It's that time of year again to start thinking about vaccinating and deworming your horses! Don't forget to ask us about tick prevention as well!!
Potomac Horse Fever This tick transmitted disease causes severe diarrhea, which can lead to death if left untreated. There is seasonal incidence with a peak in July and August. It occurs mainly in Ontario, the United States and Alberta (especially around the Red Deer River and the foothills region). Veterinarians recommend that horses travelling into these areas are vaccinated (if possible) two weeks prior to departure. Strangles Also known as Equine Distemper, Strangles is a highly contagious disease causing coughing, nasal discharge, fever, depression and thick walled abscesses. Young horses aged 1 to 5 years old, are most commonly affected especially if they are in a high risk, exposure situation (travelling, stress, shows, rodeos or crowded corrals for instance). Treatment requires rest in a warm, dry environment for at least 10 days as well as hot-packing abscesses. If left untreated, the infection may spread throughout the body becoming “bastard strangles” which may lead to death in severe cases. Vaccination is recommended for horses entering high risk situations. Suspect horses should be quarantined until final diagnosis is made. Rhinopneumonitis This herpes virus may come in any of the following three forms:
Respiratory Form – this is the most common form. Symptoms include depression, coughing, and yellow nasal discharge and is most common in younger horses.
Abortion Form – this is usually a problem in unvaccinated horse and usually causes the mare to abort in the last three months of pregnancy.
Paralytic Form – this is the least common, but the most severe form. It results in muscle weakness or partial paralysis.
Influenza Commonly referred to as the “flu”. This virus causes many flu like symptoms such as fever, depression, hacking cough and runny nose similar to Rhinopneumonitis. These symptoms can be treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories but the virus itself cannot be cured. As with most viruses, the risk of contracting it is increase with more exposure to other horses. Vaccinations are recommended for all horses not living in a controlled environment. Eastern & Western Encephalomyelitis Also known as “Sleeping Sickness” this disease is a mosquito borne virus that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms may begin as depression, fever, and lack of coordination but, may often deteriorate to permanent brain damage. With good supportive therapy, recovery is possible, but costly. Tetanus This bacterial infection is contracted mainly through wounds and dirty needles. The affected horse will often become reluctant to eat off the ground and its’ third eyelid may begin to cover the eyeball. The disease progresses to muscle stiffness and spasms. The tail extends outward with the head and ears very erect. Once the horse collapses, death is very possible. Rabies Rabies virus is rare in horses and is not often vaccinated. Although rare, fatality is certain if an unimmunized horse contracts rabies. The virus is contracted mainly through bites from other infected animals. If the horse becomes infected, some of the symptoms that may occur are excitability, viciousness, self-mutilation, tremors and muscle spasms. In the final stages of rabies, one will note difficulty swallowing progressing to paralysis, convulsions and death. West Nile Virus West Nile is most commonly spread by mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds but can also be transmitted by ticks. Symptoms of horses infected with this virus may include ataxia, depression, fever, head pressing or tilt, impaired vision, inability to swallow, decreased appetite, muscle weakness or twitching, partial paralysis, coma and death. Many of the symptoms are similar to those seen in rabies, but West Nile Virus can usually be confirmed with blood test. There is no cure for the virus so supportive therapy to reduce the severity of symptoms is the only treatment course.
Come in and talk with our team about your horses vaccine needs and we can help you determine a suitable vaccine schedule depending on your horses risk factors.
In the veterinary profession, we are starting to see some parasite resistance to the dewormers we have for horses. Our current recommendation is to perform a fecal examination in the fall or spring to determine if your horse is shedding a high number of parasites and needs to be dewormed. We are finding that many horses are being ‘over-dewormed’ and MOST horses are low shedders and do not need to be dewormed. If your horse is determined to be shedding a low number of parasites, they do not need to be dewormed. A recheck fecal examination can be performed in the spring/fall to determine then if deworming needs to be done at that time. If your horse is a high shedder of parasites, then they would need to be dewormed. If you are interested in having a fecal exam performed bring in one fresh fecal ball (within 24hours of collection) per horse stored in a ziploc bag- labelled with the horse’s name. Store in the refrigerator until it can be brought in to the vet clinic. The cost of the fecal exam is approximately the same cost as a dewormer. For those owners that are not interested in the above we recommend coming in to discuss a personalized deworming schedule with our team.