Annual rabies immunization is considered a core vaccine by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP); while rabies cases in livestock is fairly rare, the outcome is deadly if a horse is infected. Rabies is preventable with the administration of the vaccine, which is 100 percent effective.
A horse with rabies may initially not look ill; he may be off his feed or have a slight fever. Some rabid horses look lame or colicky. There are three types of rabies:
- The paralytic form, where the horse is weak and acts neurologic, progressing to complete paralysis.
- The dumb form, where the horse is not responsive to his surroundings and becomes recumbent.
- The furious form, where a horse is hypersensitive and dangerous to himself and people around him.
Rabies has no cure and is fatal; horses die usually within 4 to 5 days of clinical signs. A positive diagnosis can only be made after the horse has died on a brain examination. Luckily, experts say it's totally preventable.
In addition to vaccinating, other ways to prevent rabies exposure include:
- Remove open feed bags and put feed in wildlife-proof containers. Wildlife are responsible for 93 percent of rabies cases each year: Raccoons are most infected, followed by skunks, bats, foxes and coyotes.
- Use caution when handling dead or stray animals.
- Mow fields so wildlife can't make burrows close to horses and other livestock.
- Contact Animal Control if an animal is acting strangely, such as a nocturnal animal out in the daytime.
Read more at Stable Management.
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