10 Common Horse Diseases

10 Common Horse Diseases and How To Avoid Them

For every horse owner, rider, groom, it is a huge responsibility to take care of their four-legged companion. Even under the best caring conditions, some horses can be prone to different diseases ranging from skin problems to respiratory issues or digestion system problems. Therefore, it is vital for each equestrian to know the most common diseases to avoid them or, if the horse is already sick, how to act for a quick recovery. 

Common Digestion Conditions

1. Colic is the most common digestion system problem in horses. It can emerge when a horse doesn’t drink enough water, eat enough roughage or has untreated dental problems. Signs of colic include anxiety, restlessness, sweating, gut pain, lack of appetite, lying down more than usual. To avoid, keep the water and food supplies clean, make sure the horse has a well-balanced diet, don’t forget to float your horse’s teeth every once in a while. If you suspect the signs of colic, call the veterinarian to get professional help. While waiting for the veterinarian, you can walk your horse to reduce the pain and provide him a large area to roll. 


2. Inflammatory bowel disease, IBD, is made up of a collection of different diseases of the intestines, which is demonstrated by inflammatory cells. Even though there are several different types of IBD, common symptoms can be chronic weight loss, lack of appetite, fever, skin lesions, diarrhea. There is not an exact cause for this disease, therefore, it is really tricky to avoid. You should call the veterinarian as soon as you suspect IBD. The best treatment technique varies for different horses. 

Common Respiratory Conditions

1. Common cold is generally caused by a viral infection contracted by contact with other infected horses. The symptoms are unrelenting cough, nasal discharge, exercise intolerance, swollen lymph nodes, and fever. To avoid, you can consider vaccination, isolating the new horse at the barn from others, and check the water your horse drinks at shows. If you think your horse has a common cold, isolate him in a dust-free area, call the veterinarian, try to feed him soft food so that it can swallow easier.

2. Equine herpes virus is an infection that can cause respiratory difficulties, abortion, and neurological problems. Early symptoms are generally fever, cough, nasal discharge and loss of appetite. To prevent, there are vaccinations available but, according to Vivienne Irwin of the Animal Health Trust, they should be used for healthy horses only, before they get sick. If you think your horse is already infected keep him away from all the other horses and call the veterinarian. 

Common Skin Conditions

1. Ringworm, contrary to the common belief, it is caused by a fungus. It spreads quickly from one horse to another. Infection shows initially as tufts of raised hair, which eventually fall off and leave lesions. To avoid, try not to use the same tack for different horses and pay attention to hygiene. If there is a new horse, keep him away from the others until you are sure of its health. If a horse already has ringworm, the first action should be isolating it from the others. The infected horse can recover with an anti-fungus wash and clipping the infected hair. Also, the barn and tack should be properly cleaned to prevent the spread.

2. Mud fever is a skin issue associated with wet and muddy conditions. It is caused by an infection that thrives in the mud. Once infected, the skin of the legs and the stomach become inflamed and scaly and, the horse can develop a fever. To avoid, clean the legs after every workout by washing and drying properly. If you recognize mud fever on your horse, keeping the infected areas clean is the basis. Further treatment is to penetrate the causal organisms under the scabs under the control of a veterinarian.

3. Rain scald, also known as mycotic dermatitis, is another skin infection caused by a fungal that comes with wet weather. It can occur if the horse stays wet for a long time or when leaking or non-breathable rugs are used. The infection causes patchy hair loss along the back and quarters. The hair can become matted, and the skin may develop sores and lesions. To avoid, make sure your horse has a shelter in the pasture and try to use the correct type of rugs. The affected horse can be treated with a special medicine wash so if you suspect rain scald, consult your veterinarian. 

Common Neurologic Conditions

1. Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, also known as EPM, is a neurological disease caused by a parasite called Sarcocystis neurona. Horses can get the parasite through unclean water or feed. The disease is recognized by seizures, vision problems, lesions, and abnormal behavior. There is no proved medicine to prevent this illness. To avoid, the best thing you can do is to keep the horse feed and water clean. If a horse already has EPM, there are several pills to treat. Just call your veterinarian and get some help.

2. West Nile Virus
is an infection carried by mosquitos. If mosquitos bite the horse, the infection can spread in the horse’s blood and lead inflammation in the brain. Symptoms of infected horses can be fever, impaired vision, convulsions, head pressing, difficulty swallowing, and paralysis or weakness of the hind limbs. To avoid, horse owners can try vaccinating the horses and take precautions to get rid of the mosquitos. The treatment for the infected horses is by medicine. If you suspect there is West Nile Virus, call the veterinarian and get professional help.

3. Lockjaw is one of the most serious bacterial diseases that affect the central nervous system of the horse. It is also known as tetanus and mostly known symptoms are heightened sensitivity, spasms, and protruding eyelids. To avoid, the best option is to get tetanus vaccination. For the horses that are already infected, treatment can be by antibiotics under veterinarian control.

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