Rabies has horrified civilizations for thousands of years, ever since it became clear that the bite of an infected animal guaranteed a horrific death. Rabies derives from either the Sanskrit “rabhas” (to commit violence) or the Latin “rabere” (to wrath). Ancient Greeks referred to rabies as “lyssa” (violence). Currently, the virus that causes rabies belongs to the genus Lyssa Virus.

What are Rabies?

It is a fatal and contagious viral disease of dogs and other animals that is transmitted to humans via saliva and causes insanity and convulsions. Rabies is a preventable viral disease typically transmitted through an animal bite. The rabies virus infects mammals’ central nervous systems, causing brain disease and death. Most rabies cases recorded annually by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) occur in feral animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes; however, any mammal is susceptible to rabies.

The early history of rabies

Even in old times, it was recognized that the rabies virus could be transmitted through animal wounds. Several old literary works mention rabies, such as the paper by Aristotle (300 BC) that identifies rabies as a disorder that affects dogs and any other animal the dog attacks.
The owner of a dog exhibiting rabies symptoms such as excessive salivation was required to take precautions to prevent the dog from harming someone in early historical times.
In India, 3000 BCE, the deity of death was accompanied by a dog who served as his messenger. Every year, feral canines continue to kill 20,000 people today in India. In the Mosaic Esmuna Code of Babylon in 2300 B.C., Babylonians were required to pay a fine if their dog transmitted rabies to another person. This is the first written record of rabies causing mortality in both canines and humans.

The Roman scholar Celsus correctly hypothesized in the first century A.D. that the animal’s secretions transmitted rabies. He incorrectly suggested that holding the victim underwater would cure rabies. Those who did not perish succumbed to rabies. Other barbarous rabies treatments included searing the incisions with a heated poker and a “hair-of-the-dog” concoction. “similars” are used in homeopathic medicine, i.e., “like cures like.” The dog’s hair was placed on the incision or ingested by the patient. While the hair of the dog may alleviate a hangover, it does not affect rabies.

Prevention of rabies transmission

In the 18th century, countries such as Germany, France, and Spain passed laws mandating the killing of stray canines to reduce the risk of a vicious dog biting a human in the region. However, the public did not receive this well, and it needed to be enforced in most areas.
Due to an improved comprehension of canines and rabies transmission to urban populations, additional preventative measures such as quarantine and other health initiatives were introduced in the 19th century. Probably as a result of these measures, the number of humans infected with rabies decreased dramatically. By the turn of the 20th century, many regions were deemed virus-free.

Rabies Vaccination

In the 1880s, the first effective treatment for Rabies appeared. A French chemistry instructor Louis Pasteur was experimenting with poultry cholera when he discovered that virulent colonies exposed to the elements no longer caused disease. In addition, he observed that chickens immunized with this diminished or “attenuated strain” were immune to infection with new, virulent cultures. Next, Pasteur administered a weakened vaccine against anthrax to cattle. It worked! Then he turned his attention to rabies, the worldwide plague. Pasteur desired more time to purify his attenuated vaccine before administering it to himself, despite his initial tests on animals being very encouraging.

On July 6, 1885, a vicious dog attacked a nine-year-old child named Joseph Meister. A local physician treated Joseph’s wounds and informed his family that only Louis Pasteur could save him. After much persuasion, Pasteur consented only after consulting with two actual physicians, who concluded that Joseph was “a walking corpse.” Joseph received thirteen vaccinations in eleven days and recovered completely. The word filtered out, and patients began to arrive from all over the globe. More than 20,000 people received his post-exposure prophylactic vaccine nine years after Pasteur’s demise.

Current Management of Rabies

Even today, there is no known treatment for rabies once symptoms appear. Instead, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is the current treatment method for rabies exposure. This involves administering rabies immunoglobulin and vaccine shortly after exposure to the virus, followed by a 30-day series of injections.

PEP has a near-100 percent success rate when administered appropriately and promptly after rabies virus exposure. Consequently, there are now relatively few rabies cases among populations with access to adequate medical care. Each year, 95 percent of the 55,000 rabies cases occur in Asia and Africa, where medical care following exposure to the virus is often lacking.


The journey of Rabies through history unveils a remarkable evolution of understanding and control. From its ominous presence in ancient civilizations to the pioneering works of figures like Pasteur in the 19th century, humanity’s battle against this deadly virus has been marked by persistent research and medical breakthroughs. The modern era has witnessed significant advancements in rabies prevention and treatment, with widespread vaccination programs and improved medical interventions saving countless lives. However, challenges persist, particularly in regions with limited access to healthcare and education. As we reflect on the history of rabies, it becomes evident that our ongoing efforts to combat this ancient scourge are a testament to the resilience of scientific inquiry and the determination to safeguard both human and animal health in the face of adversity.

Coping With Heat Waves: Keeping Your Pets Safe

By Jyotika Rajkumari*As temperatures soar during heat waves, it is essential to take extra precautions to ensure the well-being of our furry friends. Heat waves can pose a significant threat to them as well. Whether you have a dog, cat, rabbit, or guinea pig, here are...

How Do You Take Care of Dogs in the Rainy Season?

Dogs care deeply about their owners, and during the rainy season, it's our turn to show them how much we care by keeping them healthy and comfortable. Many of us may find the rainy season a refreshing change from the hot summer sun, but this can be a challenging time...

Senior Support: Homeopathic Remedies for Common Ailments in Aging Dogs

Ageing doesn’t have mercy for them, and it’s hard to believe that those years are passing so rapidly, affecting our dogs’ lives. Friendly puppies lead their way to senior dogs; the need shift comes with that transformation. Their ageing process may be within reach as...

The Crucial Role of Vaccination in Ensuring Your Dog’s Well-Being

By Divya MahendruIn the heart of every pet owner lies an unwavering commitment to ensuring the health and happiness of their beloved furry companions. From providing nutritious food and regular exercise to showering them with love and affection, pet parents go to...

Beat The Heat: Summer Stress And Stressza

Ah, summer. A time of year filled with happiness, laughter, and limitless opportunities. It is a time when happiness fills our hearts as the warm sun greets our days and nature blooms in vibrant hues. And dogs add even more brightness to our lives in this delightful...

Beat the Heat: Essential Tips for Keeping Your Dog Safe and Cool This Summer

Dr. Shravani Mothkur*As the summer sun shines and the temperatures rise, it's crucial to protect your pet's well-being. Dogs, like humans, are prone to heat-related complications, so it's important to take preventative measures to keep them safe, content, and...

Banish the Stench: Combatting Odour Problems in Dogs

By Shavika Gupta*Our furry friends bring boundless joy into our lives, but let's be honest: sometimes they also bring a less-than-pleasant odour along with them. From rolling in who-knows-what to simply having that "doggy smell," dealing with odour issues in dogs is a...

Dental basics for pets

Ensuring healthy oral health for your furry friends  By Jyotika Rajkumari*Dental issues in pets, especially in dogs and cats, are extremely common. Dental care is a crucial aspect of your pet's overall health and well-being. Just like humans, pets can suffer from...

Celebrating a Pet-Friendly Holi

By Piu SurHoli, known as the festival of colours, is a vibrant and jubilant celebration deeply rooted in Indian culture and tradition. Holi holds both religious and cultural significance, uniting communities in a joyous festivity. Holi commemorates the triumph of good...

Habits pet parents can imbibe to make their dogs more independent

By - Saba PoonawalaOwning a dog means taking care of a living being to the best of your ability from the day it comes home to it's last breath. For the human, many tasks can seem very simple, eg: expecting the dog not to bark everytime the bell rings. But for the dog,...