Show Smart: Be Aware of Virus Outbreaks

Horse trailer packed. Check. Tack cleaned. Check. Show clothes ready to go. Check.

You’re eager to hit the road for the next horse show, but do you know what could be waiting for you when you get there?

With a lot to think about for show preparation, checking for equine disease outbreaks can often fall off the to-do list. While vaccinations are an important part of maintaining equine health and helping show season go smoothly, it’s best to avoid a run-in with an infectious disease altogether.

One of the biggest threat is rabies. With more than 400 cases of rabies reported in various animals around the country, it is a danger that horse owners must protect against. Thus far, Texas has the highest number of reported rabies cases at 194 and counting, most of those cases being diagnosed in bats.

While owners might not think heading to a show could expose a horse to rabies, wildlife such as raccoons, coyotes, and feral cats are often found in and around barns and wooded show facilities. Rabies is invariably fatal in horses, but preventable with vaccination; in fact, the American Association of Equine Practitioners considers rabies a core disease for which all horses in the United States should be vaccinated. There are currently no treatments available for rabies in horses.

Another prominent threat, equine herpesvirus (EHV), has been reported 81 times this year, and more than 85% of those reports came from the Southwestern United States.

Herpesvirus can spread through direct horse-to-horse contact and even indirectly through contact with contaminated objects. That means interactions with contaminated feed, equipment and tack, or human hands and clothing can spread the disease.

Equine influenza is also a common concern when large groups of horses gather, so take steps to prevent your horse from contracting this contagious respiratory virus.

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