Biosecurity At Events

With the State Fair coming up next week it is important to keep in mind biosecurity, even when there is not a current outbreak of a disease.  Just with any large equine event, the chance of your horse becoming exposed to a disease is present.  The State Fair is a great event for the whole family and should be enjoyed.  So I am sharing a blog from a fellow veterinarian about good biosecurity measures that you can do not only for the State Fair, but all large equine events that you attend.


In the face of the outbreak, can I still attend Midwest Horse Fari?

Toria Waldron, DVM   Badger Veterinary Hospital

Keep clean!  Practice good biosecurity

For spectators:

  • 1) Keep the petting of horses down to a minimum.  If you are touching horses, wash hands or use hand sanitizer in between horses.
  • 2) Change clothes and shower before coming in contact with your own horses.
  • 3) Disinfect boots, tack, or other equipment prior to bring them back to your own horses.


For exhibitors:

  • 1) Horses should comply with the health regulation guidelines for the event.
  • 2) Avoid nose to nose contact of horses.
  • 3) Use your own water and feed buckets.
  • 4) Do not share tack or other equipment including hoses, rakes, shovels, etc.
  • 5) If you have concerns about your horse while participating in the event, take a rectal temperature and notify a veterinarian if the temperature exceeds 102.0 F.

What is the best way to disinfect equipment?

  • 1) Since disinfectants do not work as well in the face of organic material (manure, bedding, food, etc..) it is important to remove all this material prior to disinfecting.
  • 2) Then wash the equipment with soap and water and allow adequate time for the equipment to dry.
  • 3) Apply a disinfectant and comply with the label recommendations regarding application, contact times, and safety information.  Useful disinfectants include: diluted bleach water (1:10 dilution), Phenolic disinfectants (1-Stroke, Syn-Phenol), or Accelerated hydrogen peroxide products (Virkon).




By: Katie Jones, CVT

For many, when they think of rabies affecting their animals dogs and cats are at the very top of that list. Rabies cases in horses are rare, and can be preventable. Horses exposed to the virus are more sensitive and susceptible to the disease.

Rabies is caused by a virus of the rhabdovirus family. Rabies is a zoonotic disease that is spread through the saliva of an infected animal and is easily spread from one animal to another; including humans. It is believed that any warm blooded mammal is susceptible to this awful disease.

With any suddenly rapid progressing neurological signs, rabies should be considered. At onset additional signs infected horses can begin exhibiting are depression, anorexia, and ataxia. As the disease progresses, other signs that may show include:

  • Repetitive twitching

sick horse

  • Hypersensitivity to touch and sound
  • Hypermetria (a condition in which voluntary muscular movement overreaches the intended goal)
  • Proprioceptive deficits (lack of physical awareness of limbs and their placement)
  • Superlibido
  • Regional pruritus (itchiness)
  • Belligerousness
  • Periods of violence interspersed with periods of normalcy or depression
  • Normal, increased, decreased, or absent spinal reflexes

Rabies is a fatal disease with death typically occurring 3-5 days after onset. There are no treatments or tests for live animals. A postmortem test is currently the only definitive diagnosis for rabies. There are vaccinations available through a veterinarian as a preventative for contracting rabies. Horses can be vaccinated as young as three months of age, but must be boostered yearly to continue the coverage. Although the rabies vaccine is not a required in horse, the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) lists it as part of the core group of annual vaccines. Increased chances of exposure can be linked to:Rabies2

  • Pasturing
  • Presence of wild animals in area
  • Presence of known rabid animals in the area
  • Horse traveling to areas with frequent rabies cases

The number of horses infected with rabies each year in Minnesota is extremely low.  With statistics like this, it is extremely easy to choose not to vaccinate your animals, but with the virus being lethal yet preventable, is it not worth the risk.

Below is a map of Minnesota showing the positive Rabies cases for 2014.



Additional Information:





By: Katie Jones, CVT

IMG_20141212_150637614_HDRTetanus is a disease caused by the organism Clostridium tetani. It affects almost all animals; including humans. Horses are more susceptible to tetanus than any other domestic animal. This is due to their lower natural immunity and they live in environments with a high risk of tetanus.


  • Not contagious.
  • Anaerobic bacteria. Anaerobic organisms thrive in dark environments lacking in oxygen; however, their spores can survive in the environment for years.
  • Disinfectants, heat, or drying can damage the integrity of the organism.
  • High mortality rate.

Ideal environment: Deep puncture wound that includes tissue damage.

