You’d have to be living under a rock to be unaware of the concerns arising from the equine influenza outbreak in the UK and IRE over the last couple of weeks. The harsh reality is it shouldn’t take an outbreak like this for owners and managers to think about preventative and pro-active measures. However, if this is something you aren’t familiar with, we will go through some steps to ensure you practice responsible equine management and improve on your biosecurity as this WILL reduce the risk of equine infectious diseases.
Diagnosis of Equine Influenza
- If your horse or pony is dull and lifeless, rapid breathing (>20 breaths per min) off feed, has a cough (harsh/dry) or nasal discharge or swollen glands you should call your vet. If the horse has been at shows or away from home this should be on hand to help identify where the animal came into contact with the virus.
- If your horse has travelled from the UK or any area affected by Equine Influenza.
- If your Horse or Pony develops a temperature – Normal rectal temperature of an adult horse is 99 – 101 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.2 – 38.3 Celsius and a high temperature is classed as 103 – 106 degrees F or 38.9 – 41 Celsius.
- The Irish Equine Centre in Co. Kildare are currently offering free testing, speak to your vet or contact the IEC.
- Vaccinated horses can still contract the virus, their symptoms don’t tend to be as severe as their unvaccinated counterparts.
If you suspect influenza from the above guidelines you should follow these simple instructions:
- Isolate the animal immediately but insure you don’t move it onto another equine property. If you are keeping the horse stabled make sure the affected horse isn’t allowed direct contact or airflow with other horses.
- Contact your vet and document vaccination histories as well as your horses age and condition (in foal/elderly or if the horse has any other conditions such as COPD)
- Check other horses on the premise’s vaccination history and if you are in a livery yard notify other owners and managers.
- Do not share feed buckets, bridles or bits with unaffected horses.
- Take the horses temperature regularly.
- Keep the horse warm and comfortable.
- Ideally one person should care for the sick horse but if this is not possible keep a jacket/overalls and boots etc for affected horse.
- Foot dip container outside the affected horses’ door to use after dealing with the sick animal. Use disinfectant but ensure you are using the correct concentration and that it is powerful against viruses.
- Always have alcohol/hygienic hand rub and wash hands from going from the sick horse into another.
- The virus is easily killed using disinfectant so tack, stables and buckets should be thoroughly disinfected.
- There should be no movement of horses in or out of the affected yard until 1 week after (min) the last sick horse has recovered.
- Affected horses should be slowly brought back into work once they are recovered.
How to reduce the risk of infection:
- If you’re concerned, if your horses are travelling and competing you can give a booster vaccination if the horses hasn’t been vaccinated in the last 6 months.
- All horses on the yard should be up to date with their influenza vaccinations and one unvaccinated horse can harbour the virus.
- New arrivals or horses or horses arriving from competitions or sales should be isolated for at least 1 week and their temperatures monitored.
- Young horses are more ‘at-risk’ so it helps to group horses together. For example, a horse attending shows weekly shouldn’t be turned out with young stock.
- ‘At-risk’ horses shouldn’t be strenuously exercised or sweated.
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