Tag Archives: horse health

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Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) – The Facts

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A recent outbreak of Neurological EHV-1 in Hampshire resulting in four fatalities to date, has led to multiple temporary yard closures in the area. As this disease affects all areas throughout the year, it seemed important to share the facts surrounding the disease. We sought advice from veterinary professionals to provide you with the most up-to-date information on the virus, its symptoms and the precautionary measures to take should you be concerned that your horse may have come into contact with the virus. 

 

Equine Herpes Virus is one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases in horses worldwide. Almost every horse will have been in contact with the virus at some stage in its life with no serious side effects, it can lay dormant in carrier horses without causing any problems. It is not yet understood what causes some infected horses to develop neurological forms which can be fatal. It is a highly contagious disease particularly affecting younger horses and in-foal mares. It is spread through both direct (nose to nose) contact, indirectly through tack, rugs, feed buckets, owners’ hands, through sharing drinking water where it can survive for up to one month, and airborne through coughing and sneezing. It is therefore vital that the correct bio security procedures are followed to prevent further spread. 

 

The Equine Herpes Virus is a family of different viruses that are closely linked to the viruses that cause cold sores, chicken pox and shingles in humans. The two most common species in horses are EHV-1, which can cause sudden abortion in in-foal mares, respiratory disease and occasionally neurologic disease; and EHV-4, which will cause respiratory disease but only rarely cause abortion and neurological disease where the infection has damaged the spinal cord, in the event of this occurring, its is generally advised that the horse is euthanized on a welfare basis.

 

Clinical signs of the disease will depend on the form of the disease but can include:

  • Fever
  • Nasal Discharge 
  • Depression
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abortion
  • Loss of bladder and tail function
  • Hind limb paralysis

 

‘If you are concerned that your horse may have come in contact with herpes virus it is extremely important that you place your horse in isolation immediately for 14 days. Stringent bio-security measures are paramount. These include regular disinfection of the surrounding environment and equipment, hand washing, disinfection of boots, removal of outer clothing after seeing your horse and visiting no other horses to avoid direct and indirect contact with other horses. You should notify your vet, who will recommend collection of a blood sample for herpes serum antibody at the beginning and near the end of the isolation period. It can take up to 14 days for a horse to develop antibodies which is why two samples are required for comparison. A nasal swab should also be collected at the end of the isolation period to ensure your horse is not shedding virus. During the isolation period regular monitoring including twice daily rectal temperature recording is essential. A fever is often one of the first signs of herpes infection.’

Beth Robinson

New Forest Equine Vets

 

It is important to let others know that you have a suspected case of EHV, these people include, other horse owners, vets, farriers and anyone likely to have come into contact with the horse.  Only through open communication will we  break the stigma surrounding the virus and help prevent the spread of the disease.

 

Treatment for the virus once confirmed is predominantly supportive care as many antiviral drugs used in humans aren’t effective in horses. The virus is allowed to run its course whilst keeping the horse as comfortable as possible, anti-inflammatory drugs such as bute are often administered and some horses might require intravenous fluids.

 

The best methods of prevention are the EHV-1 vaccination which is effective against the Respiratory form of the disease which prevents abortion and correct bio-security. There are currently no vaccinations that can prevent the Neurological form of infection. The vaccination is considered ‘risk based’ so for more information on the vaccine, seek veterinary advice. It is most commonly used in breeding mares, but it begs the question, should we be vaccinating against this virus as religiously as we do with flu and tetanus?

 

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The British Equestrian Federation has issued the following statement regarding the recent outbreak 

‘The Federation supports the actions of the centre who have ceased all activity, including cancelling shows and hire bookings until further notice. The Animal Health Trust has issued advice stating that all horses who have recently visited the centre are immediately isolated for a period of 14 days and that owners seek veterinary advice regarding clinical monitoring and laboratory test clearance.’

 

British Show Jumping stated on 13th January 2020 

‘Following the recent outbreak of EHV-1 it is now a requirement that any horse or pony that has been on site at Crofton Manor, Hampshire since the 20th December 2019 is required to have a negative swab and blood test before competing at any British Showjumping show or organised event.’

 

British Dressage stated on 13th January 2020

In consultation with the Animal Health Trust and on the advice provided in today’s British Equestrian Federation updateBritish Dressage requires members with any horses or ponies who visited Crofton Manor EC between 20 December and 7 January for any reason (training or competition) have them tested by a veterinary surgeon for EHV-1. This is in addition to the originally recommended isolation period of 14 days and daily clinical monitoring. Owners of any horses or ponies who have been to Crofton EC in the specified should liaise directly with their veterinary surgeon on the testing process and advice.’

 

At this stage, there have been no confirmed cases in horses outside of Crofton Manor. It is only with complete transparency and strict bio security procedures that we can control the spread of this awful disease. 

Our thoughts go out to the Centre and the owners of the horses that were sadly euthanised. 

 

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Changing times. World Horse Welfare Annual Conference

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Last week, Horse Scout’s Ellie Kelly was in attendance at the World Horse Welfare Annual Conference in London. It is an exclusive event attended by leading figures in the world of veterinary medicine, equestrian sport, horse racing, politics, and animal welfare as well as HRH Princess Anne. The theme of the conference this year was Changing Times. Essentially how change- both good and bad, is continuing at a meteoric rate and what the future for equine welfare might hold.

 

The day was opened by Michael Baines, Chairman of the World Horse Welfare who had recently visited some of their projects in Cape Town and Lesotho which are jointly run with several other charities based in these parts of the world as well as other international animal charities like The Brooke and The Donkey Sanctuary. “I saw firsthand how important it is to take a holistic approach to equine welfare and, to be prepared to work with multiple stakeholders to achieve the best results,”  said Michael.

