Rabies is one of those zoonotic diseases that everyone has heard about but often doesn’t get the attention and concern in the equine world that it deserves. Rabies vaccination is required in every state for dogs and cats but not horses. The reason may be that most people have a close relationship with their dogs and cats and these animals often live inside the house making them a more significant risk factor. If you have horses, you probably have a very close relationship and interact with them throughout the day. They may not sleep inside the house, but a lot of horse people spend a huge portion of their time at the barn.
Rabies is one of the yearly core vaccinations recommended for horses by the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Horses spend most of their time outdoors and have a good chance of running into wildlife. While a rabid animal may not always run up and attack a horse, horses are often curious and may approach a strange acting animal to investigate it and be bitten.
A few guidelines and recommendations to keep you and your horses safe: keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets, do not handle/feed or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or feed bins, and prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes or barns.
Remember to never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home, and teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
If your horse/dog or cat is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately. Persons who have been bitten or scratched by wild or unknown domestic animals should seek immediate medical attention and report the injury to the Florida Department of Health. Rabies is a scary disease, but with regular vaccinations and awareness, you can decrease your risk of infection.