How to Recognize & Avoid Rabid Animals in the Wild

Rabies should scare you. It can be debilitating and eventually cause death. And while thinking about rabies can often bring to mind an enraged animal foaming at the mouth, it’s much more than that.

Two angry, black dogs barking

Rabies is less of a risk today then it was years ago. With modern medicine, you and your pets can be vaccinated against the disease. Also, through learning about rabies, observing animal behavior, and looking for characteristics of the disease, you’ll be better able to identify a rabid animal and safeguard your health.

Read on to learn more about this disease!

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a highly-transmissible virus affecting the nervous system of warm-blooded animals. Transmission occurs when the saliva of an infected animal is introduced into an opening in the skin, usually through a bite. Transmission, though rare, may also occur through a scratch from a rabid animal. If left untreated, the rabies virus will travel along nerve cells to the brain and eventually cause death. But don’t fear! The key to fighting the virus is to act quick.

How to Identify Rabies

So now that you know what it is, let’s talk about how to identify it. While most of us assume that an animal with rabies will foam at the mouth, that is not the usually the case. The most typical signs of rabies are unexplained paralysis and a change in behavior. A friendly animal or pet may suddenly turn aggressive, or a normally aggressive animal may become friendly and playful.

Other clinical signs that may or may not exist in an animal with rabies include change in diet, difficulty swallowing, seizures and twitches, and hypersensitivities to touch and sound.

And beware:

You are more likely to be exposed to rabies by a pet than by wildlife you encounter. Although wildlife accounts for more cases of documented rabies, your pet may be exposed to rabid wildlife and then bring the disease into your home. Other animals that can commonly get rabies include stray dogs, bats, raccoons, skunks, possums, and squirrels.

How to Avoid Rabies

There are many ways to avoid potential contact with rabies, including the following:

  • Be careful of rural or developing areas, especially when these areas include high contact between humans and animals.
  • Avoid approaching and/or handling strange animals.
  • Do not feed wildlife.
  • Report bites to the proper officials (Animal Control, game warden, park ranger, or the local health department).
  • Teach children how to correctly behave around animals to avoid being bitten.
  • Get vaccinated! Vaccines today are very effective for you and your pets.

What to Do If You Have Been Bitten

Symptoms of rabies typically do not appear for an average of 30 to 50 days, but can appear much sooner. An infected person may develop a fever, sore throat, stiff muscles, tiredness, nausea, and irritation at the site of the bite. As the disease progresses, you may experience severe throat spasms and paralysis of the body.

If you are bitten or have been scratched, immediately wash the wound with soap and warm water, and iodine if available. Then seek medical attention and inform them of the situation. The doctor will most likely prescribe a rabies PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis), which consists of 4 vaccinations over a month period.

With preventative action and quick response after exposure, you and your loved ones should be safe from any harm.

Read more blog posts from Prepper’s Base for advice on surviving in the wild.