What is Rage Syndrome?

Rage Syndrome is a serious but rare uncharacteristic behavioral problem that has been reported in several breeds (particularly in Spaniels). Rage Syndrome is often incorrectly diagnosed as it is sometimes confused with other forms of aggression.

What are the symptoms?

Sudden attacks for no apparent reason; the dog will often be sleeping and then attack without warning. The eyes become dilated and sometimes change color during and after an attack, the dog is totally confused when attacking and will not respond to any attempts to stop it. The attacks are very unpredictable and the dog will often appear disorientated afterward and unaware of it’s actions, then return to it’s normal self shortly after. Victims are usually members of the family and due to the lack of warning from the dog, suffer from a flesh wound that will need medical attention.


Micrograph with numerous rabies virions (small dark-grey rod-like particles) and negri bodies, larger pathognomonic cellular inclusions of rabies infection.
Any mammal may become infected with the rabies virus and develop symptoms, including humans. Most animals can be infected by the virus and can transmit the disease to humans. Infected bats, monkeys, raccoons, foxes, skunks, cattle, wolves, dogs or cats provide the greatest risk to humans. Rabies may also spread through exposure to infected domestic farm animals, groundhogs, weasels and other wild carnivores. Squirrels, rodents and rabbits are seldom infected.
The virus is usually present in the nerves and saliva of a symptomatic rabid animal. The route of infection is usually, but not necessarily, by a bite. In many cases the affected animal is exceptionally aggressive, may attack without provocation, and exhibits otherwise uncharacteristic behavior. Transmission may also occur via an aerosol through mucous membranes; transmission in this form may have happened in people exploring caves populated by rabid bats. Transmission between humans is extremely rare, although it can happen through transplant surgery, or, even more rarely, through bites or kisses.
After a typical human infection by bite, the virus directly or indirectly enters the peripheral nervous system. It then travels along the nerves towards the central nervous system. During this phase, the virus cannot be easily detected within the host, and vaccination may still confer cell-mediated immunity to preempt symptomatic rabies. Once the virus reaches the brain, it rapidly causes encephalitis and symptoms appear. It may also inflame the spinal cord producing myelitis.
The period between infection and the first flu-like symptoms is normally two to twelve weeks, but can be as long as two years. Soon after, the symptoms expand to slight or partial paralysis, cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, insomnia, confusion, agitation, abnormal behavior, paranoia, hallucinations, progressing to delirium. The production of large quantities of saliva and tears coupled with an inability to speak or swallow are typical during the later stages of the disease; this can result in “hydrophobia”, where the victim has difficulty swallowing, shows panic when presented with liquids to drink, and cannot quench his or her thirst. The disease itself was also once commonly known as hydrophobia, from these characteristic symptoms. Death almost invariably results two to ten days after the first symptoms; the few humans who are known to have survived the disease were all left with severe brain damage.

What actually causes Rage Syndrome?

Nothing has been established as yet. Although there have been studies, it still cannot be accurately predicted. There are many theories on what Rage Syndrome is, what it is caused by. These theories are: a form of epilepsy, a canine form of schizophrenia; low serotonin levels in the brain and thyroid dysfunction. Some also believe that Rage Syndrome is simply an extreme form of dominance-related aggression, is not a separate condition.


Medical causes of aggression must be ruled out, so first, consult your pet health care provider. Risk assessment with a professional helps objectively evaluate the situation, and prevention of human injury is paramount. Aggressive dogs are never cured. However in some, the behavior can be managed. Behavior management often is a combination of environmental control, behavior modification, and medications. Veterinarians, experienced trainers and animal behaviorists are good sources of advice. Unfortunately, euthanasia is sometimes the only appropriate solution.


Aggressive dogs are never cured, but some behaviors can be managed with environmental control, behavior modification, and pharmacotherapy.


There are legal liabilities for dog bites. Some homeowner’s insurance companies will not insure household with certain breed of dogs.


Early socialization and gentle obedience training is key. Some dogs are bred for their aggressive tendencies and can never be reliably socialized out of the primal urge to react by attacking. However, exposing your puppy to children, other dogs, and strangers between the ages of 3 and 14 weeks will help the dog learn to react appropriately. Many dogs become aggressive out of fear, so gentle handling during the puppy period and selecting a firm, but non-abusive professional trainer for your hunting dog is very helpful.

Sources: Cheap Pet Store, Cocker Spaniel Rage, Wikipedia

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