Veterinarians in Colorado are concerned about the issue of rabies showing up in horses since June. They have seen cases of rabies progress from eastern parts of the state to the North and are encouraging horse owners to vaccinate their animals for rabies. This differs from prior years when veterinarians had no serious concerns to about rabies in horses.
The change is due to the prevalence of “terrestrial rabies” which is spreading in skunks, raccoons and foxes. It is due to this dramatic increase in rabies plus the diagnosis of rabies at two Colorado horse facilities that prompted the Colorado State Veterinarian’s office to publish warnings and to encourage horse owners to include rabies shots in their horses’ vaccination regime.
In a case in Berthoud, Colorado, a dead skunk was found in a horse paddock on May 13. 2013. The skunk was tested and found rabies positive. Each horse at the facility had received the rabies shot within a one-to-two-year period before the dead skunk was found. A thorough examination of each horse was undertaken by one of the Colorado State Veterinarians. The horses exhibited no wounds, bites or trauma. Each horse was again vaccinated for rabies.
The facility was ordered to restrict all movement of horses for 120 days. In addition, each horse was to be revaccinated in 30 days. Every animal was to be closely monitored for the duration of the order.
Within a couple of weeks, one of the horses came down with a fever, became depressed, started drooling and showed a mild paralysis of the right side of the face. On June 6, both the stable’s veterinarian and the Colorado State Veterinarian noted that the affected horse was developing hind-leg stiffnes and some paralysis. The horse was transported to Colorado State University (CSU) Veterinary Teaching Hospital and placed into isolation.
On June 8 the horse was put down. The CSU Diagnostic Laboratory conducted a necropsy and confirmed that the horse had contracted rabies.
In a case in Weld County, on June 13, 2013 the CSU Diagnostic Laboratory confirmed another rabies positive test result for a horse. This horse had rapid weight loss and colic, and rapidly began to stumble, experience muscle tremors of face and was losing the ability to stand. His veterinarian euthanized him. The horse was rabid and subsequent tests confirmed it.
There have been no confirmed horse rabies in July but these specific cases are a wake-up call for horse owners. It is better to be safe than sorry – vaccinate your horses against the dreaded, always fatal rabies.
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