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Getting stiff muscle with fever after a dog bite. Is it rabies?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2009
Answered : 9400 Questions
Hi, A few months ago I was volunteering at the shelter. One of the dogs was really excited as I was getting her out of her kennel. I was carying plastic bags and dropped them on the ground trying to get her on her leash. Went to pick them up and she got excited and grabbed onto my ankle with her mouth. There was just a minor disruption in the top layer of skin on my ankle bone, so I didn't make a big deal over it. No bleeding. The dog was alive at least 8 days later, maybe as much as two weeks, but was put down. I believe it was due to lack of space. A few days ago I started feeling like my muscles in my ankle were tight and an on and off pins and needles feeling in my ankle. I'm not feeling that right now. The pins and needle feeling went away when I elevated my foot. Last night, I took my temperature, it was 100.2. Took it again right away and it was about 99.6. Digital thermometer. I have been vomiting, but do that when I'm under stress. I have been under a lot of stress and had a month long bout of throwing up in the morning in July and August. This morning I felt a slight pain in my calf when I crossed my legs. My temperature was 97.6 degrees this morning. I took some motrin last night around 5 pm, because I thought the feeling may be due to some inflammation. It is now 6 am. I have also been coughing quite a bit for over a month now. I'm asthmatic and this is ragweed season. I have rabies on my mind because, a week ago someone saw what they thought was a bat flying into my chimney. It turned out be birds after a wild life inspection. I also have some thing else that has been stressing me out for 2 months. No flu symptoms. My question is this, if it is rabies, how does this progress. Would I bee feeling increase muscle weakness? Does the tingling feeling go away? Would my fever be constant? Do I need to go to the ER? I would have thought that in eight days or more, someone would have seen sign of rabies in a dog. But wonder if it was just early in the disease or someone pushed it under the carpet. The reason I'm saying 8 days or more is because, I worked on sunday and she was put down on a Monday. I'm thinking she was alive 16 days later. I remember thinking if she was still alive that far, I would be fine. I haven't been back to the shelter since I was bit because it wasn't working out with my kid's schedule.
Posted Fri, 25 Oct 2013 in Infections
Answered by Dr. Shoaib Khan 54 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Visit the ER; answer to other queries below

Detailed Answer:
Hello ma'am and welcome.

Thank you for writing in.

To start off with, I would like to say that, out of all the symptoms you have been experiencing, only fever matches that of rabies. For your reference I shall list the other more common symptoms as well: anxiety, irritation, confusion, difficulty swallowing, increased salivation, difficulty sleeping, fear of water, difficulty in moving parts of the body, etc.

Now coming to your queries; progression of rabies is quite straight forward. In majority of cases, rabies does not cause any symptoms till the end (i.e. if a person is infected with rabies he/she will exhibit symptoms only a few days before death).

Muscle weakness would actually have nothing to do with rabies, and might simply be due to the fact that you have not cared for the wound, or even due to physical stress, dehydration, etc. The tingling feeling is again not related to rabies, and could be due to various other factors like a vitamin deficiency, etc.

Fever is mostly constant with rabies and is usually present through all the last days before death. I would still recommend a visit to the ER just to make sure this is not rabies. There is a chance that someone did suspect rabies in the dog and thus put it down, but we cannot assume this and will have to thus get you checked.

You could also try visiting the shelter or calling them up to get answers on why exactly the dog was put down; this might also help.

But for now, please do schedule a visit to the ER, as rabies is known to have a 100 % fatality rate. Not that I am trying to scare you, but I only wish for your best and would like you to understand the seriousness of the situation. Please feel free to write back to me for any further clarifications. I hope this is nothing serious.

Wishing you lots of luck ma'am.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Getting stiff muscle with fever after a dog bite. Is it rabies? 12 hours later
I had posted on facebook the day I volunteered at the shelter. It was only one day, I was there. I also looked up the date she was put down. I was greatly mistaken on the time in between. She was still alive 5 weeks later. Talked to my vet when I took my cat in today for an appointment. He said that if she was still alive 5 weeks later, the chances are zero. Also talked to one of the volunteers. She was put down due to lack of space. Did go to the ER, before I discovered this. The ER doc diagnosed me with tendonitis. My daughters teacher reported diahrea in her today. I think we are experiencing a bout of some stomach virus. I also talked to vet and he said you can still get rabies with a small disruption of the skin. I won't make that mistake again in assuming it's not a risk. From what I understand, though, he has never seen a case of rabies in a dog or cat in our area. The shelter has also said similar things. I believe that there hasn't been an instance in about 8 years.
Answered by Dr. Shoaib Khan 9 hours later
Brief Answer:
Great to know you are safe

Detailed Answer:
Hello once again.

