Beware of Equine Respiratory Disease Outbreaks

Recognizing and preventing the spread of illnesses help both horses and farriers

Pictured Above: To help prevent contamination and spreading of contagious illnesses, farriers shouldn’t let horses nuzzle their backs. Vets suggest carrying several changes of shirts, as well.

Moving from horse to horse and barn to barn, farriers are in a key position to recognize equine respiratory diseases, notify horse owners and take steps to help prevent the spread of such illnesses.

The threat is real. For example, although the often-fatal equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM) is considered rare, as of this writing there were confirmed, active cases in Texas, South Dakota, North Dakota, Michigan and California, along with a suspected case in Wyoming. Some of the afflicted animals had traveled to horse events far from home before their diagnosis, potentially carrying the danger across state lines.

This list is not comprehensive. It’s a sampling compiled from the Equine Disease Communication Center at Equine DiseaseCC.org, a voluntary reporting site affiliated with the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). There is no national database for these equine diseases, so the exact number of cases cannot be known.

Farrier Takeaways

  • Farriers can be the first to notice that a horse is coughing and has a runny nose, which can be symptoms of a contagious illness.
  • Farriers shouldn’t let horses nuzzle their backs to avoid contamination, carry several changes of shirts and wash their hands with soap and water before leaving the barn.
  • Horses can spread the equine herpesviruses myeloencephalopathy even when not exhibiting symptoms.

More worrisome, EHM, a neurological disease, is thought to develop…

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Ron perszewski

Ron Perszewski

Ron Perszewski is a freelance writer and former associate editor of Ameri­can Farriers Journal.

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