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Top Ten Horse Diseases to Watch out for
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Top Ten Horse Diseases to Watch out for

As a horse owner, we are concerned about keeping them healthy by giving them the proper type of food, an adequate amount of exercise without overtiring it, ensuring proper shelter is provided, and keeping the horse happy overall. However, some things aren’t within our control: horse diseases and illnesses. But, even though we can’t actually treat the horses, we can still look out for symptoms and call a veterinarian as soon as we see something abnormal, and make sure we keep them up to date with their vaccines. Here is a list of some of the most common diseases and what to watch for.

1- Tetanus, or lockjaw

This disease attacks the nervous system and causes muscle stiffness and spasms. It is found in most animal species, but humans and horses are the most impacted by it. The infection starts in a wound and the first muscle affected is the jaw (hence the name) and it works its way through the body. Eventually, the horse can go as far as not being able to stand. It can cause death if left untreated. A shot is needed.

2- West Nile Virus

Like humans, this virus is transmitted through mosquitoes. Skin twitching, ataxia and muscle trembling are the signs. Horses may also develop facial paralysis, listlessness, sleepiness, problems with elimination, and the inability to stand up. It may lead to blindness. Although no vaccine exists for humans, there is one for horses.

3- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

It is similar to human asthma and affects horses that stay in stalls during the winter months. Older horses – seven years and up – are the most affected. Difficulty breathing and lack of energy are symptoms of this disease. To avoid it, try to keep the horse outdoors as much as possible, and keep the stalls clean.

4- Equine Infectious Anemia

It is often fatal and is transmitted by mosquitoes, horseflies and is very contagious. The symptoms include fever, weight loss, sweating, swelling and weakness. The Coggins test is required for horses travelling to the USA and it should be done to every new horse you take home.

5- Lyme Disease

This bacteria is transmitted by deer ticks and can affect humans as well as horses. The symptoms can go unnoticed for months and include arthritis, swelling and pain in the joints, tendons and ligaments. Antibiotics may need to be administered for up to two years. The best way to prevent it is by grooming the horse daily.

6- Aspergillosis

Inhaling the spores from wet hay is how this disease is contracted. It affects the head area and causes nasal discharge, neurological deficits and Homer’s syndrome. Tests are available to diagnose this disease. Treatment results vary.

7- Vesicular Stomatitis

A very highly contagious disease, vesicular stomatitis affects swine, cattle and horses, and is transmitted by insects that bite such as black flies. The symptoms are fever, lethargy, and blisters containing fluid in mucus membranes. Since it is so contagious, horses need to be quarantined.

8- Anthrax

This disease affects all animals and is contracted by eating infected pastures. Symptoms include swollen bellies, necks and throats, colic and fever. The horses start breathing rapidly, walk crooked and may die.

9- Salmonella

Salmonella causes diarrhea in horses and you can detect it by the smell in their diarrhea, colic and high fever. Watch for dehydration.

10- Cryptococcus

This fungus grows in bird dung and is transmitted to horses by breathing it accidentally. The infection starts in the nose and goes through the respiratory tract and may cause pneumonia.

Of course, there are more, and this list is not a complete one, so stay informed and always ask your veterinarian if you doubt something may have come up.


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