How do you prevent disease in horses?

Caring for your horse includes protecting them against the threat of disease.

Caring for your horse includes protecting them against the threat of disease.

The subject of disease can cause a great deal of concern and stress for owners of horses and stable yards alike. Many diseases, such as equine flu and equine herpes virus, can be very contagious and so spread quickly and easily between horses. However, there are some simple steps that we can all take to identify disease as early as possible, reduce the risk of equine disease and ensure our horses stay fit and healthy.

How to keep your horse disease-free at home
  • Reducing the risk day-to-day is easy: introducing simple things such as not sharing tack, buckets and brushes between different horses will help a lot.
  • Always obtain a full history of a new horse on the yard and undertake the necessary checks on vaccination history or any pre-arrival testing that may be required before it arrives.
  • Maintain and encourage others to undertake good personal hygiene by washing hands regularly, avoid touching and stroking unfamiliar horses and sharing equipment between horses, clean housing and equipment regularly and thoroughly disinfect between horses.
  • Avoid exposing your horse to unfamiliar horses or those with an unknown health status.
  • Any new horse arriving on the yard should be quarantined (kept separate) for three weeks before being introduced to other horses: make sure you have suitable facilities – or are able to create a suitable temporary set-up – should you need to quarantine a new arrival.
  • Ensure all horses on the yard are up-to-date with their routine health treatment such as vaccinations and worm control measures. Use a health planner to keep track and ask your vet if there are any additional measures that you should be considering.
  • If you suspect your horse has a disease, isolate it immediately and contact your vet for advice. It is a good idea to know in advance how you can effectively isolate a potentially infected horse so this can be carried out quickly should the need arise.
  • Many diseases display similar signs: a lack of energy, fever, weight loss, coughing or a snotty nose are just some of the things to look out for.
  • Learn how to take your horse’s temperature – if you know what their normal temperature is you’ll be able to take action as quickly as possible if it spikes. This is really important and one of the main things horse owners can do to ensure their horse receives veterinary attention as soon as possible and help prevent the spread of disease.
How to keep your horse disease-free when out and about
  • Avoid exposing your horse to unfamiliar equines – as sociable as your horse may be, don’t let them get nose-to-nose with their new best friend at a competition, training session or other outing.
  • Take your own equipment with you, such as water and buckets, and try to give you and your horse as much space as possible, avoiding areas where lots of horses are hanging out.
  • Disinfect your trailer after each use or, if you are hiring a self-drive or using a transporter, make sure they have fully cleaned and disinfected the vehicle before you put your horse on board.
  • Monitor your horse’s temperature, heart rate and breathing a bit more closely for a few weeks after any time spent off their normal yard, to make sure any changes are detected quickly.
  • Keep up to date with equine disease alerts in your area, so you know if there is a disease outbreak locally and follow official advice. If in doubt, contact your vet!

Not sure how to take your horse’s temperature? Check out our video below for tips.

Watch our video below for more advice on preventing disease.

Keep Your Horse Healthy aims to highlight the need for every horse owner to be aware of diseases such as EIA, Strangles and Flu, and offers simple steps to help protect against their entry and spread.

Download the Keep Your Horse Healthy pack below, or request your free copy from campaigns@worldhorsewelfare.org.

Keep your horse healthy pack
Download the Keeping your horse healthy pack

Find out how to keep your horse happy and healthy by preventing the spread of disease

Remember you can always call our Advice Line on +44 (0)1953 497 238.

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