Identifying and treating infectious diseases in horses

Horses rarely live in a stable stock, but they leave the stable for riding, training or tournaments and usually meet other horses as well. Trips or transfers challenge the immune system and increase the likelihood of coming into contact with new pathogens. Pathogens can also be transmitted from one barn to another through people, equipment, and utensils.

There are many infectious and zoonotic diseases in horses. The most common infectious diseases in horses are influenza, herpes, and thrushes, and they are not reported or reported. In the field of animal diseases, equine infectious anemia and West Nile fever should be mentioned, both of which are subject to notification. One example of an infectious disease that should be reported is infectious equine metritis.

How can I recognize an infectious disease?

There are various points on a horse’s body that can give clues that something is wrong with the horse or that it has an infectious disease. If in doubt, the owner of the horse should contact the vet and begin the first hygiene procedures. Particular attention should be paid to the following points:

First look at the horse

how is she? Vigilance and vigilance or laziness and apathy? How is the horse’s position? Does he prick his ears and raise his head when he sees someone or does he stand in a corner with his head down without responding?

look at the head

How are the gills? Is there nasal secretions? The alert signs are white, yellow to green, sticky nasal discharge from one or both nostrils. Another clue is a swollen nose at rest.

The lymph nodes on the horse’s head provide another clue. It is very easy to feel the so-called mandibular lymph nodes, which are located between the branches of the lower jaw of the horse. Other lymph nodes are located in the ganache area. Is it small, soft, flexible, movable, pain-insensitive and the same on both sides? Or swollen, swollen, painful?

horse breath

Normal is eight to 16 breaths per minute, and a horse’s healthy breathing is somewhat opaque. If you stand on the side of the horse, you can see how the wings rise and fall a little. If breathing is clearly visible even at rest, or if the horse is using the so-called abdominal compression, that is, it is actively using the abdominal muscles for breathing, then these are indications that something is wrong.

horse temperature

Infectious diseases usually appear first as an increase in basal body temperature. Rectal temperature measurement with a commercially available clinical thermometer is sufficient, but there are also special thermometers for larger animals. If you are inexperienced or perhaps the horse is a bit nervous, you should get someone to help you. Temperature should be measured regularly and become routine for humans and animals. You can put some milk fat on the tip of the thermometer, you should stand on the side of the horse and take the tail to the side. The thermometer is then inserted rectally about halfway. The thermometer should be held at a slight angle so that it touches the intestinal wall. Then hold the thermometer firmly and start the measurement process. If the thermometer is not installed correctly, the correct temperature will not be measured. After the measurement process, clean and sterilize the thermometer. The normal temperature of a horse is 37 ° to 38 ° C, from 38.5 ° C one speaks of a high temperature.

Hygiene and care

Whenever horses of different groups meet, it is important to pay special attention to hygiene and preventative care. This is the best way to protect the health of horses. After all, the welfare of horses comes first. In addition to vaccinations, certain procedures help reduce the risk of infection as much as possible. The following points should always be kept in mind:

  • Daily health check of horses (eating behaviour, general impression)
  • If you know there are outbreaks in the area, take your temperature regularly
  • If symptoms such as fever, lethargy, cough, and nasal discharge develop, separate the sick horse from other horses and call the vet
  • Do not go to tournaments or other events with sick horses or seemingly healthy horses from farms where sick horses are bred
  • Exclusive use of your equipment (buckets, ropes, blankets, etc.), i.e. not allowing horses to drink from communal drinking bowls and only allowing them to eat food from your bucket
  • When several horses from different stables meet, the risk of injury increases. Therefore, new horses entering a stable must first be isolated and the entire herd must be closely monitored.
  • People can also transmit the virus through hands, clothing and equipment, which is why hygiene and disinfection are especially important here.

Cleanliness in the tournament:

  • Championship Day Health Check: Is the horse fit? did he eat? What is body temperature? Does it look exhilarating? Only healthy and fit horses can participate in tournaments!
  • Another condition for participation in the championship is that no contagious disease has spread among other horses in the stable of origin.
  • Direct contact between horses in the tournament should be avoided, and contact between people and other horses should be kept to a minimum. Participants and assistants take care of their own horses, but if possible do not take care of other people’s horses.
  • Only use the utensils and equipment you brought with you. Do not share doses or trough.
  • Specifically recommended for night competitions: daily measurement and recording of body temperature for horse monitoring. Sudden onset of fever, diarrhoea, cough or ataxia should be reported to the vet/champion organizer.

The FN Hygiene Guide contains this and other information about managing hygiene in the barn and on the road, which can be downloaded for free.

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