Dogs As Pathogen Carriers Of The Rabies Virus Biology Essay

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Pathogens are disease causing agents and they are responsible for majority of diseases experienced by humans. The body's immune system plays the role of fighting pathogens in order to ensure that humans are healthy. However, in some cases the immune system may be weak and may be unable to fight pathogens, leading to disease. In such cases, drugs and other forms of therapy are used to strengthen the immune system and fight the pathogens. Bacteria, viruses and fungi are some of the most common pathogens. Pathogens may be transmitted to humans through contact with animals which harbor such pathogens. Dogs and cats are some of the most common pets and they have the ability to spread disease to humans through contact.

One such disease which can be spread to humans by dogs is rabies. Rabies is a viral infection which affects the brain of animals which have the virus, and can be transmitted to humans through bites by infected animals. Over 95% of reported cases of rabies in humans are traced to bites by dogs, which makes it an important disease to study. If untreated, the disease usually leads to coma and then death, which makes it a serious disease. This paper will analyze rabies in more detail in order to understand how it is acquired, transmitted and prevented. Since many people have dogs as pets, this information will be very informative and it will reveal how pet owners may prevent their dogs from transmitting rabies. The discussed issues will be summarized at the end.


Rabies is a disease caused by a virus and it usually affects the brain of humans and animals that are infected. The disease kills over 50,000 people worldwide each year. It is caused by Lyssaviruses virus and once the virus is in the human body, it travels along a neural path to the nervous system (Alan & William 290-293). It causes salivary glands to increase the rate of salivation which facilitates transmission of the virus. It is a potentially fatal disease if treatment is not administered and it is mostly spread by bite wounds. In humans, the disease has an incubation period of months and it affects peripheral nerves once a human being is infected. If untreated, the infection targets the nervous system and causes fatality within days, usually through respiratory failure. It causes symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, cerebral dysfunction, partial paralysis, paranoia, abnormal behavior, hallucinations and terror which progresses to delirium (Drew 597-600). As earlier stated, the disease is usually fatal if untreated in a week. This has reduced the annual fatalities attributed to the disease from a hundred to only about two annually.

Prevention of rabies

The rabies vaccine is one of the most effective vaccines which can be used to prevent rabies. It was developed by Louis Pasteur in 1885 and he used infected rabbits to develop the vaccine. He used a weakened virus to develop this vaccine and it is still in use in the modern age. There is another vaccine which is similarly used to prevent rabies and this is the purified chicken embryo vaccine. This vaccine is much cheaper and equally effective in preventing rabies. In the United States, pets and other domestic animals are usually vaccinated against rabies and this has proved to be a very effective way of preventing the spread of the disease.

Treatment of rabies

Rabies is usually treated immediately it is reported and this is known as post-exposure prophylaxis (Campbell & Charlton 48-50). This treatment should commence less than ten days after a victim has been bitten. However, it is also important to note that a thorough wash of the bite wound immediately, with water and soap can greatly reduce the risk of contracting rabies. Antiseptics such as iodine tincture, povidone iodine, alcohol and aqueous iodine solution are also effective in preventing infection. Generally treatment is administered using four rabies vaccine doses and one human rabies immunoglobulin dose within a two week period. It is similarly important to note that precautionary vaccines should be given when it is suspected that one has been bitten by an animal (Minagar & Steven 27-34). In case there is a significant delay before treatment commences, a victim may have to lose a limb in order to control the spread of the rabies virus.

Role of dogs in human lives

Dogs are one of the most common animals which interact with human beings globally. Dogs serve many important roles in human lives and this has enabled them to be very popular with human beings. Dogs are also kept as pets by many families and the play unique roles in such settings. The role played dogs in human lives will be briefly addressed in this section of the paper;

Dogs have been used by law enforcers for a long period of time. The police, anti-drugs units, terrorism police units and other use dogs for a variety of roles. These include drug detection, ammunition detection, detecting bombs, fighting crime, controlling crowds among other roles (Coppinger 352-354). Dogs have proved to be very effective in undertaking such roles and this is the reason almost all countries of the world have incorporated dog units in fighting crime. Another important role played by dogs is helping the physically disabled. Guide dogs help the blind and other disabled people to undertake their day to day activities with less difficulty. This is another important role played by dogs. Dogs have also been used for hunting and helping herders control their cattle. This role has been performed for many generations and it is particularly common in traditional societies.

Finally, dogs are kept by many people as pets, and this is the role which the paper will mainly focus on. Dogs are kept as pets in order to serve many functions to families. Some provide security within the home while others keep lonely people company. Many pets serve a psychological role to their keepers and dogs have been known to help avert or control stress and depression since many owners release tension through communication with pets (Gould 67-74). Dogs are a part of many families and they are treated as beings which have feelings especially in developing countries. People play with them and interact with them very frequently and it is therefore important to ensure that they are healthy and that they do not transmit any infections to humans. The next section of the paper will illustrate how pets such as dogs may transmit infections to humans and their repercussions.

