All core equine diseases pose grave dangers, but rabies presents the most serious threat for exposed horses and humans who encounter them. Annual vaccination is the only way to protect horses against rabies — which is 100 percent fatal to horses once clinical signs appear.

Only 1 out of 7 horses are vaccinated against rabies, a staggering number that puts so many horses at risk. Dedicated care can protect against rabies as well as the other potentially deadly core diseases: West Nile virus, Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis and tetanus.

Rabies is a zoonotic disease which means that it also presents risk to your family, friends and anyone else that encounters your horse. “Sometimes, rabies will surprise you because it mimics other diseases. But, it’s important to recognize it because of the exposure not only to other animals, but especially to people,” said Eleanor Green, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP, dean of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. “Rabies is always a risk to people that are around the animal. It’s a very serious disease; rabies is always fatal.”

Complicating the risks is the unavoidable exposure to wildlife that could carry the disease. Bats, foxes, raccoons and skunks all present rabies risks. Furthermore, rabies often appears when you least expect it.

“Warning signs of a horse that has contracted rabies doesn’t always show up as a classic rabies case — foaming at the mouth and biting,” said Maggie Loomer, DVM, Durango Equine Veterinary Clinic. “Often, it can be disguised as colic.”

Through responsible horse care, providing the protection a horse needs from core diseases has never been easier. Talk with a veterinarian to learn more about the risk of rabies and all core diseases. And take preventive measures to protect the health of the horse through annual vaccinations.