Rabies is caused by a virus.
It is a zoonotic viral disease which means it can affect BOTH people and animals and is usually transmitted through a bite by an infected animal. It is almost always fatal both to animals and humans once symptoms have developed.
The incubation period of Rabies varies. The average length of time for clinical signs to appear is 4 weeks after infection and can be seen in three phases:
Phase One: Local irritation of the bite wound, mild changes in demeanour, behaviour and temperament. Pupils will be dilated and eye reflexes slow.
Phase Two: Aggression, lack of co-ordination, disorientation, seizures and fits, increased salivation and photophobia (intolerance to light).
Phase Three: Paralysis, excessive salivation, respiratory failure, coma and then death.
The UK is officially classified as free from Rabies but the disease persists in other parts of the world.
There is no treatment available for animals with Rabies and if it is suspected, the pet will be kept in isolation and DEFRA notified. They will then arrange for euthanasia and a post mortem.
To travel abroad with your pet it is mandatory that the requirements of the Pet Travel Scheme are adhered to. They include a Rabies vaccination (boostered regularly), a microchip and a valid pet passport.