Dressage Horse Detained After Positive Glanders Test

An American dressage horse returning to the United States after a competition tour in Europe could be euthanized or shipped back out of the country after testing positive for glanders during routine USDA equine import quarantine.

Glanders is a highly contagious upper respiratory disease that can be passed from horse-to-horse as well as to human handlers. Acute clinical signs include fever; cough; difficulty breathing; nasal discharge; swollen and painful submaxillary lymph nodes (the "glands" in "glanders"); rapidly spreading ulcers on the nasal mucosa, nodules, and chronic abscesses; and small abscesses in the lung and/or abscesses in the liver or spleen, among others. Clinical signs of chronic glanders include coughing; malaise; weight loss; intermittent fever; possible thick nasal discharge, usually out of one nostril; ulcers and nodules on the nasal mucosa; enlarged submaxillary lymph nodes; chronic enlargement and induration (hardening) of lymphatics and lymph nodes; joint swelling and painful leg edema (fluid swelling); and nodules, particularly on the legs, that rupture, release pus, and ulcerate. Glanders has been eradicated from North American and was last reported in the United States in the 1940s). It's recently been reported in several areas around the world, however, including South America, Eastern Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and a rare case in Germany in 2014.

Earlier this month, the 18-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Sagacious HF was shipped from Amsterdam to the Miami International Airport after participating in competitions in Sweden and England with Chase Hickok. Under USDA rules, all horses entering the United States, except those coming from Canada, must be quarantined and tested for four diseases—dourine, glanders, equine piroplasmosis, and equine infectious anemia—upon arrival.

Jeanine Neskey, interim public affairs specialist for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), said an animal that produces a positive test result is denied entry to the United States.

“Denied entry means that it must be either removed from the U.S. or be euthanized,” she said. “If the horse is denied entry into the U.S. (and not euthanized), the owner is free to take the horse to any other country that will accept it.”

Scott Leibsle, DVM, Idaho’s deputy state veterinarian, said Sagacious could contracted the disease through contaminated feed or through water buckets also used by other horses participating in competitions. The gelding might also have been an asymptomatic carrier of the disease, possibly developing signs after experiencing stress

“Transport is the most stressful thing you can do to a horse,” he said. “At the same time, you're putting it with new animals in a new area, and putting it under the stress of competition.”

Currently APHIS uses a complement fixation test (CFT) to detect glanders. However, the agency is evaluating other testing methods, including the Western Blot procedure.

“Advancing research and improved technology continue to develop new or improved testing methods for animal diseases,” Neskey said. “USDA routinely evaluates all testing methods available and incorporates the methods most appropriate to the needs of import quarantine testing.”

After Sagacious produced a second positive CFT glanders test, he produced a negative Western Blot glanders test. Arrangements were made to place him on extended quarantine pending the results of additional testing with both tests, slated for Aug. 23.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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