Subject: STATE VETERINARIAN'S OFFICE- Rabies Positive Horse

Date: June 11th, 2013

On June 10th, 2013, CSU Diagnostic Lab confirmatory tests revealed that  a horse from Weld County was rabies-positive.


On May 13th, a dead skunk was found in a horse pen on a premises near Berthoud, Colorado. The skunk subsequently tested positive for rabies. All of the horses had been rabies vaccinated by the owner approximately 1-2 years prior to the incident. A CDA Field Veterinarian examined all of the horses after the incident and no signs of trauma or bites wounds were evident. The horses were vaccinated for rabies, owners were instructed to have the horses re-vaccinated again in 30 days, and were placed under the order to observe the horses closely and restrict movement for the next 120 days. On June 6th, 2013 , the attending veterinarian was called to examine one of the horses which was febrile, depressed, drooling, and showing mild right facial nerve paralysis. The following day, the attending veterinarian and CDA Field Veterinarian observed that the horse showed additional clinical signs of hind limb ataxia and mild paralysis. The horse was taken to CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, admitted ad placed in isolation. On Saturday, June 8th, the horse was euthanized and necropsied at the CSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory; CSU pathologists subsequently confirmed that the horse was positive for rabies. Local public health authorities are working closely with those involved in the case for appropriate rabies prophylaxis.  


This recent case of rabies in a horse highlights the importance to inform and recommend that owners not only vaccinate their dogs and cats but also other animals that could be exposed to wildlife that carry and transmit the rabies virus. This includes horses, small ruminants, llamas, alpacas, petting zoo animals, and possibly other valuable livestock. Many rabies cases that involve livestock result in numerous people having to take post-exposure prophylaxis. Considering the current incidence of wildlife rabies in Colorado, the lethal outcome of the disease, ad the cost and liability when people have been exposed to a possibly raid animal, the benefits of vaccinating animals for rabies certainly outweigh other potential reasons for not vaccinating rabies.  


The Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control, 2011 recommends that "All horses should be vaccinated against rabies. Livestock including species for which licensed vaccines are not available, that have frequent contact with humans (e.g., in petting zoos, fairs, and other public exhibitions) should be vaccinated against rabies. Consideration should also be given to vaccinating livestock that are particularly valuable." The Compendium also has a listing of approved vaccines for the different species and a recommended vaccination schedule, available at


For statistics and other epidemiological information on confirmed rabies cases in Colorado please visit the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment's webpage at:\cdphe\rabies