-specific and include lethargy, fever, vomiting and anorexia. The time taken for the early symptoms to be shown can vary considerably.
Foaming at mouth. The neurological nature of rabies leads to difficulty in swallowing. This couples with excessive salivation and causes the infected animal to foam at the mouth. In turn, the animal may suffer fear of water (or hydrophobia) as a result of the difficulty in swallowing.
Aggressive conduct. As the infection sets in, rabid animals are likely to experience more serious symptoms as a result of the worsening neurological damage. The infected animal may hallucinate, and highly aggressive conduct is common. Some infected animals will even self-mutilate.
Paralysis. Rabid animals will normally experience some form of partial paralysis. This can occur in multiple parts of the body, most commonly on the side of the body where the creature was bitten. Rabies causes acute encephalitis, irritation and swelling of the brain, as well as respiratory failure. As such, infected animals will very often have difficulty in breathing.