As horses are competing around the world more than ever, it is important for all owners to implement a routine for vaccinations and biosecurity protocols to keep their horses healthy. Many infectious diseases are easily transmitted between horses and spread quickly through a stable or showground if the proper measures are not taken. The veterinarians at Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC) are very experienced with isolation cases and always available to discuss the important steps that should be taken to maintain effective biosecurity protocols. PBEC encourages owners to reach out to their veterinarians at any time for more information or alert doctors of a suspected potential risk.
The best first line of defense for horse owners is to maintain current equine vaccinations. Equine Influenza and Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) are two deadly diseases that are highly contagious and should always be included in a routine vaccination program. In the United States, it is now required for all horses attending a USEF competition to be vaccinated for Equine Influenza and EHV-1 prior to any event. Official documentation of vaccinations being administered within the previous six months must accompany the horse to the competition.
Vaccination does not guarantee absolute protection against any diseases, and biosecurity measures should also be taken as added protection.
Biosecurity is a preventative measure taken to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases by people, animals, equipment, or vehicles. Biosecurity is important at all times, even when an outbreak has not occurred.
Owners that use commercial transport for their horses should confirm that the trailers have been disinfected between each shipment. Trailers should always be well ventilated, and horses should be provided with fresh, clean water at all times. The stress of travel can decrease a horse’s immune system, causing more vulnerability to disease. It is important to monitor your horse’s behavior and health closely before, during, and after traveling.
Simple day-to-day practices in health care and hygiene are also very important in reducing the risk of contracting an infectious disease. Washing hands between grooming horses and regularly cleaning grooming supplies can reduce spread of infection. When attending a horse show or moving horses to a new location, a footbath for all persons entering or leaving the barn at each doorway can be effective in disinfecting shoes to reduce tracking disease into the barn. If horses are showing a depressed attitude, have stopped eating, are running a fever, and/or have a runny nose, contact your veterinarian immediately. Early medical attention for an infectious disease makes a large impact on the recovery of your horse and the equine community’s safety.
The best way to safeguard any horse’s health is to keep the immune system strong with support from a suitable nutrition and exercise program. Vaccinations, a proper deworming program, and biosecurity practices will provide additional protection.