Horse in Texas Team Roping Competition Tested Positive for Rabies
 By Winniefield Park   •   7th May 2014   •   2,536 views   •   0 comments
Horse in Texas Team Roping Competition Tested Positive for Rabies

It seems to be shaping up to a rather odd spring when it comes to outbreaks of diseases in horses. EHV is still a concern in some areas, while in other places, EIA has been a problem. Another disease that has hit the horse headlines is rabies. A horse in a Texas team roping competition tested positive for rabies and anyone who may have come in contact with the horse is being encouraged to contact their doctor. The horse was diagnosed with rabies when it showed signs of neurological distress while at the competition.

Rabies isn’t common in horses. But, it is very common in wildlife like skunks, foxes and bats that a curious horse may come in contact with. Authorities speculate that the horse in Texas was bit by a rabid skunk.

The symptoms of rabies are much like several other neurological conditions. These include fever, listlessness and depression, uncoordinated movement and muscle control that makes it hard for the horse to coordinate muscles to swallow and chew. The horse may be sensitive to light and may press its head against a wall or other object. The old-fashioned word ‘hydrophobia’ comes from the animal’s apparent fear of water. But, in fact, the animal isn’t scared of water. The inability to drink and its agitation only make it appear so. The first stage of the disease is sometimes known as ‘dumb rabies’.

Related: 2014 EHV-1 Symptoms and Outbreak Locations
Related: Six Horses in Tennessee Quarantined After Testing Positive for Equine Infectious Anemia

As the disease progresses, the horse may become more irritable, be unable to eat or drink, become vicious or fearful, and may have tremors, convulsions and stagger blindly. This is the ‘ferocious rabies’. Within a short time of the final stage, the horse may go into a coma. The time between the initial bite that carried the rabies virus to the horse, and the time at which symptoms might be apparent can vary greatly - anywhere from twelve days to six months, but twelve days from exposure appears to be the average. The horse will only be a few days away from death once the symptoms start to appear.

If you suspect your horse (or any other pet) has been bitten by a rabid animal, wash the wound, taking care not to come into contact with any blood or fluids yourself. Report the bite to your veterinarian, who can advise you on the next step.

Once a horse has rabies, it becomes a risk to everyone - animal and human around it, and must be euthanized. Every mammal is at risk if bitten by another that has the virus. There is no cure. Fortunately there is a vaccination that protects your horse against rabies. Most veterinarians consider rabies vaccine to be one of the three ‘core vaccinations’ that horses should get yearly. This vaccine helps protect your horse should it be bitten by a carrier. The vaccine is inexpensive and reactions to it are extremely unlikely.

Besides the vaccine, you can help protect your horse, pets and yourself by dissuading wildlife from visiting your barn and yard. Keep cat and dog feed covered, and keep kitchen waste in an animal proof container. Vaccinate all of your pets. Don’t handle sick or injured wildlife and be cautious of pets that are acting strangely.

Rabies is a ‘reportable disease’, and that means that if rabies is suspected or diagnosed, the local health authorities must be notified. Any animal that may have rabies will be inspected and tested by taking sample of the brain tissue. This is the only way to confirm rabies, as there is no way to test a living animal.

It’s important to remember that rabies is very rare in horses. If you’ve taken steps to protect your horse and other pets, you have helped ensure that it stays rare.
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