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Deadly Equine Diseases


sick horse1. Potomac Horse Fever (PHF)
What it does: A bacteria that causes colic like symptoms that eventually may lead to laminitis and death.
Signs and Symptoms: Acute fever, depression, lack of appetite, mild colic, diarrhea, edema, acute laminitis, death from laminitis leading to founder.
Treatment: PHF is diagnosed by blood tests and the bacteria responds well to antibiotics in the tetracycline family. Your vet may also include the use of fluids to help keep your horse hydrated and to help flush the bacteria out, and may use things such as charcoal in the diet to help absorb the bacteria and flush it out.

2. Equine Infectious Anemia or Swamp Fever
What it does: No matter what else it does, this disease is often fatal and always contagious. Horses that do survive, live with the symptoms all their lives and must be euthanized or quarantined as they remain highly contagious.
Signs and Symptoms: Fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, anemia, muscle weakness. Some horses can carry the virus without showing symptoms.
Treatment: There is no treatment for Swamp Fever. Horses must be tested with a Coggins test, a small blood test which checks for the antibodies, especially before interacting in shows and parades with other horses and the disease can spread swiftly.

3. Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan Encephalomyelitis (EEE, WEE, VEE)
What it does: All three varieties cause inflammation on the brain and spinal cord and are deadly. The Venezuelan form (VEE) can be transmitted from horses to humans and is equally deadly for both.
Signs and Symptoms: High fever, depression, rapid heart rate, no appetite, unusual aggression, aimless circling, leaning or pressing against wall, muscle spasms and twitching, convulsions, collapse, death.
Treatment: Vaccination is the only protection against these diseases. It is recommended annually and as much as twice a year in areas where mosquitos are prevalent. There is no treatment for the disease itself, most treatments focus on relieving pressure on the brain and spinal cord.

4. West Nile Virus (WNV)
What it does: Causes swelling of the brain and spinal cord.
Signs and Symptoms: Fever, stumbling, loss of muscle coordination, partial paralysis, loss of appetite, walking in circles, walking into things.
Treatment: The only course of treatment is prevention. There is a vaccine to protect your horses from this disease. Mosquito control is also an excellent idea both for yourself and your horses as humans can contract the disease from mosquito bites as easily as a horse. Symptom relief is the only other treatment available.

5. Lyme Disease
What it does: Causes general muscle soreness, fever
Signs and Symptoms: Less than ten percent of horses show symptoms. The most common symptom is an appearance of general stiffness and discomfort, refusal to work and crabbiness.
Treatment: Treatment is in antibiotic form and a full course of treatment may take several weeks, though you horse may show signs of improvement within days. Diagnosing the disease can be difficult and a vet may choose to treat for lyme disease just in case. If your horse does not respond quickly chances are they do not have the disease. Anti-inflammatories may be prescribed to help control stiffness, and stomach medicine to help control upset stomach issues.


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