How pets may transmit infections to humans

Pets can easily transmit infections to humans due to the frequent interaction between humans and their pets. Pets such as dogs may carry certain germs which when passed to humans may cause disease and even eventual death if not treated. There are many infections which dogs may transmit to humans and these range from parasites such as ticks and fleas to diseases such as leptospirosis and rabies (Miklosi 56-62). These parasites suck blood from humans and they usually irritate the skin. However, the diseases are more severe and they affect the internal organs and nervous system in humans respectively. Leptospirosis and rabies are potentially fatal if untreated.

Parasites such as ticks and fleas are usually spread to humans through contact with infected dogs or animals. They usually attach themselves to human skin and such blood for survival. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection spread when humans have contact with soil, water or food which is infected by the bacteria. Rabies has been discussed in detail and it is spread through bites from an infected animal. Since both these diseases are potentially fatal, it is important to take adequate steps to prevent the transmission of germs or parasites from dogs to humans. However, it is important to note that stray animals are more likely to transmit infections to humans compared to pets, and this will be discussed in more detail below;

Stray animals, pets and disease

Stray animals are those which have not been domesticated and are not under the care of human beings. Such animals live in uncontrolled environments which exposes them to many threats. Strays animals have higher chances of transmitting infections to humans due to the nature of the environment where they live. Stray dogs in particular have very high chances of transmitting rabies due to exposure to other wild animals which are carriers of the rabies-causing organisms. There are many other animals which carry the rabies virus and stray dogs are exposed to these animals. Once they are bitten, stray dogs are not normally treated and this leads to higher levels of the virus being in the stray dogs' bodies, further increasing the probability of biting and infecting human beings (Taylor et. al. 463-465).

Although pets may also transmit rabies to human beings, the possibility of doing so is reduced significantly due to many factors. The first factor is that pets live within a controlled environment and they do not have significant contact with wild animals which may spread the virus to them. This leaves very little chances of developing rabies from contact with other domesticated animals. The second reason that pets are unlikely to spread rabies as compared to stray animals is that pets are likely to receive medical care when they begin showing symptoms of rabies. Such symptoms as aggression, salivation and others are noticeable to owners and quick medical help may prevent the spread of the virus to humans (Mark 55-57). These are some of the reasons why rabies is more likely to be transmitted to humans by stray animals compared to pets.

How to protect pets from rabies

It is important to protect pets from rabies since rabies has been seen to have adverse effects to both humans and animals alike. Rabies may cause fatality in both infected animals and humans and it is important to protect our pets, especially dogs, from this deadly virus. There are various steps which people who keep dogs as pets should take in order to reduce the chances of their pets developing rabies. The first step is to ensure that pets have access to regular medical checkups. This should be done regardless of whether the pet is showing symptoms of a disease or not (Serpell 77-82). Regular checkups may reveal the presence of an infection such as rabies in pets before they even begin exhibiting the symptoms. This prevents such infections from being transmitted to adults. Vaccination against rabies should be part of the check up and this is very effective in preventing cases of rabies among dogs.

The second step which pet owners should take is restriction of movement of pets to safe environments. Pets should be restricted and should not be allowed to live or move to places which may be unsafe for them (Newby 83-89). They should not be allowed out of the pet owner's home environment without supervision. This reduces the risk of the pet coming into contact with parasites or diseases such as rabies from other animals or environments. Pets should not be allowed to come into contact with stray animals since as has been discussed, stray animals have high probabilities of being infected with parasites or diseases such as rabies. The third step which people who own pets should take is careful monitoring of pets to ensure that strange or unusual behaviors are investigated especially with regard to diseases such as rabies. Children who play with pets such as dogs should be educated on the signs to look out for when playing with their pets in order to discover any traits which may be symptoms of a disease such as rabies. Knowledge of rabies symptoms will lead to early treatment of pets and this will not only save the life of the pet, but it will also prevent the infection from being transmitted to human beings who come into contact with the pet.

Summary and conclusion

Rabies has been discussed in detail in the paper. It has been seen that rabies is a viral infection which is passed to human beings through animal bites. Rabies attacks the nervous system and is potentially lethal if untreated. Dogs have been seen to be the main transmitters of this virus to humans, especially when they are kept as pets. Stray animals such as dogs have higher chances of transmitting rabies than pets since they are more exposed to the virus. Rabies is treated through post-exposure prophylaxis and it can be prevented through regular vaccines to animals. The role which dogs play on human lives has also been discussed and these have included offering security, helping the disabled, detecting illegal substances, easing stress and offering emotional security among others.

Although pets are rarely exposed to rabies, they can still develop rabies virus if they come into contact with an infected animal. In order to prevent such incidents from occurring, there are various steps which pet owners should take. These steps include sharing knowledge on various symptoms of rabies with people who play with pets especially children, restricting movement of pets to safe environments and regular medical checkups for pets even when they appear healthy. This will ensure that pets are safe from infected animals, and even when infected, this is detected and treated early before the disease develops to an advanced stage. This will protect the life of both the pet owner and his or her pet.