 

Perhaps this is a lesson we can all take away generally when striving to improve not only our horses lives but also our own livelihoods and interests in the equestrian sphere. As equestrian sport, recreational riding and general horsemanship evolves and improves in some areas but declines and is devalued in others. The advent and reliance on social media for information and as a marketplace is both a vice and a virtue.

 

Utam Kaphle, a young professional from Nepal, spoke on the innovative work being done by Animal Nepal. As Executive Director of the charity, he has spearheaded projects to improve animal welfare in the country by working with the local communities. With the help of government institutions, Animal Nepal has helped the lives, health and education of poverty-stricken communities as well as their working animals and the large number of strays which can spread disease.

 

Four-time Olympic Dressage rider Richard Davison then gave some compelling arguments on what was wrong and right in the sport horse industry. “When we riders, in our quest for success and our competitive side gets the better of our horsemanship.” Rollkur, hyperflexion and nose pressure was a recurrent theme and he expressed the importance of more clarity in the rulebook and more scientific evidence to prove the effects of a tight noseband- more on this in our next blog.

 

The future of Gypsy Cobs was addressed by Andrea Betteridge, founder of the Traditional Gypsy Cob Association. Andrea has spent decades obtaining and recording historic information and collecting DNA from different herds to prove the heritage of the breed and its historic bloodlines. This formed the foundation for recognition of the breed by British and European governments with member registrations from over 35 countries and the authentic breed database recognised all over the world. Overbreeding has led to the “dumping” of cobs, which the so often become welfare cases. As well as establishing the breed and educating would be breeders on the implications, Andrea has prompted other initiatives such as specialised showing classes and  “Give a Cob a Job”.

 

Tim Collins, a former Tory MP talked about the perceived implications which Brexit will have on the equine world as well as the enthusiastic following and power that animal charities had at the present time. At this stage in political proceedings, no one really knows what will occur after Brexit. Although he highlighted the reality that nothing will happen quickly as it will take years for the UK to fully leave the EU. “The average time it takes to even join the EU takes a decade and for Estonia, it was 20 years,” he said, with a further warning. “Therefore the issues you care about in the horse world are going to carry on but you must not take our eye off the ball and assume that this is all going to be carried out in the next few months. There is nothing as long as the temporary arrangement. We may have to live with this for a very long time so don’t assume any arrangements can be fixed later. Bear in mind how immensely powerful those of you who care and campaign about animal welfare actually are. For example, the inflection point in the 2017 General election was when the Conservatives got on the wrong side of animal welfare on the ivory trade and fox-hunting and that lesson has been learned deeply in both the party main headquarters. One of the biggest issues amongst the young population is animal welfare, so you guys can be pushing on an open door.”

 

The next topic covered was how charities and win trust and broaden their horizons. This came from Joe Saxton who featured in the top ten of the most influential people in UK fundraising. He is also the founder of a research consultancy for charities called nfpSynergy. The main pointy to take away was that support for animal charities is well up the national order, featuring higher than charities concerning homelessness, social welfare, overseas aid, religious and environment and conservation. So we Brits remain, “a nation of animal lovers”.

 

The day was rounded off with a discussion panel between influential veterinary delegates who covered topics such as changes in culture, technology and the internet and social media- friend or foe to both horse owners and vets. Overweight riders and horses were also commented on as this is a welfare issue we all see too often at shows around the country.

 

The use of artificial aids was also addressed, where Gemma Pearson highlighted horses “limited learning capacity”. She explains: “the spur and whip refine our instructions further so we can be more precise about what we are asking. But what we need to move away from was using the whip and spur for punishment as that is what creates problems”.

 

The Chief Executive Roly Owers summed up the conference: “When we talk about making change we have to base it around common sense, around experience and around the evidence. The second point is the issue of value. The value of our reputation, the value of time, the value of trust and the value of horses.”

 

If you would like to watch the Conference in full as well as discussions from previous years, click on the link:

http://www.worldhorsewelfare.org/conference

 

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The Alborada Well Foal Study

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Horse Scouts’ profiled veterinary practice Pinkham Equine is participating in an new research project in conjunction with researchers at the University of Surrey.

The “Alborada Well Foal Study” is one of the largest equine projects of its kind. It’s aim is to investigate and characterise foal gut bacterial populations and their role in the development of the foals’ immune system. These are two aspects of foal biology that are likely to be key determinants of lifelong health. In other animals, it has been shown that the colonization of the juvenile gut and the establishment of a stable, functional gut bacterial population is critically important in shaping the animal’s immune system. If the development of immunity is impaired in early life it can result in, increased susceptibility to infectious disease, increased prevalence of allergic conditions and general poorer health for the lifetime of the animal.

The foals that are participating in the study will have 9 faecal samples taken. These will be at 2d, 8d, 14d, 28d, 2 months, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and 12 months old. Blood samples will be taken at 4 stages during the study at 1, 3, 6 and 9 months old. The samples will be transported to a lab at Surrey University, analysed and then stored in a -80 ° freezer. The rearing methods and husbandry techniques of foals will be recorded e.g. when solid food is introduced, weaning method, vaccination and worming programs. Any veterinary medical history of any illnesses/injuries and antibiotic use will also be recorded

After the recording phase, links between early-life events, their bacterial population of the foal’s guts and aspects of their immune system will be investigated to assess their effect of health and performance of yearlings and two year olds.

For links to Pinkham visit https://www.horsescout.com/professionals/pinkham-equine/profile/1485