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  • Coastal Equine

Symptoms & Implications of Rabies in Horses

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Rabies (Lyssa, Hydrophobia) is a viral disease that is usually transmitted through the saliva of carnivores. Wildlife (skunks, fox, wild dogs) can bite or lick an open wound to pass the virus. Because skunks are nocturnal animals, their presence in daylight can indicate suspected disease. Racoons are the primary source. Rabies is more frequent during the spring and summer months, which coincide with the mating season. Symptoms of rabies are variable in the horse and appear after an incubation period of three weeks to three months.

The virus irritates the central nervous system and destroys nerves, causing paralysis and death. The paralytic form in the horse may cause lameness or weakness in one leg until the horse becomes recumbent and has convulsions. The dumb form of rabies presents a change in the horse's disposition or a peculiar look in the horse's eyes. The horse appears confused, with its jaw hanging open. It drools and acts choked. The furious stage demonstrates excessive salivation and abnormal aggression, with excitable and exaggerated movement. The horse's actions are uncontrollable. It may run into walls, attack objects or other horses and chew itself. A vaccination is available specifically for horses and should be used in endemic areas where problems exist. One initial injection should be followed yearly with a booster. Observe precautions on suspected horses that display any abnormal behavior or clinical sign.

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