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Vaccinating Fido Against Rabies? Don’t Forget Your Horse

While dogs are vaccinated against rabies without question, the majority of horses – who are often at higher risk – are not vaccinated.

  • Author: canpubco
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Vaccinating Fido Against Rabies? Don’t Forget Your Horse

“Everybody is at risk for developing rabies. Your horse is at higher risk for being exposed probably at pasture, but being in a stall does not preclude exposure,” said Bonnie R. Rush, DVM, MS, DACVIM, Interim Dean at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “The consequences of interacting with a horse that has rabies are significant.”


Horses can be exposed to rabies through the saliva of infected animals, commonly bats, raccoons, foxes and skunks. Once inside the horse, the rabies virus travels up the nerves to the brain, where the disease progresses rapidly. Rabies is 100% fatal, and as a zoonotic disease, it presents grave risk to you and your family.5 Two examples of public equine rabies cases are the 2008 Missouri State Fair; and the 2006 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, which required the notification of more than 150,000 people for potential rabies exposure.6


Rabies is the deadliest among the five core equine diseases, which also include Eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE), Western equine encephalomyelitis (WEE), tetanus and West Nile. Horses are continually exposed to wildlife and mosquitoes that transmit core equine diseases. Whether kept in a barn or pasture, horse owners should not consider their horse spared from dangerous disease risks. As such, core disease vaccinations are recommended annually as part of overall equine wellness, according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners core vaccination guidelines.


“Any of the core diseases can be a death sentence for an exposed horse – and alarmingly, with exposure to an animal infected with rabies – family members, friends and any other persons exposed are also at risk of losing their lives to rabies disease, which is always fatal,” said Kevin Hankins, DVM, MBA, senior technical services veterinarian with Zoetis. “A horse owner’s best defense against these devastating diseases is through annual core disease vaccination.”


Horse owners can garner a better understanding of equine rabies risks with these key insights from Dr. Rush. Talk with the veterinarian on your team today about your horse’s core and risk-based vaccination needs. For more information, please visit

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