Care of Sick Horses in Ohio Outbreak

The battle against the paralyzing disease that hit the English riding facility at the University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio was lost for 10 horses, but is still being waged for the 22 others which have been affected neurologically (see article #4079 at C. Michael Kerns, DVM, Director of University Equine Veterinary Services at the University of Findlay and Associate Professor of Animal Science, detailed the supportive treatment given to affected horses. Preliminary tests have suggested that the virus could be equine herpesvirus type-1 (EHV-1), but confirmatory tests have not been completed.

“The horses’ symptoms are basically of two-fold nature,” said Kerns, “they’re getting fevers and then when the fevers break, the older horses seem to be getting neurological signs and the younger horses are getting snotty noses.

“To the neurologic horses, we’ve been giving anti-inflammatory drugs and Banamine (flunixin meglumine), or pain reliever. We’ve been giving IV fluids to the neurologic horses and DMSO in the IV fluids for three days of treatment and then stopping,” said Kerns. He said that veterinarians have also started the horses on acyclovir, a human herpes drug.

“Acyclovir is orally given, so we’re taking the tablets and making a paste and giving it to them orally,” said Kerns. “We’re probably going to try to give that for 10 straight days to each animal. (The horses have) been on this drug since Monday (Jan. 20). This drug is not a miracle drug, but supposedly will help, and hopefully it will help.”

Kerns emphasized that there still is not a definitive diagnosis for the disease, although veterinarians suspect EHV-1. It’s “some hybrid strain or mutant strain, it’s hard to tell,” he said.

Steve Reed, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, and colleagues from The Ohio State University spent Wednesday (Jan. 22) at the University of Findlay. According to Kerns, they took five throat cultures, several cerebrospinal taps, and evaluated some of the horses neurologically. “They basically tried to see if they could figure out anything else,” said Kerns. “We’re doing everything we can do.”

“There are 140 (horses) on the farm, or there were when we started,” said Kerns. “Basically, we’re in a situation where six of the horses are showing improvement, and we had two new ones today (bringing the total affected horses to 22), which we’ve begun treating, so we’re not over the hump. And we’re still getting some new infections. We have one that’s not doing super well, so there might be another potential death here pretty soon. We feel like at least we’re holding our own somewhat and just would appreciate any prayers you have for us.”

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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