Humans can catch diseases from horses

Germs are everywhere this time of year: sneezed in the air, wiped on sleeves and living on every surface. We often think of getting contagious illnesses from other people, but have you thought about your horse?

Could we get sick from our horses? We sure could. Skin infections and bacterial infections are illnesses we could catch from our horses.

Ringworm is a dermatophyte (fungus) that causes skin infections in horses and humans. The fungus infects the horse’s skin developing a raised, bumpy, scaly patch of hairless skin. In humans, ringworm is an itchy, red, round, scaly patch of skin. Ringworm can be spread via tack, grooming tools, and direct contact with infected skin. Ringworm is fairly easy to treat in horses and humans, but it takes many weeks to clear up.

Bacterial diseases like salmonellosis could cause serious illnesses in both horses and humans. Salmonellosis in horses often results in diarrhea, depression, and dehydration. In humans, salmonellosis causes diarrhea, fever and cramps. Salmonellosis is spread by contact with an infected horse’s manure.

Important tips to help keep you and your horse healthy are to wash hands after doing chores and before eating/drinking, cover any skin wounds on your hands or arms, and have separate boots and gloves for tending to horses. Washing and cleaning your tack and grooming tools will also help keep your horse’s skin in healthy condition. Practicing good hygiene both with you and your horse will keep you both healthy during this germy winter season.

Dr. Heather Hilbrands, DVM, grew up in Milbank, S.D., and received an animal sciene degree from South Dakota State University. She graduated from veterinary school at Iowa State University in 2006. She practiced large and small animal veterinary medicine in South Dakota prior to coming to North Dakota. She now practices at Casselton Veterinary Service, Inc. in Casselton, N.D.