Texas Horse Dies of Rabies, Human Exposure Possible

Authorities confirmed April 6 that a Texas horse that died April 4 was infected with rabies, according to a press release from the Texas Department of State Heath Services (DSHS). The 7-year-old Quarter Horse gelding began showing signs of illness March 31.

During the time the horse was unknowingly infected with rabies, he competed in two cutting competitions in Texas:

  • March 19-21, American Southwest Texas Cutting Horse Association show, Belton
  • March 25-27, Lufkin Cutting Horse Association show, Lufkin

The press release indicates that roughly 150 people from Texas, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, and Mississippi attended the shows, and DSHS is attempting to contact show attendees about possible exposure, although they believe the risk of exposure to be low. The DSHS reports that the horse was only ridden and handled by his owner and trainers at the competitions.

Rabies is a life-threatening virus capable of infecting all warmblooded animals with some variation in susceptibility. In horses clinical signs can vary, and an infected rabies patient can present without any consistent rules regarding the clinical presentation. Typically, horses develop neurologic signs that can include behavioral changes, difficulty swallowing, abnormal (uncoordinated or ataxic) gait, paralysis of the limbs, and hypersalivation. Occasionally, horses might appear colicky or have an obscure lameness. Fever is often a feature of the disease. Vaccination against rabies, however, has been successful in preventing the disease in many cases.

Human exposure to rabies includes any threat of contact with saliva, especially to mucous membranes or open wounds.

Texas health officials are urging people who might have been exposed to the rabid horse to contact their health care provider or DSHS at 512/458-7455 to determine if preventive treatment is warranted.

Further Information:
Rabies Topic Page
Webinar: Equine Rabies: What Every Horse Owner Should Know
Webinar: Equine Rabies: What Every Horse Owner Should Know, Take 2

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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