Tetanus is a potentially deadly disease caused by a potent neurotoxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium tetani. The toxin attacks the horse’s central nervous system causing the muscles of the body to spasm uncontrollably. In most cases, unless treated early – which may be distressing and expensive – the horse will have convulsions leading to respiratory failure and then death.
The organism causing tetanus lives in the soil and manure and enters the body through wounds. Though it is not passed from horse to horse directly, horses are particularly at risk because of their environment and their tendency to injure themselves. If vaccination history is poor and immediate protection is required (lacerations etc) antitoxin should be administered.
Protection is simple and is provided in the form of vaccinations. From three months of age all horses should receive two doses four weeks apart, followed by a single booster twelve months later. This will provide 5 years protection, and further boosters should be given at five year intervals.
Strangles is a respiratory disease of horses caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi. Although most horses recover from symptoms, such as snotty nasal discharge, fever and laboured breathing, strangles is highly debilitating and may be fatal; your horse may suffer for days or months and because it’s so contagious, horses have to be isolated for 6-8 weeks. It is the most common contagious disease affecting horses worldwide. It is rapidly spread from horse to horse either directly through contact with infected horses or indirectly by contact with water throughs, feed bins, pastures, stalls or tack that may be contaminated with nasal discharge or pus draining from the lymph nodes. Individuals may carry and spread the disease despite showing no external signs.
Vaccination can occur from three months of age, three doses are required at two week intervals followed by annual boosters 12 months after the completion of the primary course.
Increased protection against strangles may be obtained by giving booster doses more frequently, for example every 6 months.
2 in 1 vaccines (tetanus/strangles) are available which satisfy the above regimes.
Equine Herpes Virus
Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) is found in horse populations worldwide. There are many different strains of the virus, including EHV-1 and EHV-4. EHV-1 can cause respiratory disease, especially in young horses, neurological disease and abortion. EHV-4 causes respiratory disease and may cause abortion in some mares. Easily spread, either by horses breathing it in from infected horses or indirectly from contaminated equipment. Over a lifetime the virus can re-activate and cause a relapse of symptoms as well as become a source of infection for new outbreaks.
The vaccine reduces the severity of the respiratory signs caused by EHV-1 and EHV-4 and also reduces the likelihood of abortion caused by EHV-1 especially when used with appropriate management practices. They can be used from five months of age, two doses are given 4-6 weeks apart, and then every six months from primary immunisation. Pregnant mares should be vaccinated at 5,7 and 9 months of pregnancy.
Hendra is a deadly disease that can kill horses and humans. Fruit bats (flying foxes) are the natural hosts of Hendra virus. Spread of Hendra virus from fruit bat to horses is thought to occur via contamination of feed or water with fruit bat urine, faeces or bodily fluids. Hendra virus can be spread from horse to horse and from horse to humans through close contact with respiratory secretions and/or blood from an infected horse.
Symptoms in horses include increased body temperature and heart rate, acute onset of illness, discomfort/weight shifting between the legs, rapid deterioration, breathing difficulties and/or respiratory signs. There is no cure, so we are encouraging clients to give serious consideration to vaccination, especially if travelling interstate or competing at a level where interstate horses will be present.
Vaccination regimes can commence at four months of age, with two shots four weeks apart, then one six months later. Horses must be microchipped as they will be listed on a central registry.