As long as they're well cared for, most horses live their lives relatively unscathed by serious ailments and afflictions. Yet, they are prone to a few ailments.
Some are easily treated while others can be dangerous and even transferrable to humans.
If you're a horse owner and you want to make sure you're taking the best care of your animal, these are the common equine diseases you need to know about.
- Equine influenza (Horse Flu)
Like all cases of flu, this serious disease comes from a virus. The symptoms appear suddenly and are as follows:
- Nasal discharge
- Loss of appetite
The disease spreads rapidly and outbreaks usually occur after horses come into contact with infected animals at competitions or other areas where horses congregate close together.
Horse Flu’s expensive to treat and severe cases can lead to death.
It’s vital to keep infected animals in quarantine in a confined area. Any exercise can lead to secondary complications like pneumonia.
You can vaccinate your horse against horse flu and should do so at least twice a year if you travel to shows or other crowded events with your horse.
All mammals can contract tetanus from clostridium tetani bacteria entering a wound. The symptoms of tetanus are:
- High fever
- Muscle contractions
- Violent reactions to sudden noise or movement
Tetanus can result in death from asphyxiation.
These bacteria are everywhere, so it's important to inoculate your horse against tetanus every year. Often the horse flu vaccination includes an anti-tetanus component.
- Streptococcus Equi (Strangles)
Strangles is another one of the more serious and highly contagious horse diseases.
Signs of strangles include:
- Loss of appetite
- Nasal discharge
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Trouble swallowing
Strangles spreads via nasal secretions, pus from draining abscesses, and flies, as well as contaminated human hands, feed buckets, and grooming tools.
Vaccination’s the best way to avoid this fatal disease.
- West Nile Virus
Mosquitoes transmit the West Nile virus and it's a serious illness that can cause severe inflammation of the brain and spinal cord in horses.
Some of the symptoms of this terrible disease include:
- A decrease in coordination
- Heightened sensitivity to stimuli
- Stumbling toe dragging and leaning to one side
- Impaired vision
These symptoms vary in severity with the worst-case scenario being paralysis and death. There is a vaccination available for this disease.
- Mycotic Dermatitis (Rain Scald)
Rain scald's an unsightly and common condition that affects horses exposed to wet conditions for long periods of time. Poorly-fitting outdoor horse rug can make the horse more prone to this condition.
The symptoms of rain scald are patches of hair loss on the back and hindquarters which reveal dry, flaky skin.
It's very common in horses who are new to paddock life after living in stables for extended periods of time. There are many different types of ointments and shampoos you can use to kill the fungus that causes rain scald. Treatment is quick, easy, and effective.
Speak to your vet or other horse owners about which one works best in your area.
- Equine Arthritis
Equine arthritis is one of the most common diseases in horses over the age of 15 years old. It's usually the result of a lifetime of wear-and-tear on their joints due to strenuous exercise.
Sometimes, young horses can develop arthritis too but it's a debilitating and painful disease no matter which age it sets in.
The early signs of arthritis in horses include a reluctance to perform as they once did. Once it sets in, lameness and swollen joints result.
There are a few different types of arthritis in horses, namely:
- Traumatic arthritis
- Septic arthritis
- Subchondral cystic lesions
- Osteochondritis dissecans
So, it’s important to get veterinary assistance in diagnosing and treating this condition. Anti-inflammatory drugs and some natural remedies like CBD for horses can help ease the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
Another one of better-known horse diseases, laminitis results from inflammation of the laminae in their hooves. The laminae are a type of connective tissue that links the coffin bone to the hoof wall.
This a very serious condition that can lead to you having to euthanize your horse. Laminitis usually affects the front hooves but it can attack all four feet.
Some of the main causes of laminitis are high fever, working your horse on hard surfaces, and obesity. Laminitis is a progressive disease so you can treat it effectively if you catch it in the early stages.
It’s managed with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ‘bute’ and opiates.
- Allergic Dermatitis Equine Diseases
Allergic dermatitis refers to any skin reaction to outside stimulants. Sweet itch, or Summer itch, is one of the more common examples of this.
Sweet itch results from a reaction to the saliva of the culicoides midge when it bites your horse. This results in raised welts on their skin as well as bare patches at the top of the tail.
You can easily avoid this itchy unsightly affliction by applying insect repellant to your horse's coat at least once a day.
While Sweet itch is the most common type of allergic dermatitis, your horse can develop an allergy to almost anything. Your vet can conduct tests to find the culprit and a solution.
- Rhinopneumonitis (Equine Herpesvirus)
There are several equine herpes viruses around but type 1 (EHV-1) and type 4 (EHV-4) cause the worst symptoms. These include:
- Respiratory infections
Occasionally, young horses die from EHV. It’s a highly contagious virus that spreads via secretions and contact with infected horses or contaminated equipment.
You must vaccinate your horse against these serious viruses and pregnant mares should receive booster vaccinations every two months after the third month of their term.
This equine disease list is far from comprehensive, but you can rest assured that your horse is unlikely to contract all of these illnesses in their lifetime. Most of them are preventable with judicious care and regular vaccinations where they're available.
The best way to protect your horse from equine diseases is to ensure you know what's normal for them. That way you'll notice any unusual behavior early enough to ensure they get the best treatment possible.
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