Horse Health: Everything you need to know about horse problems, treatment and vaccines

The health condition of pets often depends on the quality of health care they receive. Horses, for example, are hardy animals no matter the breed. Yet, just like every other lovable creature, horses face different ailments which constantly require attention from horse owners and trainers. Through preventive care, a large number of common horse health problems (such as injuries, illness and diseases) can be avoided, especially when horse owners or caregivers keep the animals on a regular health care program.

Free horse picture (Source: Helena Lopez/Pexels)

The following is a list of some common horse problems, including their treatments and vaccines.

  • Influenza: Horses are prone to upper respiratory tract infections caused by a virus. Equine influenza is comparable to the human strain and its identified symptoms include: fever, loss of appetite, runny nose (usually with white mucus), and sadness. This highly contagious ailment is easily spread by sneezing or coughing and may pass from humans to animals through clothing and hands. Horse vaccines for treating influenza are effective between two to three months after they’re administered so the animals need regular doses of influenza drugs. Experts suggest that horse owners should vaccinate their pets at least once every six months.
  • Tetanus: Horses die every year due to inadequate care for wounds sustained from sharp, rusty objects—especially metals such as knives, nails, barbed wires etc. Horses are more prone to tetanus than humans, and this health risk is often fatal in the animals. Symptoms of exposure to tetanus include: clenched jaw, tensed muscles, and droopy eyes marked by visibility of the third eyelid. Horse vaccines for tetanus are available and are usually administered once every year.
  • Intestinal worms: Every horse is a potential carrier of intestinal worms and should be regularly dewormed although intervals for preventive healthcare differ between locations. In other words, the prevalence of worms in a particular area or climate is a determinant of horses’ exposure risks to intestinal worms. For example, horses in rainforest zones should be given worm treatment every month whereas those in desert climates may require a three-month gap. Some effective preventive health measures include sanitizing stalls and keeping manure at a safe distance from where the animals feed.
  • Distemper: Distemper in horses starts with the swelling of lymph glands in horses’ throat and may lead to recurring abscess. This respiratory tract infection (also known as strangles) is caused by bacteria and can pass from one animal to the other through mucus. Humans-to-animals transmission of the disease is also possible, specifically through the hands or clothing, but younger horses are more susceptible. Symptoms of distemper include: runny nose, fever and loss of appetite. Horses infected by distemper often show serious reactions such as pneumonia, internal bleeding, heart attack, and eventual death if emergency treatment is not provided. Vaccines for distemper are not 100 percent reliable but horse owners are advised to vaccinate their pets at least once every year to reduce or eliminate risks from exposure.
  • Rabies: Horses are prone to rabies, a viral infection which affects the nervous system in animals. Both humans and animals are susceptible to the ailment which is often transmitted by biting or exchange of saliva. Symptoms include unusual behaviour characterized by lack of coordination, sudden and inexplicable personality change, and depression. Horse experts and vets advise horse owners to stay away from animals identified to be exhibiting such symptoms and call for professional help immediately. Vaccinations for the rabies virus are administered once every year.

Notwithstanding their enormous sizes, horses spend most part of their lifetime on their feet and this natural inclination makes them susceptible to bone and muscle problems that are easily noticed by abnormal gaits. Horses are therefore prone to sustaining leg and feet problems, especially during intensive training or racing games. In some cases, the large animals may sustain bruises, lose a sizeable amount of hair, or even develop saddle sores from wrongly attached saddle. Although race horses tend to receive better care, they also suffer health issues due to excessive jumping or running. But generally, horses are quite lovable and extroverted, especially when reared in the company of other horses – a situation which, in turn, exposes the animals to contagious diseases.

Every horse owner or caregiver is required to take certain steps that ensure that a high level of horse health is maintained through good nutrition, safe exercise routines, regular medical checks, and use of vaccines as preventive or curative measures. In addition, horse rides should be done with proper saddles and equipment in order to reduce health risks.