Why Rabies is a Serious Threat

Two dogs tested positive for rabies in Colorado this week—the first time in Colorado since 1974. We have had 136 additional animals confirmed in 2017 in nearby areas such as Arapahoe, Denver, Elbert, and Jefferson counties. Yet, despite the contiguous threat, some horses are still unvaccinated. Is a rabies vaccine really that important? Our advice: yes!

The American Association of Equine Practitioners considers rabies a core equine vaccination, “those that protect from diseases that are endemic to a region, those with potential public health significance, required by law, virulent/highly infectious, and/or those posing a risk of severe disease.” The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death.

While horses are infrequently infected with rabies, the disease is fatal and has as considerable public health significance. Vaccinating your horses is an easy way to save their lives, but also prevent spillover into other domestic animals and the human population. In humans, once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal, and treatment is typically supportive.

The rabies virus is transmitted through saliva or brain/nervous system tissue, commonly through the bite of a rabid animal. We fear that if your horse, unbeknownst to you, comes in contact with a rabid animal, that he will contract the virus but not show immediate, obvious symptoms. During this period, if you come in contact with your horse’s saliva (for example, while feeding a treat) you are at risk for infection. As we mentioned, the virus is typically fatal to humans and requires extensive, expensive, and painful treatment to prevent death.

The equine rabies vaccine is recommended once annually and is relatively inexpensive. Most of our patients receive the rabies vaccine annually. If you are unsure whether your horse is up-to-date, call/text/email us any time!

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