Simple Steps to Reduce Infectious Horse Disease Risk

Infectious diseases are a constant risk to the health and welfare of horses. Along with vaccination, preventive management techniques are critical to disease prevention.

Horse owners should:

  • Develop a comprehensive biosecurity plan with a veterinarian and communicate it to all employees. This plan should include disinfection of stalls, barn equipment, and horse trailers.
  • Group horses of similar use. Show horses, yearlings, broodmares, etc., should not be commingled.
  • Plan a traffic pattern to take farriers, veterinarians, and other personnel first to barns and pastures with at-risk horses (for example, pregnant mares or mares and foals). Work toward horses that have multiple exposures to pathogens (show and trail riding horses).
  • Isolate horses returning from a hospital stay or any new horses for a minimum of 14 days and ideally 21 days so they can be monitored for infectious diseases.
  • If a horse develops clinical signs (cough, runny nose/eyes, diarrhea, fever, etc.), it should be isolated immediately and protective, disposable clothing should be used by everyone working with the animal (gloves, booties, and overalls).
  • Stalls with sick horses should be mucked out last. Properly disinfect tools before using them again.
  • Manure and bedding from stalls housing sick animals, including those experiencing abortions, should not be spread on fields.
  • Provide running water, liquid hand soap (pump-style container), and disposable paper towels in every barn for hand washing. During an outbreak or when running water is not available, use waterless hand foams or gels (at least 62% ethyl alcohol) after handling horses. Remember, these products are flammable!
  • Rodent, insect, bird, and bat control is important year-round! Remove standing water, bird nests, and other habitats.
  • Clean and disinfect stalls, water buckets, grooming tools, pitchforks, and other items routinely, and increase the cleaning/disinfecting frequency during an outbreak.
  • Continually re-evaluate and update the biosecurity plan.

Dr. Roberta Dwyer, Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky.

This is an excerpt from Equine Disease Quarterly, funded by underwriters at Lloyd's, London, brokers, and their Kentucky agents.

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Equine Disease Quarterly

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