What is Equine Herpes?
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Anyone who owns a horse knows that their precious steeds will need to see a veterinarian at some point. It could be getting their flu and tetanus vaccinations up to date, or it could be from hurting themselves – something horses tend to do well. However, there are other conditions that can occur that need veterinary attention – one of which is equine herpes. But what exactly is this disease?
Understanding equine herpes
There are two strains of the virus, the first being EHV1 and the second being EHV4. Both viruses affect horses in different ways. The former can cause respiratory problems, but it can also cause pregnant mares to abort their foals. In very rare cases, EHV1 can be the cause of neurological problems that can lead to paralysis.
When it comes to EHV4, this second strain of the equine herpes virus is more often the cause of respiratory problems. It can also cause mares to abort their foals, but it is less common than if a horse has contracted EHV1.
What are the signs to look out for?
If you think your horse has been in contact with a horse with the disease – and all it takes to nose each other for transmission of the virus, the symptoms to look for are quite different and are listed below :
– Your horse will have a high temperature – They will cough – You will see a nasal discharge – Your horse will be off their food – even their favorite treats
If you are concerned about?
When it comes to what kind of threat equine herpes can pose to your horses health, the answer is that you first need to recognize that there is a problem and then you should isolate your horse and seek advice from your veterinarian. Horses with this condition should not even touch noses with another horse, and you should wash your hands every time you groom or touch them. Any trailers or trucks that a horse has been in must also be disinfected afterwards – your veterinarian should be able to tell you which disinfectants are most effective.
If you think your infected horse has been in contact with other horses in a yard, those horses must remain in the yard until your veterinarian has seen your horse and confirmed that it is indeed equine herpes. The vet will then take the necessary steps to treat any horses that may be infected with the virus.
Horses can carry the equine herpes virus, and some may never show signs of it. Some people think that most older horses do indeed carry the virus, having been exposed to it at some point in their lives. However, if you are concerned, a simple blood test will show whether a horse has been exposed or not – with a problem, the test cannot distinguish whether the antibodies are actually caused by the herpes virus or by a vaccination given to a horse.
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The pros and cons of vaccinating your horse
There is a combined vaccine that covers both strains of the virus, and there are others that work specifically for each strain. However, the combination vaccine also covers the equine influenza virus. All vaccines are effective on the respiratory effects of both strains in horses, but are not effective against the paralytic form of the virus.
Most veterinarians and the Animal Health Trust advise horse owners to vaccinate only a healthy horse. If there is a continuing outbreak of the virus, horses should not be vaccinated, as this would reduce the risk of horses incubating the disease receiving the vaccine. If a horse that is incubating the virus gets the vaccine, it could make the situation worse, which could result in the horse suffering a much more severe bout of equine herpes, no matter what type it is.
If you are considering having your horse vaccinated, but note that they have a respiratory disease, you must get the "all clear" from your veterinarian before administering the vaccine fetch. This would mean that your horse is thoroughly and thoroughly examined by your vet.
However, if your horse has suffered from one of the equine viruses in the past and has recovered from the disease, you can safely receive the vaccine – as long as you have fully recovered and show no signs of a respiratory problem. Your veterinarian wants to make sure a horse is not in the incubation stage of the virus either. There is a downside because the vaccine is not as effective when given to a carrier horse.
What veterinarians advise
Veterinarians and the Animal Health Trust encourage horse owners to begin a routine vaccination program on their horses when they are young. This is the best way to ensure that your horse does not contract the virus and is the only truly effective way to prevent the spread of infection from horse to horse.
What about new horses arriving at a farm?
All new horses arriving at a farm, whether private or stud, should be kept away from other horses. This means keeping them away from other animals and having a paddock away from other horses. In short, new animals must be quarantined to ensure they do not incubate the disease. It is the best measure to prevent equine herpes from being transmitted to other horses already on a farm.
At the end of the day, good horse husbandry comes into play. New horses must be quarantined when they first arrive at a farm to ensure that they are not infected with equine herpes, but that other diseases. Yards, stalls and paddocks must be well maintained. Keeping water buckets, feed bowls and hay nets clean is essential. Each horse on a farm should have its own equipment so that diseases and viruses are not spread haphazardly from horse to horse. If you have any doubt or concern that your horse has equine herpes, you need to talk to your veterinarian as soon as possible while isolating him from other horses.