Revised:  05/22/2008

Memo for January 4, 2008













New Jersey Department of Agriculture



To: Veterinarians, General Public

From: Nancy E. Halpern, DVM, State Veterinarian

Date: January 4, 2008

Re: Horse in Ocean County Bitten by Rabid Raccoon


A horse located in Ocean County was recently bitten by a confirmed rabid raccoon. Fortunately, the horse was vaccinated for rabies but as a precaution, it is being isolated and observed for 45 days.


Below are recommendations regarding rabies in livestock as a reminder of the endemic nature of the disease in New Jersey. We would also like to remind veterinarians that rabies is reportable to the State Veterinarian as a disease in livestock. Notification should occur at the time of exposure rather than wait for confirmation on the status of the rabies suspect. Each case is investigated by our staff and quarantines implemented, when warranted, in consultation with the State Veterinarian or the Assistant State Veterinarian. The quarantines are based on epidemiologic evidence of risk of exposure and may be limited to certain populations of animals on that premise, when feasible.


Rabies is transmitted mainly through bite wounds from an infected animal. In some cases, it may be transmitted through fresh open cuts in the skin or onto mucous membranes such as the eyes, mouth or nose from the saliva of a rabid animal. Contact with the blood, urine or feces of a rabid animal does not constitute a high risk for transmission.


Every year many cases of rabies are reported in raccoons, skunks as well as domestic animals, including livestock. Additionally there have been several cases found in deer. Therefore, vaccination of all livestock against this disease is recommended.


Rabies usually begins subtly, with owners first noticing that their animal goes off feed and "doesn't seem right." The animal may become restless and irritable, have "a strange look in its eyes," and make funny-sounding cries and barks, or bawl. As the illness progresses, nervous system impairment becomes more obvious with tremors, difficulty walking, swallowing, and possibly even convulsions and/or paralysis. Affected animals may or may not show signs of aggression and try to bite. In most livestock animals rabies is exhibited in the "dumb" form in contrast to the "aggressive form" normally seen in pigs, dogs and cats. Animals usually start with a slight depression and progress to a variety of neurological symptoms, including but not limited to walking in circles, eating non-edible items, "star gazing," or generally not acting normally. The following symptoms may also be observed in a rabid animal: fever, loss of appetite, excessive irritability, unusual vocalization, a change in behavior, restlessness, jumping at noises, trouble walking, excess salivation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, stupor, or unprovoked aggression.


A rabid animal can normally infect other animals 3-10 days before the first clinical signs are apparent. Therefore, precautions to prevent exposure to other animals if one is suspected of being infected are necessary. Separate your animal(s) from other animals and humans at the first signs of illness, and contact your veterinarian and the State Veterinarian (609-292-3965) or your local health department and wear rubber gloves and other protective apparel.


In addition, please report to the State Veterinarian if you see or kill any other animals exhibiting the clinical signs described above near your livestock.


Joanne Lontz

Executive Assistant

NJ Dept. of Agriculture

Division of Animal Health

(609) 292-3965






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