What is Rabies?

Rabies is a virus of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) that can affect any mammal.  Rabies is widespread throughout Pennsylvania.

What are the signs of Rabies?

Rabies signs are grouped into two forms known as either the “Furious” form of rabies or the “Paralytic” (or “Dumb” form). An animal may show signs of only one type or progress from one form to the other. Some animals will show no signs of rabies other than death.

The “Furious” form of rabies is more familiar to most people. Signs may include: aggression, loss of fear, daytime activity by nocturnal species, attraction to noise and human activity, excess vocalization, dilated pupils, difficulty swallowing, loss of appetite, restlessness, and/or biting at objects and other animals. Animals may or may not drool.

The “Paralytic” form of rabies may include symptoms such as: decreased activity, incoordination, hind limb weakness, acting “dull.” Cats may meow excessively. As the disease progresses, the animal may drop its lower jaw, drool, be unable to swallow, become paralyzed and finally die.

Note: It is important to realize that not all animals show every sign. Most neurological or behavioral abnormalities could potentially be rabies.

Incubation Period

This is the period of time from the exposure to rabies virus until the animal finally becomes sick and/or acts differently and is capable of infecting other animals or people. The incubation period can be as short as two weeks or in very rare cases as long as one year. During the incubation period, the animal cannot transmit rabies and its behavior remains normal. During the incubation period, there may be time for the Rabies vaccine to prevent the animal from developing disease and prevent it from shedding or transmitting virus.

CAUTION: mammals may have virus in their saliva and be able to transmit virus a short period of time before clinical signs start.


Contact your PA Department of Agriculture Regional Office for questions about domestic animals.

Contact your regional PA Game Commission office for questions about wildlife at http://www.pgc.state.pa.us/

Contact the PA Department of Health for questions concerning people at 1-877-PAHEALTH