Well that is a great relief to know that the dog was alive for the next 5 weeks at least, this is proof enough that the dog was not infected with rabies and thus, you are safe. This is great news.

From here on, as you know yhe seriousness of the condition, you could choose to get the rabies pre-exposure vaccine regimen, in case you choose to handle dogs or other animals. This will keep you protected.

I hope your doctor is addressing the stomach flu, and that you will be fine soon. Wishing you and your family the best in life, and nothing less. Do write back to me for any further clarifications or information, I would be more than happy to help you.

Best wishes.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Getting stiff muscle with fever after a dog bite. Is it rabies? 47 minutes later
Thank You,
Yeah it's been a stressful week or so. About a week and a half ago, my neighbor told us that she saw a bat fly in our chimney. It was at dusk. We called out a wildlife inspector to inspect it and it was just birds. He checked the whole house for bats. Before that, I was out at dusk watching for bats. Luckily only something flew in and nothing flew out. Which is typical of this bird to roost at night. From what I understand the type of bird resembles a bat and it would be easy to mistake them for each other. Shortly after that I started having these symptoms and the dog bite instance was brought into mind. Anyway, we had them cap of our chimney, so nothing could get in there. I better stop, because now I'm thinking illogical what ifs. I really just need to clear my mind. I can't freak out every time I get sick.
Anyway, the dog that sort of bit me had behavior quirks the entire three months she was there and quite excitable. She was adopted twice and brought back. She needed training, that her original owner didn't give her. Please don't think poorly of the shelter. They would never adopt out a dog that they thought was aggressive.
Answered by Dr. Shoaib Khan 31 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Best to initiate anti-rabies therapy

Detailed Answer:
Hello XXXX.

I would never think ill or poorly of the shelter, I am sure these animals were all as harmless as a fly. All they needed was some training, it is sad to know that many of them had to be put down due to lack of space or because they could not find a good home.

XXXX, medical protocol calls for a visit to a doctor even if a bat citing is noticed at your home or elsewhere, as bats can bite you and not even disturb your sleep. I can understand how you are getting paranoid, but in such a scenario it is best to be under the direct supervision of a doctor and also initiate anti-rabies treatment, as there are no tests to diagnose rabies unless you have signs and symptoms; just to be sure it is best to initiate treatment, but only if your doctor feels it necessary. Do consult your doctor regarding the same, it is better to be safe than sorry, don't you think?

Take care XXXX, and please do keep in touch.
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Follow-up: Getting stiff muscle with fever after a dog bite. Is it rabies? 39 minutes later
I know you are concerned. We know they weren't bats. The bird's nest was found and we had baby birds fall down our chimney. We were just checking to make sure. Had there been bats, they would have been in there during the daylight hours when the inspection was performed and we would have flown out at night. In addition to that, we have a metal door over our fireplace. There is a small possibility one could have could have crawled through a crack, but highly unlikely considering I grilled the inspector as to what it was.
Answered by Dr. Shoaib Khan 2 minutes later
Brief Answer:
That is great news then

Detailed Answer:
Hello once again XXXX.

If the possibility is small and close to nil, then I couldn't be more relieved. I wish you lots of luck. Do be more careful in the future and do not hesitate to write to me with any clarification you have. I would be more than happy to help you.

Best wishes.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Getting stiff muscle with fever after a dog bite. Is it rabies? 5 hours later
I contacted the Chief Vet officer and the state board off health and he confirmed what the wildlife inspector said about it most likely being birds. He said the state protocol is when you find a bat in your living quarters when sleeping or can't confirm if it bit you or not. We found no bat in out living quarters. He told me not to worry. Also forgot to mention that I placed a whole bunch of packaging tape over the small crack in the fireplace door that night. It would have been disturbed if anything got through. I also have four cats and two dogs. My guess is they would have alerted us if something was flying around the house.
Answered by Dr. Shoaib Khan 35 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Stay safe; keep pets immunized

Detailed Answer:
Hello XXXX.

Yes, as I had mentioned to you earlier, if there was a bat in the area or indoors, you will either way have to report to a doctor, which is what you did. But as the bat was ruled out, and the tape placed over the crack was covered, I am sure you are safe now.

It looks like you are an animal lover. That is lovely. I am sure you keep your animals well groomed and immunized.

It is a pleasure to interact with such an interesting person as yourself.

God bless.
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