What is rabies?
Rabies is a neurological disease that causes encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). The disease can affect all mammals, including humans. Although rabies occurs rarely in horses, it is inevitably fatal.
How is rabies in horses contracted?
Rabies is transmitted in saliva via the bite of a rabid (infected) animal. The virus travels from the location of the bite to the brain via nerves. A high incidence of rabies is observed in wild mammals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats. Due to their curious nature, horses are prone to investigate if they see something interesting (such as an animal behaving strangely), thus putting themselves at risk of being bitten by a rabid animal.
Clinical signs and symptoms of rabies in horses
Although the clinical signs of rabies in horses are variable, they can include:
Muscle tremors and spasms
Prevention and treatment of rabies in horses
Rabies in horses is always fatal once clinical signs develop. However rabies is preventable by annual vaccination and is recommended as a core vaccine by the AAEP guidelines.
To minimize risk of interaction with a potentially rabid animal, avoid attracting, approaching, and/or handling wild animals. Additionally, it is a good preventative measure to vaccinate all other pets, livestock, and farm animals against rabies.
If you suspect that an animal, or a human, may have come into contact with rabies, thoroughly wash the wound immediately and remove any potentially contaminated equipment or clothing. Contact a veterinarian or healthcare provider immediately.