In the Saddle: Staying safe from equine flu

Well it’s been all over the news recently about the scare of horse flu, with many race meetings and local competitions cancelled but what is it?

Monday, 25th February 2019, 3:21 pm
Updated Monday, 25th February 2019, 3:27 pm
Anita and her horse April staying safe from horse flu

Equine influenza, sometimes referred to as horse flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection. An infected horse will show clinical signs similar to those of human flu and will be infectious for about a week. Lots of horses can be affected by one outbreak. 

Whilst it can be spread through human contact, we can’t catch it. My farrier came last week and I asked him to make us the first call just to be on the safe side. The virus targets the upper respiratory tract where the cough receptors are positioned, so a very  harsh dry cough is typical. Often horses will develop a raised temperature  which will last around 7-10 days, during this time they may be quiet, off their food and generally sluggish, they may also have a small amount of clear or white  nasal discharge and enlarged lymph nodes in their throat.

Although there is a vaccine for equine flu, the virus is spreading amongst unvaccinated horses and signs can differ between the two, with vaccinated horses not showing such clear clinical signs. 

Currently April has over six months to go before she is due her booster so Richard, from Moorhouse Vets, will attend and issue this earlier. My other two were only vaccinated in December.

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Horse flu isn’t new, it’s always been about but it’s this particular strain is proving to be a problem. With a sensible attitude we can all help to not spread this any further. Don’t pat or touch horses whilst out walking, bring vaccinations up to date or have done sooner if over six months old. 

Use common sense when visiting livery yards such as washing your hands after handling. Any signs, call the vet and isolate the horse.