Rabies is still a common disease in many parts of the world and kills tens of thousands of people and probably millions of dogs. There has not been a case of Rabies in a dog in the UK outside quarantine kennels since 1922 except for a single dog that was infected whilst in quarantine. Most western Member States of the EU are Rabies free although there are significant numbers reported in the eastern Member States such as Romania and Poland, mainly in wildlife but some dogs.
Rabies causes an invariably fatal infection in the brain with the dog remaining fully conscious until very close to death. The incubation period varies considerably as the virus crawls up the nerves to the brain from the site where the dog was bitten by the infected animal. There have been no reports of incubation periods longer than about three months.
The UK is protected against being infected by the Pet Travel Scheme that ensures no infected animal can be brought into the UK. It is possible that the scheme will be weakened in 2011 when EU rules may change.