Most people are familiar with the furious form of rabies thanks to Stephen King’s iconic rabid dog, Cujo. However, there are two presentations of rabies, the more recognizable “furious” form and the less common “dumb” form. Rabies is a zoonotic disease that can affect humans, horses, and other mammals. Rabies is caused by a virus that travels along nerve pathways to reach the central nervous system and brain and is almost always fatal. The virus is transferred when the saliva from an infected animal enters through mucous membranes, like the eyes or mouth, of another animal. Transmission can also occur through open wounds or a bite from an infected animal.
Rabies is difficult to diagnose in horses. Horses typically present with the dumb form with signs that include ataxia and lameness and progress to profuse salivation and inability to swallow. They may also express distress, extreme agitation, and rolling behavior which can be interpreted as colic.
Prevention through vaccination is the best protocol to avoid infection. Rabies is considered a required core vaccine for horses by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), and National Association of Public Health Veterinarians (HASPHV). California regulations allow veterinarians, registered veterinary technicians (RVT) under supervision, and veterinary assistants under direct supervision, to administer the rabies vaccination legally. Having your veterinarian administer the rabies vaccination provides legal documentation of the vaccination in case of infection or if your horse were to bite a human. This also provides vaccination support through the manufacturer in case of side effects or infection after vaccination.
In California, rabies most commonly occurs in wildlife including bats, skunks, and foxes. The California Department of Public Health has designated San Mateo and Santa Clara counties as rabies declaration areas indicating the presence of rabies cases in the county. Vaccinating for rabies protects both your horse from acquiring a fatal disease and the people interacting with your horse from being exposed.
Starwood Equine recommends vaccinating for rabies as part of your horse’s annual core vaccines. If you would like to decline the rabies vaccination, a waiver can be signed and returned to firstname.lastname@example.org or in person at your next appointment. Additional information is available at the California Department of Public Health rabies webpage and the US center for disease control and prevention of rabies webpage.
Reserpine is used as a long-acting sedative for horses and is frequently prescribed to horses with existing injuries that require a slow recovery plan. A low dose sedative can aid in keeping the horse calm during stall rest to prevent re-injury or additional damage.
Reserpine should only be used when prescribed by a veterinarian with specific dosing instructions for the individual horse and situation. While this medication is useful for horses recovering from an injury, there are potential side effects that should be carefully monitored. Horses could have an allergic reaction to this product resulting in facial swelling, hives, itching, shock, seizures, pale gums, and cold limbs. Other side effects include colic, GI upset, diarrhea, and lower limb swelling. If any of these signs are present, owners should discontinue use and contact their veterinarian.
Show season is upon us and the staff at Starwood Equine would like to remind horse owners of the importance of practicing proper biosecurity, as there is always disease risk when horses of unknown health status are intermingling at a competition. While you cannot eliminate the risk, you can reduce it with the following biosecurity tips:
Schedule a wellness exam to ensure that your horse is fit for travel and competition as well as up to date on vaccinations. This is a great time to discuss your showing schedule with your veterinarian to determine if any additional vaccines may be needed based upon your expected travel. It is also a good opportunity to perform Coggins testing, pre-schedule health certificate checks, and record baseline vitals.
If your equine athlete shows signs of fever, nasal discharge, and diarrhea prior to travel it is best to keep the horse home.
Be aware of current disease outbreaks. The Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC) is a communication system designed to seek and report real time information about disease outbreaks similar to how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) alerts the human population about diseases in people. Click the link below to sign up for the email alerts.
While on the show grounds, limiting exposure and monitoring your horse will help you to minimize your equine athlete’s risk of disease.
Clean and disinfect your horse's stall(s). One of your first showgrounds tasks should be to disinfect the stalls. Leftover manure, shavings, and dirty walls are potential hazards. Remove all bedding remnants and use a disinfectant of your choice on stall walls, especially built-in feeders. Diluted bleach (8 oz bleach to 1 gallon of water) is an inexpensive disinfectant option. Rinse the stall thoroughly.
Bring your own supplies. Portable stall mats can serve as a barrier between your horse and a dirt floor, which is difficult to disinfect. Using your own feed tubs and water buckets minimizes the chances of your horse accessing nasal secretions from other horses. Avoid sharing of equipment (feed/water buckets, hay bags, grooming tools, tacks, or manure forks) unless thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between uses. Remember to disinfect these items before and after the show to prevent the spread of disease. Hold showground hoses out of the water when filling buckets to avoid water contamination from those who may have dropped the hose in their bucket before you.
Limit horse-to-horse contact by keeping your horse separated from other horses as much as possible. It is especially important to not allow horses to have nose-to-nose contact. Also, discourage drinking out of communal water sources.
Limit horse-to-human-to-horse contact by limiting the general public’s contact with your horses and your contact with other horses. Wash your hands frequently and keep your own supply of hand sanitizer.
During and after your show, keep a close eye on your horse. Often, a higher temperature is the first indication you’ll see that your horse isn’t well. We recommend taking your equine athlete’s temperature at least once daily. The temperature taken at the wellness exam with your veterinarian will provide you with a baseline for comparison of what is normal for your individual horse. Observe animals daily for signs and symptoms of illness, such as:
If you suspect your horse is getting sick, contact your vet right away to stay ahead of the disease.
