Equine Rabies is a fatal disease that comes with no path for recovery once a horse contracts it. The threat and impact of the disease is felt yearly as horses that are not vaccinated run the risk of contracting and dying from it.
Fortunately, rabies is not very common but as such can often be overlooked. Although the rate of infection of the disease is low, it comes with a 100% fatality rate. There is also the danger of human handlers being infected with the disease by contact with affected horses. This is one of the major reasons why regular rabies vaccinations should be a priority and they have been recommended by veterinary professionals who recommend that horses should be vaccinated annually.
Rabies is a virus that triggers a neurological disease that can affect all mammals, including humans, therefore no one is exempt. Once an animal is bitten, the virus quickly moves to the brain and causes inflammation that is known as encephalitis that rapidly progresses and results in death.
The virus has an incubation period of 2 to 9 weeks for clinical signs to begin to show, although it varies and could be as long as 15 months. Veterinarians have disclosed that rabies can seem to be anything as the symptoms are similar to other diseases and conditions. Some horses may become aggressive, while others may become depressed and lose consciousness. Some may refuse to eat and drink, while others may continue to eat and drink until they are close to death.
Some early signs of rabies include incoordination and obscure lameness. It’s advisable to reach out to your veterinarian if your horse exhibits any of the signs and symptoms listed below:
• Incoordination begins to manifest
• Starts performing poorly
• Urinary incontinence
• Has difficulty swallowing
• Weird vocalizations
• Starts showing signs of lameness and paralysis, among other signs and symptoms.
One challenge is that no test has been invented to diagnose rabies in a living animal. Its diagnosis is usually made after the death of the animal during a postmortem examination of its brain.
Additional Risk Factors of Rabies
The disease is most prevalent among horses and livestock in the late summer and fall when there is an increase in rabies in the wildlife population. Horses become infected after they are bitten by a rabid animal such as bats, skunks, raccoons, or foxes. The bites are mostly seen in the horse’s lower limbs or face. Horses that are housed both in stalls and those on pasture can be exposed to these rabid animals that can bite and infect them.
The disease can also be transmitted to humans via contact with its saliva or the brain or nervous system tissue of an infected animal. Therefore, any suspected case of equine rabies should be handled carefully and should be treated as positive until proven otherwise. Anyone who has been in contact with affected animals are advised to waste no time in contacting their physician.
Make Equine Rabies Prevention a Priority
Rabies is a very dangerous disease to horses, even moreso because it is one of the hardest to recognize. While it thankfully will be very rare for your horse to contract rabies, in the event it does, there’s possibly a zero chance of recovery.
It’s a no-brainer that companion animals should be vaccinated against rabies, and horses are not an exception. A good number of effective vaccines specifically made for horses are readily available ‒ please consult with your vet regarding a vaccination schedule.
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