Rabies (Lyssa, Hydrophobia) is a viral disease that is usually
transmitted through the saliva of carnivores. Wildlife (skunks,
fox, wild dogs) can bite or lick an open wound to pass the virus.
Because skunks are nocturnal animals, their presence in daylight
can indicate suspected disease. Racoons are the primary source.
Rabies is more frequent during the spring and summer months,
which coincide with the mating season. Symptoms of rabies are variable
in the horse and appear after an incubation period of three weeks to
The virus irritates the central nervous system and destroys
nerves, causing paralysis and death. The paralytic form in
the horse may cause lameness or weakness in one leg until the
horse becomes recumbent and has convulsions. The dumb form of
rabies presents a change in the horse's disposition or a peculiar
look in the horse's eyes. The horse appears confused, with its
jaw hanging open. It drools and acts choked.
The furious stage demonstrates excessive salivation and
abnormal aggression, with excitable and exaggerated movement.
The horse's actions are uncontrollable. It may run into walls,
attack objects or other horses and chew itself.
A vaccination is available specifically for horses and should
be used in endemic areas where problems exist. One initial
injection should be followed yearly with a booster. Observe
precautions on suspected horses that display any abnormal
behavior or clinical sign.