Vesicular Stomatitis Reported in Texas Horse

A horse in Starr County, Texas, has been reported as the nation's first case of vesicular stomatitis in 2009, according to a notice released by the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC).

Vesicular stomatitis (VS) is a sporadically occurring virus that is endemic to the United States. It most recently occurred in 2006 in Wyoming. It primarily affects horses, cattle, and swine, but it can also affect sheep and goats. The disease causes blister-like lesions in the mouth and on the dental pad, tongue, lips, nostrils, hooves, prepuce, and teats of livestock. When the blisters break, they can leave painful raw areas that can precipitate lameness and a reluctance to eat.

"Often horses are the signal, or first, animals to be confirmed with vesicular stomatitis when the virus is active," said Bob Hillman, DVM, Texas' state veterinarian and head of the TAHC. "Vesicular stomatitis is painful for affected animals, but, usually, the lesions will heal within two weeks to a month. For some severe cases, owners may elect to have an infected animal euthanized, to put an end to the suffering."

Hillman said treatment of VS-infected animals consists of supportive care. Antibiotics might also be needed to prevent secondary infections in the open sores.

Sick animals should be moved away from the remainder of the herd to prevent disease spread. Do not move sick animals from the premises. Hillman encouraged owners of potentially infected animals to call their veterinarian, the nearest Texas Animal Health Commission area office, or the Austin headquarters at 800/550-8242. Laboratory testing to confirm VS infection can be processed at no charge to the livestock owner.

"If the blisters and lesions are seen in cattle, sheep, pigs, or other cloven-hooved animals, our first concern is a possible introduction of foot-and-mouth disease, the most costly and destructive foreign animal disease," Hillman explained. "Horses are not susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease, but anytime blisters or unusual sores are seen, animals should be examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible."

According to the release, animal health officials in nearly all states require VS-infected animals and their herd mates to be quarantined until at least 21 days after all lesions have healed. A follow-up examination of the animals by the state veterinarian's office is required prior to quarantine release.

More information is available on the TAHC Web site.  

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. She owns a portly gray gelding named Duncan and dabbles in several equestrian disciplines, with an emphasis on dressage.

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