Upon returning home from a show, it is recommended that returning horses be isolated from resident horses for 14 days. Monitor horses daily for signs of fever, nasal discharge, and diarrhea. Inanimate objects (water buckets, hay bags, grooming tools, tacks, or manure forks) can serve as fomites, transferring infectious organisms from one location/individual to another. It is best to disinfect these items regularly, especially after arriving home from an event. To avoid spreading anything yourself, wash your hands, shower, and change clothing and shoes before working with horses kept at home.
Horse shows can be great fun, these biosecurity tips can help you to keep your horse safe and healthy through the show season. We love to see all of our equine athletes in action, don't forget to tag #HorsesofStarwood.
Please feel free to print or share a copy of our Horse Show Biosecurity Guide below:
Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) is a potentially fatal viral disease, transmitted by blood via biting insects. EIA causes severe anemia and fevers and has no cure. The incidence of EIA has been greatly reduced by surveillance through testing (Coggins Test).
A "Coggins" is a blood test that detects antibodies to the Equine Infectious Anemia disease. For your horse to travel across state lines and internationally, a negative Coggins Test is required. Requirements may vary depending on where you are traveling. International travel often requires a horse to have a negative Coggins within 30 days. Most states require proof that a horse has tested negative for EIA within the 12 months prior to travel. However, some states require that horses test EIA negative 60 days prior to entering the state. If you are crossing state lines, with your horse, you will also need a health certificate.
To perform a Coggins Test, a Starwood veterinarian will obtain a blood sample and send it to a USDA accredited laboratory. The sample is submitted with a form which identifies your horse through markings and digital photographs.
To streamline our service, we encourage clients to begin the Coggins and health certificate process at least one week before their planned departure. A RUSH can be done with a 48 hour turn-around time, but additional charges apply.
The only way to definitively diagnose ulcers is through gastroscopy, which involves placing an endoscope into the stomach and looking at its surface. To allow this, the stomach must be empty, so most horses are held off feed for 12 to 24 hours and not allowed to drink water for two to three hours. With light sedation the endoscope is passed through the nostril and down the esophagus into the stomach. The light and camera on the end of the endoscope allow the veterinarian to observe the stomach lining.
See Full Article on Ulcers from AAEP
The following are images from a Gastroscopy performed by Starwood Equine on a competition horse, confirming suspected Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS).
The patient was placed on a regimen of omeprazole and sucralfate and was rechecked 42 days later. The follow up scoping revealed that the ulcers were improving with the prescribed antacid therapy. Below is a screen shot of the healing polyps found on the antrum after treatment.
The treatment doses were tapered following the second scoping. We are happy to report that the patient is much improved since treatment.
There are many questions regarding what changes to make in your daily routine to help your horse thrive during the cold winter months. With the help of their owners, horses can live in comfort year round with some small modifications. These include feed alterations, water adjustments, supplemental blanketing, mud management, riding changes, and shelter arrangement.
During the winter many horses decrease their level of water consumption. Owners can help their horses stay healthy and hydrated by encouraging them to drink using several different techniques. Studies have shown that when horses are offered slightly warmer water vs. the cold, icy water directly from the hose, there is an increased likelihood of them drinking more regularly. This can be accomplished by using a number different bucket or tank heaters, or by adding warm water to their feed twice daily. Several other methods of encouragement include offering free choice mineral blocks or topping a small amount of grain with electrolytes. It is important to keep your horse hydrated during these cold months because decreased water consumption could lead to impaction colic and an overall decrease in health and wellbeing
SmartPak has developed a blanketing app to help owners take the guesswork out of which blanket to put on their horse. You can customize a profile for each of your horses including age, hair coat length, body condition, and shelter availability. The app then makes a blanketing recommendation for your specific horse based on the weather forecast in your area.
Click for more information on the SmartPak Blanketing App.
Mud and Shelter Management:
If horses are turned out in a pasture, it is necessary for them to have some form of shelter to enable them to get away from winter elements and mud. Shelters come in a variety of forms, and the type you use is largely dependent on a specific facility and finances. It is important to ensure shelters have adequate space for the number of animals and their natural hierarchy behavior.
Shelters are a great way to allow horses to get out of the mud as well. If a horse is unable to have a break from standing in constant mud, they can develop issues such as fungal and bacterial infections, which will not only be bothersome for them, but will require you to have to spend extra time cleaning the area, as well as figure out a mud free area to house them until the affected wound has been cleared. Daily brushing and washing is a great preventative measure to help avoid issues.
Riding and Care changes:
In the winter we find that many horses are on what seems to be a winter break. Research has shown that this break can drastically increase the amount of time it takes a horse to come back into full working shape in the spring. By keeping horses on a slightly decreased, but consistent work schedule during the winter it will help shorten the time it will take for horses to get back to their normal performance levels. There are however modifications that need to be made to riding schedules during cold winter months. Warming up and cooling down are of even greater importance at this time of year. A good rule of thumb is to spend twice as much time at these aspects of the workout than you do when the weather is warm. Also, make sure your horse is cool and dry before putting them away.
Winter Do's and Do Not's
Starwood Equine Veterinary Services is happy to answer any additional questions about how to help you and your horse better prepare for winter!.
Starwood Equine believes in the use of both traditional and integrative medical approaches, and feels there is a place for both western and eastern medicine in our equine patients. The following article is intended to introduce you to the use of mesotherapy in the horse, and explain the science behind this treatment method.
What can mesotherapy be used for?
How does mesotherapy relieve pain?
What does the mesotherapy treatment entail?
How soon can we expect results?