17 Oct 2019

Elite Equine and Tips for Controlling Infection in Your Horses


Josie L. Traub-Dargatz, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, shares her experience on ways to control infection in horses:

“Many horses, like people today, live a fast-paced life.  Horses are on the road to shows, breeding farms, racetracks and trail rides. It is critical to manage each horse to avoid an illness that could compromise performance in the short run or even result in permanent impairment of their ability to perform or result in loss of life.

An even larger impact would be felt by the horse owner if an infectious disease outbreak occurs on their farm.   If many horses become ill, this can result in substantial financial cost of treatment, lost use and potentially loss of business if horses are unable to move on or off of the facility for a time.

A farm that has had an infectious disease outbreak in their horses can become stigmatized, which in turn can affect their business for a long period of time, even after the outbreak is resolved.

The first part of an infection control plan would include working with a veterinarian to develop a comprehensive vaccination program.  A vaccination program needs to be tailored to the individual horse and the horses at a given facility.  The ultimate goal of vaccination is to maximize the horse’s resistance to specific disease-causing agents if exposed.

Since stress and nutritional deficiencies, especially trace mineral deficiencies, can result in degradation of innate immunity, it is important to address these areas in the overall infection control plan. Assuring that the horse is as comfortable as possible during transportation and when housed can help to minimize the adverse effects of stress.

The horse owner should consider working with a professional to evaluate the horse’s diet to be certain not only meet his need for protein and energy, but also vitamins and minerals. These micronutrients can play a key role in his resistance to disease.

The second major part of an infection control plan should be focused on reducing or preventing exposure of the horse to infection causing agents.  There is no question this is the part that will require more work on the horse owner’s part and will be more difficult to do.  So, you might say “do I really need to do it?”  I believe the answer is yes.

A few examples of ways to reduce or prevent exposure of your horse to infection causing agents:

  1. Collect and discard manure at least once a week. Do this in both the paddock and pasture areas.
  2. Consider segregating horses based on the risk they may pose for infectious diseases. Horses that have travelled to sites where horses congregate, have been at a veterinary hospital or those that are new to your farm may be more likely to shed infectious disease agents.
  3. Design the horse facility to make it as easy to clean as possible. Porous surfaces and dirt floors will be impossible to clean adequately if they become contaminated with certain bacteria that can cause disease in horses.” [1]

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