Yard dis­eases

Your Horse (UK) - - Contents -

Es­sen­tial hy­giene prac­tices


What are the main dis­eases that af­fect horses? And can they catch any­thing from ver­min and hu­mans? Daniel Roc­ton, Bris­tol


Some dis­eases are spread by ver­min, such as lep­tospiro­sis which is car­ried by rats, while wild bird drop­pings can rarely be a source of sal­mo­nella. Both af­fect horses and hu­mans, but are less com­mon com­pared to those that move be­tween horses them­selves. So, think­ing about in­fec­tions in horses, it’s more use­ful to fo­cus on the most com­mon dis­eases. The ma­jor prob­lems are the dis­eases that are spread by coughs, such as equine in­fluenza and stran­gles, and con­ta­gious skin ail­ments like ring­worm.

Equine in­fluenza

Equine in­fluenza (flu) is a highly con­ta­gious dis­ease that spreads like wild­fire through a yard of un­vac­ci­nated horses (read more on p74). Symp­toms in­clude cough­ing, high fever, list­less­ness, lethargy and in­ap­pe­tence. Af­fected horses may well have nasal dis­charge, too. In­fluenza is caused by a virus that can­not sur­vive for long pe­ri­ods out­side of the animal. Luck­ily, we have an ex­tremely ef­fec­tive vac­ci­na­tion for equine in­fluenza and all horses should be cov­ered for this dis­ease. After an ini­tial course of vac­ci­na­tions, a booster vac­ci­na­tion needs to be given yearly. Most events and shows re­quire horses to be vac­ci­nated, and will not al­low un­vac­ci­nated an­i­mals to at­tend.


Ring­worm is a fun­gal skin in­fec­tion that spreads rapidly be­tween horses and is highly con­ta­gious. It causes hair loss in small patches, re­veal­ing crusty, scurfy skin and spreads if left un­treated, re­sult­ing in large ar­eas of hair loss. Di­ag­no­sis is done by send­ing skin and hair sam­ples to a lab­o­ra­tory, where the fungi is ei­ther seen on hair shafts un­der a mi­cro­scope or by grow­ing it in a cul­ture.

Keep fee­d­rooms and uten­sils scrupu­lously clean: spilt food and dirty buck­ets at­tract dis­ease-spread­ing ver­min

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