Horses with infectious upper respiratory disease are hard to love. The copious nasal discharge oozing from the nostrils rapidly depletes any desire to head-hug your equine companion.
Not only does the nasal discharge diminish a horse's lovability, but other horse owners also may regard your horse as the dreaded leper of the barn. You may even be ostracized for so callously exposing the other horses to such an ugly fate.
Most causes of upper respiratory disease are not life threatening, but cause severe anxiety and may predispose horses to life-threatening conditions.
The two most frequent diseases are equine influenza and equine herpes virus (EHV) infection, also known as rhinopneumonitis. (See page 19.)
Most horse owners call an upper respiratory outbreak the flu, and the clinical signs of influenza and EHV are indistinguishable. Both make the horse very sick, and although a horse almost always recovers fully, the duration of the disease can be prolonged if misdiagnosed.
Like EHV, equine influenza is a viral disease. The clinical signs seen with both diseases are fever, lethargy, nasal discharge, coughing and loss of appetite.
Secondary to these signs, the patient can become dehydrated and even suffer signs of abdominal discomfort or colic.
As all horse owners will agree, the equine loss of appetite is often more than a cause of casual concern. A horse that doesn't eat doesn't drink. A horse that doesn't drink doesn't urinate or defecate. A horse that doesn't urinate or defecate dies.
So, although influenza or rhinopneumonitis are not considered life- threatening, death may occur if the clinical signs become severe enough.
A large percentage of horses are vaccinated against equine influenza, but not against rhinopneumonitis. When surveyed, horse owners vaccinate most against eastern and western encephalitis, tetanus and influenza with the four-way vaccine.
Unfortunately, this popular combination vaccine fails to protect the horse from rhinopneumonitis, an upper respiratory disease that may be as common as -- and indistinguishable from -- influenza.
The immunity derived from vaccination for influenza or rhinopneumonitis is short-lived; therefore, in many horses, annual revaccination is inadequate. A booster vaccination against influenza and rhino should be given to extend immunity for these diseases.
For many horses, an appropriate vaccination regimen would be a three-way combination containing eastern and western encephalitis and tetanus given in conjunction with a flu-rhino combination. That way the flu-rhino could be given every few months for horses under competitive stress or frequent disease exposure.
Hope this answered your questions,
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