media release

Colorado Department of Agriculture



April 15, 2010


Christi Lightcap, CDA, (303) 239-4190,

Mark W. Salley, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, (303) 692-2013


Horse Confirmed with Rabies in Colorado


LAKEWOOD, Colo. – The Colorado Department of Agriculture is encouraging livestock and pet owners to discuss animal health concerns, including the rabies vaccine, with their local veterinarian after a horse in eastern Arapahoe County tested positive for rabies.


“The department would like to stress two very important points,” said State Veterinarian, Dr. Keith Roehr.  “One—animal owners need to be aware that rabies is transferring from one species to another and they should monitor their animals for symptoms; and two—local veterinarians are a valuable resource to help producers decide the best course of action to protect their livestock and pets from rabies.”


According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, in 2009, there were a total of 103 rabies cases in 20 Colorado counties; one of those cases included a horse.  In September 2009, a horse in El Paso County was euthanized and subsequent tests determined the horse was infected with rabies; public health experts believe the horse was exposed in July 2009 to a skunk on its home property in the Black Forest area.


As of April 12, a total of 28 animals have tested positive for rabies in Colorado in 2010: 25 skunks (13 from Elbert County), 1 domestic cat from Prowers County, 1 muskrat from Morgan County, and the 1 horse from eastern Arapahoe County.


Rabies is a viral disease infecting the brain and central nervous system. The clinical appearance of rabies typically falls into two types:  “aggressive” and “dumb.”  Aggressive rabies symptoms include combativeness and violent behavior and sensitivity to touch and other kinds of stimulation.  There is also a “dumb” form of the disease in which the animal is lethargic, weak in one or more limbs, and unable to raise its head or make sounds because its throat and neck muscles are paralyzed.


Rabies can be passed from animals to humans.  Elisabeth Lawaczeck, state public health veterinarian at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment added, “The best way to protect your family from rabies is to keep your pets currently vaccinated for rabies through your local veterinarian, humane society, or animal shelter. Rabies vaccination performed by owners will not be recognized by local public health or animal control agencies for licensing or in the event of an exposure to a rabid animal.”


Rabies is spread primarily through the bite of rabid animals, resulting in the spread of the disease through their infected saliva. Rabies also can be spread when saliva from an infected animal gets into open wounds, cuts or enters through membranes of the eyes, nose or mouth.  No cure exists for rabies once symptoms appear although there is a vaccine to prevent the infection.  Livestock and pet owners are urged to discuss the vaccine with their local veterinarian.