Salmonella In Central Kentucky

On May 8, a Central Kentucky equine hospital sent out letters to area clients, farm managers, and veterinarians notifying them that an increased number of salmonella cases had been detected at the clinic this year, and explaining the methods staff were using to eliminate the Salmonella organisms and safeguard the health of patients. According to several area veterinarians, this is a situation that is not unusual for an equine veterinary hospital with a large caseload to face at some point. It also does not signify that there is a significant problem with salmonella in Central Kentucky.

Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital is having its turn at dealing with salmonella this spring, and the practice sent the letters to ensure correct information reached clients. Salmonella has caused them to use contingency plans for disinfecting facilities and segregating the emergency and elective surgery population. This has allowed them to continue reasonably normal operation of the hospital. Salmonella strains encountered have not yet been identified. 

The University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center hasn't been so lucky, being forced to close to combat an antibiotic-resistant salmonella outbreak (see

Rolf Embertson, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, an equine surgeon at Rood and Riddle, said the letters generated a few phone calls, but most clients are well aware of salmonella and its management and elimination. "We've had some people call from outside of this area, wondering if Central Kentucky has a serious problem right now--and that's not the case," he emphasized.

Jim Morehead, DVM, president of the Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners agreed. "We have salmonella here every year in town, and of all the environments, the hospitals are more prone to have salmonella infections than any place." Studies have shown that up to 17-20% of stressed horses in an equine hospital are non-symptomatic shedders of salmonella, meaning they can spread it, but don't seem sick. It has also been estimated that 7% of the general population of horses sheds salmonella.

In response to the increase in salmonella, which primarily affects the emergency and compromised patients, Rood & Riddle has intensified the isolation procedures to further separate these patients from the elective surgery patients. Many of the elective surgeries are being done on an outpatient basis. Veterinarians and staff began culturing horses for salmonella upon admittance, a practice many hospitals have begun to use as a biosecurity measure.

Embertson said, "We've put foot  mats containing antiseptic solution  in front of the stalls, and (disinfectant) dip buckets at the end of every barn. We've emptied most of the barns, then cleaned and disinfected them," explained Embertson. The veterinarians let the disinfected stalls sit for several days before culturing them for Salmonella.

The clinic has also switched to a quaternary ammonium compound disinfectant from bleach, its disinfectant of choice for years. "It seemed like the Clorox wasn't getting rid of everything we thought it should, so we switched to an apparently more effective compound," said Embertson.

Embertson expects things will return to normal as soon as foaling season passes at the end of spring, which is accompanied by a normal drop in caseload of compromised horses, combined with the stringent protocol for cleaning and segregation of at risk horses.

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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