Why do we vaccinate our horses?

Equine Influenza

Equine Influenza is a very commonly occurring virus. It is highly contagious and can be life threatening if contracted by very young or elderly horses or horses that have not been vaccinated.

Vaccinating your horse does not stop your horse from contracting the virus but it can reduce the clinical signs of the disease.   


Clinical signs of Equine Influenza can include:

• Fever
• Off colour, not eating or drinking
• Sweating or shivering
• Coughing or discharge from the nostrils
• Secondary bacterial lung infections and even death.

What to do if your horse is showing signs of equine flu…

Testing

If your horse is showing signs of flu then the best thing to do is call your vet as soon as possible. If they also suspect flu, they will then be able to take a swab from inside your horse’s nose and send it to the AHT where we will test it for flu free of charge.
Horses shed the most virus in the first few days of infection, so the sooner your vet takes a sample, the more likely they are to get a positive test result. Paired blood samples are also useful for making a diagnosis, especially if your horse is not sampled for several days after it first shows signs of infection.

Diagnosis and treatment

Once your vet has received the result, they will be in a better position to advise you on the most appropriate treatment and on the long term recovery for your horse. They will also help you identify other susceptible animals and suggest isolation strategies to limit the spread of the disease.

Recovery

It takes between 50-100 days for the lining of the respiratory tract to fully recover after a horse has been infected with flu. During this period they should not undergo any stress or strenuous exercise as they will be predisposed to developing other respiratory infections.
A good rule of thumb is for every day that they had a temperature they will need at least a week off from exercise.

Similar to human influenza viruses, the virus can mutate producing different “strains” and it is very important that your horse is vaccinated with the most up to date vaccination available.

Clostridium Tetani (Tetanus)

Tetanus is caused by the bacteria, Clostridium tetani which is found in the soil. The bacteria can enter the horse’s bloodstream via small, infected wounds.

Clinical signs of Tetanus:

• Vague stiffness and unwilling to move.
• This can then progress to muscle spasms of the head and neck resulting in difficulty eating and drinking, nostril flaring and a wide-eyed expression.
• Finally, it can progress to generalised trembling, violent, whole body spasms in response to sudden movements or noise and death.

It is very important to ensure that your horse is protected against tetanus, and this can be achieved through vaccination. Approximately 90% of unvaccinated horses that develop tetanus die. 

If you have concerns about Equine Influenza or Tetanus then contact your veterinary surgeon or contact us here at Equine Health Direct for further advice.