Behavior Changes in West Nile Virus Survivors

Q My horse Diego, a BLM mustang, contracted West Nile virus before there was a vaccination for it, and lived to tell about it. Before he had West Nile he was unflappable and very calm-natured. Since his recovery, he spooks more easily and is more easily startled and is inclined to run sometimes, rather than stop and look at things as he used to. Physically he has recovered 100%. My question is how to discern whether or not he is safe to use, and if training will be able to diminish these new behaviors. It's hard to determine what a normal training issue is and what are the irreparable damages to his mind, because at times it's as if he sees things that aren't there and completely overreacts to the perceived danger. I've heard some horses have been reported to have very different personalities after having West Nile and would like to know if any were able to be safely used afterwards. Thank you for your help.

A Yes, changes in behavior have been reported after West Nile infection along with other long-term effects. Unfortunately, there is no way to diagnose this. This happens in people also and unfortunately their long-term effects are quite debilitating. However, I would give Diego a chance and try a professional trainer to work him out of his problems. Some of this will improve with time and reconditioning.

Learn more about West Nile virus in horses and read more Q&A with Dr. Sellon in our free on-demand webinar: Understanding West Nile Virus!

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