Disease prevention tips for horse owners

Horse owners in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula have experienced two confirmed and several reported equine deaths in the past week.

There have been health concerns in the Upper Peninsula with horse populations in the past week. Several horses that have exhibited symptoms of illness and have died. Only a few of the horses affected have been examined by veterinarians and have had samples taken that were sent to the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to obtain an official diagnosis. Given the fact that Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV) are reportable diseases in Michigan, when official results are available; they will be made available by the State Veterinarian’s office, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development on the Equine Disease Communication Center website.

 As of October 4, 2017, there have been fourteen confirmed cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) and three cases of EEE throughout the state of Michigan according to the Equine Disease Communication Center. Similarly, Wisconsin has reported 19 confirmed cases of WNV and 19 cases of EEE.

 Horse owners throughout the state are encouraged to contact a veterinarian if a horse in their care exhibits any of the following general signs of illness:

  • Drainage from eyes
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy (lack of energy)
  • Loss of or no appetite

Respiratory Signs:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Cough
  • Head and neck extended
  • Difficulty breathing

Gastrointestinal Signs:

  • Colic
  • Diarrhea
  • Food coming out of nose or mouth

Skin Signs:

  • Blisters or sores, especially around nose, mouth, teats and above the hoof
  • Circular areas of hair loss

Neurological Signs:

  • Behavioral changes
  • Sudden loss of vision
  • Lack of coordination/stumbling
  • Inability to rise
  • Twitching and/or seizing

Horse owners should also practice good management techniques by observing their horse’s behavior and overall health at least daily and ensuring that all horses have been vaccinated. It is recommended to vaccinate your horse for EEE and WNV if you have not already done so. Vaccinations are available through local veterinarians, local farm stores and online sites.

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