The Horse's Rabies Awareness Week Sponsored by Merck

<i>The Horse's</i> Rabies Awareness Week Sponsored by Merck

The most common scenario causing equine rabies occurs when a rabid wild or feral animal (such as a skunk or raccoon) or pet bites and infects a horse.

Photo: iStock

Merck Animal Health has partnered with The Horse to help educate horse owners about rabies Sept. 24-30, 2016. We’re holding the week of education in conjunction with World Rabies Day, which is Wednesday, Sept. 27, and seeks to increase awareness about rabies risk.

Rabies is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can spread between humans and other animals. It’s caused by a virus that affects mammals and is spread via saliva. The most common scenario causing equine rabies occurs when a rabid wild or feral animal (such as a skunk or raccoon) or pet (think barn cat) bites and infects a horse. In 2017 animal health authorities have reported equine rabies cases in Minnesota and North Carolina.

The clinical signs of rabies vary widely, which makes it challenging for veterinarians to quickly and definitively diagnosis. The most common clinical sign of rabies is a change in behavior. Infected horses are often dull and depressed but can become aggressive or fearful. A low-grade fever is also usually present. In some instances, horses have even presented for colic.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) includes rabies as one of four “core” vaccines horses should receive (the others are tetanus, West Nile virus, and Western/Eastern equine encephalomyelitis). According to the AAEP, “While the incidence of rabies in horses is low, the disease is invariably fatal and has considerable public health significance. It is recommended that rabies vaccine be a core vaccine for all equids.”

Rabies has no treatment and is 100% deadly, yet it’s also 100% preventable. Talk to your veterinarian for information about which vaccines are right for your horse.

Look for rabies-related articles and other content all week on, our Facebook page and Twitter feed, and in our horse health newsletters.

About the Author

Michelle N. Anderson, Digital Managing Editor

Michelle Anderson serves as The Horse's digital managing editor. In her role, she produces content for our web site and hosts our live events, including Ask the Vet Live. A lifelong horse owner, Anderson competes in dressage and enjoys trail riding. She's a Washington State University graduate (Go Cougs!) and holds a bachelor's degree in communications with a minor in business administration and extensive coursework in animal sciences. She has worked in equine publishing since 1998. She currently lives with her husband on a small horse property in Central Oregon.

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