Tips for Preventing the Spread of Equine Diseases
For an athletic horse, an infection can mean a devastating interruption at the peak of their career. For older horses, an infection can develop into a severe illness, or even become life threatening.
With practical biosecurity measures, you can protect your horses against the spread of infectious diseases.
Whether your horses travel for competitions, breeding, or training, or usually just stay on your property, take these simple steps to keep them safe and healthy.
Understand How Equine Diseases Spread
Diseases can spread quickly between horses in close quarters. But did you know that disease can also be spread in many indirect ways, even between two horses who may have never been in direct contact with one another?
Disease can spread by:
- Direct horse-to-horse contact, especially nose-to-nose
- Through the air, propelled by coughing and sneezing
- Indirect contact with contaminated surfaces, such as shared equipment, communal water tanks, or stable walls
- Your or a visitor's hands, clothing or shoes Insect bites
When traveling and quarantining a horse, make sure to wash your hands, change your clothes, and use a foot bath between handling horses. Use hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes to kill germs on the go when you can't access soap and water.
Horses should never share bridles, bits, blankets, and tack. Any equipment that must be shared should be sanitized between horses.
Vaccinating Against Disease
All horses should have their core vaccinations that protect them against rabies, tetanus, West Nile Virus, and Eastern/Western Equine Encephalomyelitis.
You can work with your veterinarian to decide if your horses may need additional vaccines depending on what diseases are widespread in your region, and the age, health condition, and travel activity of your horses.
Biosecurity When Traveling With Your Horse
Traveling, especially if you take part in shows or competitions, can put your horse at risk for contracting illnesses and bringing them back to the stable to spread to other resident horses.
If you can, avoid letting your horse travel with horses from other farms. Use your own trailer, if possible. If you must use someone else's trailer, make sure it is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before you load your horse.
You'll also want to disinfect your horse's show stall as best as you can. Disinfecting wipes are useful for when you can't realistically clean the stall from top to bottom.
Make sure your horse has their own source of fresh, clean drinking water. Never use shared water sources. When topping off their water bucket, make sure the nozzle of the hose does not touch the surface of the water.
When To Quarantine A Horse
If your horse has been diagnosed with a contagious illness, or they even show signs that they might be getting sick, you should quarantine them for at least 30 days.
You should also quarantine your horse for at least two weeks when they return to their home stable after traveling. Also quarantine any new horses that you bring to the barn for 30 days.
While in quarantine, monitor your horse for signs like a fever, abnormally low temperature, lethargy, dehydration, decreased appetite, and diarrhea. Contact your vet if your horse shows signs of illness, and for advice on when it's safe for your horse to leave quarantine.