By Dr. Kevin Hankins
DVM, MBA, Senior Technical Services Veterinarian, Zoetis
You know your horse better than anyone. When he begins not acting like himself and showing clinical signs of illness, you fear he’s been exposed to disease. Normally, within 24 to 48 hours of exposure, infected horses begin to demonstrate coughing, fever, depression and decreased feed intake.
What should you do if your horse was exposed to disease?
• Immediately isolate the horse. If you have concerns your horse was exposed to disease, isolate him immediately from all other horses and implement biosecurity management practices, as outlined by the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
• Call your veterinarian. Involve your veterinarian as soon as possible to help limit disease progression and time out of the saddle.
• Determine the disease. Work with your veterinarian to implement diagnostic testing, which involves a wide range of screening tests to quickly diagnose disease, allowing rapid treatment for your horse.
• Keep a close watch on your horse. Isolate him for at least two weeks — no less than three weeks if diagnosed with strangles. With strangles, your horse may require diagnostics and nasal swabs to ensure he’s clear of Streptococcus equi bacteria before exposure or turnout with other horses. In any case, take your horse’s temperature twice daily and closely monitor his feed and water intake.
• Help protect against future disease risks. Work with your veterinarian to develop a comprehensive vaccination program for your horse.
For the best disease protection, work proactively alongside your veterinarian to vaccinate your horse annually against the five core equine diseases: Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, rabies, tetanus and West Nile. Consider your horse’s lifestyle and discuss with your veterinarian if he may benefit from risk-based vaccinations to help protect against diseases such as equine influenza, equine herpesvirus or strangles.