Rabies is a viral disease that causes inflammation of the brain in all mammals. Humans and animals can become infected through the bite of an infected animal. Rabies is endemic in wildlife such as bats, raccoons, and foxes. While these animals do transmit the disease, dogs, cats, and even horses can become infected through the bite of wild animals and then pass it to their human caregivers.
Caring for your horse daily allows you to learn the attitude, behavior, and demeanor of your horse. If one day, your horse is acting differently or neurologic, you should be careful. There are a number of viruses that can cause neurologic behavior, including rabies. It’s always better to be safe, wear gloves, and contact your veterinarian.
This January, a young boy in Orlando was bitten by a bat, contracted rabies and died about one week later. This is a terrible tragedy and one that could have been prevented. The best way to protect yourself is to vaccinate your dogs, cats, and horses for rabies as directed by your veterinarian. Horses are vaccinated yearly, while dogs and cats are vaccinated yearly or every three years. Also, be very careful handling or interacting with wildlife. If you or your children are bitten or scratched by any wild animal, please contact your doctor to determine the best course of action. There is a post-exposure vaccine that can be given to humans to prevent the rabies virus from causing disease and death.
This column is sponsored by Polk Equine.
BIO: Dr. Katie Hennessy graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008 with a degree in large animal health and equine medicine. She completed an advanced internship at The Equine Medical Center of Ocala and is currently the owner and practicing veterinarian at Polk Equine. Her expertise ranges from small and exotic creatures to large animals, specializing in equine medicine.