Mad dogs are encountered in all countries and during all seasons. In the United States hydrophobia, or rabies, is present in all sections, and in one year 111 people died as the result of the bite of rabid dogs.
This may not seem a large number of deaths compared to the toll taken by other diseases, but when one considers the horror of the form of death that hydrophobia takes, the indescribable suffering the patient goes through, and the fact that all such deaths are preventable, the need of vigilance and increased activity in preventive measures is seen.
Once the disease is established, recovery, so far as I know, is unheard of. Prevention, therefore, is the gospel of the disease.
In prevention the first thing to do is to be able to recognize the disease in the dog. Two forms occur: the furious and the dumb rabies.
In the “furious” form the first stage is a change in the dog’s disposition. It will become slinking and dejected, startled at slight noises. A change in appetite occurs, and the animal will eat all sorts of truck such as stones, sticks, hair, leather, etc. This is followed by the stage of excitement. The dog becomes maniacal, runs away from home, running aimlessly over the country, snapping and biting at people and dogs. If it returns home it is exhausted and covered with wounds received in fights with other dogs. The third stage is that of paralysis.
In “dumb” rabies the paralytic stage is reached early. The dog’s mouth is especially paralyzed; it slobbers and gags. It cannot drink or swallow, from which the name “hydrophobia” (hatred of water) comes.
Particularly dangerous is the possibility that the owner of such a dog will think that the symptoms are due to a “bone stuck in the throat.” Attempts to dislodge this supposed bone result in abrasions of the skin of the hand and consequent infection with the dog’s saliva.
The saliva contains the infectious agent, the virus which has an especial affinity for the central nervous system, producing convulsions and paralysis.
Prevention is accomplished by the use of anti-rabic vaccine invented by Pasteur.
In the presence of definite symptoms of rabies in a dog, the anti-rabic treatment should be given at once to the person bitten. In case of suspicion of rabies in a dog, it is best to commence the anti-rabic treatment of the patient and isolate the animal for observation for a period of 10 days.
Rabies treatment should be given in all cases when the dog cannot be found following the biting of a person.
When a person has not been bitten but the hands or face have been licked by a dog that subsequently develops rabies, it is necessary to ascertain (a) whether there were abrasions or scratches on the skin at the time, or (b) whether such injuries occurred afterwards but before the saliva was removed by washing. In the positive findings, it is advisable to administer the anti-rabic treatment.