A variety of sources can harbor infectious diseases that impact horses, from mosquitos and rodents to pastures and water supplies, to name a few. These diseases have a wide range in both severity and prognosis—some of which can be passed from horse to horse, and even to people—which is why it is integral to have a strategy in place to contain and resolve them.
Following, Dr. Alfredo Londoño-Sanchez, a board-certified specialist in internal medicine from Tufts Veterinary Field Service, provides some general dos and don’ts to help you on your way to creating a comprehensive biosecurity plan for your farm.
Do: Involve your veterinarian right away. It is imperative to get an accurate diagnosis from a veterinarian so that proper treatment can be administered and a containment strategy can be discussed.
Don’t: Take barn-mates off of the grounds, even if they appear to be healthy. Horses, people, and equipment are all vectors for disease and also interact on a daily basis. Once an infectious disease has been discovered, the movement of horses off the property and visitors to the property should be restricted to prevent any further outbreak.
Do: Keep all risk groups isolated. Infected horses and those at risk should be isolated from horses that have not been exposed to the pathogen to help contain the disease. If isolating affected horses is difficult, make sure to handle those horses after all other horses have been dealt with.
Don’t: Treat without protective clothing and only wear that protective clothing while caring for infected horses or areas. This will help prevent the transfer of matter and help safeguard healthy horses and yourself.
Do: Use chemical disinfectants on barn surfaces as well as tools and equipment. As much dust, dirt, and debris should be removed as possible by scrubbing and rinsing with a detergent prior to disinfecting. In addition to spray disinfectants, hand sanitizers or hand wipes, as well as footbaths should be utilized.
Don’t: Forget the basics. The body temperature of all horses should be monitored at least twice per day to evaluate whether the disease has spread and catch it as early as possible in the case that further infection has occurred.
Do: Educate personnel. Anyone who will be working with the horses and on the property should be properly informed of and educated about the disease control protocol that is in place.
While creating a complete management plan with your veterinarian is key, the ideal strategy is to prevent an infectious disease outbreak in the first place. The following precautions should be taken to help mitigate risk:
– Monitor horses daily for any changes in behavior or appearance
– Maintain adequate veterinary records for all horse
– Follow vaccination and deworming guidelines
– Take steps to reduce insects and other pest populations
– Isolate new arrivals for at least two weeks and avoid exposing horses to infected animals
Managing an infectious disease outbreak on your farm can be an overwhelming undertaking, but by taking proper precautions, and with some advanced planning and understanding, it can be much more manageable.