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Categories: Horse Illustrated

The Risk of Rabies is Real for Horses

Photo by Vchal/Shutterstock

All horses are exposed to the five potentially fatal core diseases—West Nile virus, Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, tetanus, and rabies. However, of these core diseases, rabies presents the most serious threat for horses, because it’s 100% fatal. Yet, only one in seven horses is vaccinated for rabies, leaving many horses at risk of this devastating disease.

Alarmingly, horses are nearly four times as likely as dogs to get rabies. Horses across the U.S. can be exposed to rabies through infected wildlife, commonly bats, raccoons, foxes and skunks. Whether kept in a barn or pasture, the risk is real for all horses.

Rabies Is a Threat for Your Horse

To make matters more challenging, rabies clinical signs in infected horses aren’t always what you would expect. “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. Often, it can be disguised as colic,” said Maggie Loomer, DVM, Durango Equine Veterinary Clinic.

Rabies is a zoonotic disease, which means it can spread between animals and people. The consequences of interacting with an infected horse are significant. All individuals exposed to an animal with a confirmed rabies diagnosis must go through a rabies postexposure vaccination that could cost an estimated $3,000 or more per person.

Minimize the Threat with Vaccination

Your horse’s best defense against rabies and the other core diseases is through annual vaccination, as recommended by the American Association of Equine Practitioners vaccination guidelines. Core EQ Innovator is the first and only vaccine that protects horses against five potentially fatal core equine diseases, including rabies, in a single injection.

Protect your horses and reduce their risk of rabies by talking with your veterinarian to learn more about the core disease vectors.

About Zoetis

Building on more than 65 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines, vaccines and diagnostic products, which are complemented by biodevices, genetic tests and precision livestock farming. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries. For more information, visit


1. American Horse Council; Washington, DC; 2017 Economic Impact of the U.S. Horse Industry.
2. Data on file, Animalytix, Inc., Equine Vaccine MAT dose sales data 2017-2018.
3. Data on File, Meta-analysis, Zoetis Inc., June 2018.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cost of Rabies Prevention. 2019. Accessed September 21, 2020
5. American Association of Equine Practitioners. Core Vaccination Guidelines. 2012. Accessed September 17, 2020.

Horse Illustrated

Horse Illustrated is the magazine for people who are passionate about horses. Each issue offers advice on horse health and care, plus user-friendly training tips for both English and western riders and engaging lifestyle features for horse lovers.

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