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Rabies Prevention Crucial As Horse Cases Pop Across State

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Rabies Prevention Crucial As Horse Cases Pop Across State

Rabies cases are popping up in horses across the state, making prevention and awareness as important as ever.

Putnam County Agricultural Extention Agent Wayne Key said rabies in livestock is uncommon, but difficult to control. He said horses are curious animals, and most commonly contract rabies by coming into contact with infected wildlife. He said the most common carriers are raccoons, bats, skunks, and foxes.

“One of the most important things that we need to remember to tell farmers and landowners that have horses about rabies is that it is considered a disease that is transmissible from animals to humans,” Key said. “If you’ve got an animal that may be suspected, they definitely need to only be handled by trained individuals.”

The Tennessee State Veterinarian has confirmed a horse that died in Bedford County was positive for rabies. It’s the second rabies case in five months among Tennessee horses.

Key said a recent study showed only 7,000 rabies cases in domestic animals statewide, with horses accounting for just seven percent of those cases. He said the best prevention method is ensuring that all livestock is vaccinated for rabies and receives annual boosters.

“The horses themselves show certain clinical signs,” Key said. “They have a strange behavior. They can show signs of lameness, neurological defects. They can become fearful or even aggressive, or even show signs of depression. So, it’s a very different type of injuries or clinical signs that show us they’ve possibly been bit.”

He said it can take between two weeks and three months before a horse begins to show signs of infection. Other common indications include a horse circling, refusing to eat, or being hyperexcitable.

“Establish a good routine with your vet so that they’re on a rabies vaccination for horses and dogs and cats on your farm for example,” Key said.

Key said he discourages the adoption of wild animals as pets as well, and that livestock owners should be on the lookout for any wild animal on their property showing strange behavior that could be linked to rabies. Rabies in animals is incurable, but humans can get a series of shots to treat the infection if detected early enough.


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