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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Vampire Bats: Why horses should be afraid of vampires--and not just on Halloween

Vampire bats in South and Central America love horse hooves. They frequently feed at the coronet, where the blood is close to the surface. Besides being creepy, vampire bats are the leading reservoir of rabies virus in Central and South America and have recently been identified as a host that easily spreads bartonella bacteria. Newly deforested landscapes are now home to domestic livestock; vampire bat populations have flourished with the captive animals so easily available to bite. Officials in Texas are now warning that common vampire bats have crossed the Rio Grande into the United States.

Until recently, most of us only thought about vampires once a year, on October 31. But that is about to change. While Count Dracula may be a figment of literary imagination, the real-life inspiration for his story is alive and well and spreading rapidly through recently deforested regions of South and Central America.

Horses, horseowners and horse professionals: Consider yourselves warned. Like the killer bees who paved the path, vampire bats may be headed your way. And they're bringing dangerous diseases with them.