Process of Infection:

  • The organism spores live in the soil and enter the body through wounds or incisions. The toxins produced begin to damage the tissue and decrease the blood supply to the infected area.
  • The neurotoxins produced by the organism can enter the bloodstream from the infected site of the body.
  • These neurotoxins tightly bind to specific areas of the spinal cord and brain, preventing the body’s ability to process brain signals. It causes the affected muscles to intensely and persistently contract. Once the neurotoxins attach to the spinal cord there is no medical treatment available to dislodge them and the effects must be allowed to slowly wear off.

Clinical Signs: Once the organism has entered the tissue and is producing toxins, the course of clinical signs can be very rapid.

  • Beginning signs: Colic, vague stiffness, lameness (if the infected area is the limbs), retraction of the lips, flaring of the nostrils, development of a film over the third eye lid, and difficulty opening the jaw.
  • After 24 hours of infection there is generalized spastic activity of the muscle groups that assist in standing.
  • As the disease process continues the horse can develop labored breathing, stiffness in the front limbs, and the jaw can become locked preventing eating and drinking. These symptoms are characteristic of fatal tetanus; however, not all horses that are infected with tetanus progress to this state.

TetanusTreatment: Dependent on the severity of the disease.

  • Early diagnosis is needed to prevent the progression of the disease with the use of a manufactured antitoxin.
  • If the diagnosis isn’t made early, the wound will need to be surgically opened, effected tissue must be removed, and penicillin will be injected into the wound. The wound will ultimately be left open for continued drainage.
  • The horse will remain on a course of penicillin.
  • Supportive care is given to maintain nutrition and hydration.
  • It can take weeks to see an improvement and clinical signs can last months.

Prevention: Tetanus is a nasty disease with an expensive treatment plan.

  • Although the vaccine is not a 100% guaranteed, it has proven to be a successful way of preventing Tetanus. Check with a veterinarian regarding their specific vaccine protocols.
  • Cleaning and bandaging wounds immediately will also help with preventing the development of tetanus.

Potomac Horse Fever

By: Katie Jones, CVT

For many, once the snow begins to melt excitement for spring and summer riding sets in. And the bugs start. There are many diseases carried by the summer bugs, and in our area, Potomac Horse Fever (PHF) is one owners and riders worry about.

Potomac Horse FeverWhat is Potomac Horse Fever? The first documented outbreak of Potomac Horse Fever occurred in 1979 along the Potomac River banks in Maryland; it can now be found in 43 states. PHF cases are commonly found near creeks and rivers. PHF is caused by multiple strains of Neorickettsia risticii. Studies have found that parasites living in freshwater snails and aquatic insects are the reservoirs for this bacterium. The aquatic insects the bacterium can be found in are: adult and immature forms of caddisflies, mayflies, damselflies, dragonflies, and stoneflies. Horses ingest the infected insects from drinking water, grass from pasture, or from their hay source. Insects are attracted to barn lights during the nighttime hours; thus, they are attracted to areas where horses are kept. Potomac Horse Fever is not usually seen until the last half of summer (July-September) due to insects being the main source of transmission and the reason outbreaks are found seasonally. It is important to remember horse to horse transmission does not occur with PHF.

The first thing most owners observe when their horse has contracted Potomac Horse FlysFever is a decrease in their appetite. Other clinical signs are: fever (ranging from 102-107°F), colic episodes, depression, no manure, diarrhea, and laminitis. Commonly horses will develop an inflamed large intestine (colitis) which causes many of the symptoms associated with PHF. The development and severity of their clinical signs are dependent on individual cases. The clinical signs are very similar to many other diseases; therefore, it is important to isolate any horses showing signs to first verify it is PHF and not another contagious disease.

Potomac Horse Fever is diagnosed by performing a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on a blood, tissue, or, in some instances, a fecal sample.   The treatment of choice is a course of Oxytetracycline injections over a several day period. The N. risticii organism hides in the horse’s macrophages, are part of the body’s natural immune system, thus it hides from the body’s immune system. Oxytetracycline, an antibiotic, hinders the organism’s control mechanisms, allowing the macrophage to remove N. risticii from the body. There are no environmental changes that can be made to protect horses against PHF, but horses living next to standing water are at a higher risk of contracting PHF.

The best way to prevent the development of PHF is to vaccinate every year after May 15th. The vaccine, while protecting the horse against one strain of PHF, does not completely prevent the disease, but may reduce the severity if a horse does contract the disease. When planning for the riding months, horse owners begin scheduling their annual veterinary visits to have their horse(s) ready for the year in the spring; typically this includes all needed vaccines.   Due to having this visit done earlier in the year, it is not uncommon to forget this vaccine. Horse owners should first consult a veterinarian to determine their horses’ risk level of contracting Potomac Horse Fever, before adding the yearly PHF vaccine to their schedule.