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 (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