Outbreaks of diseases such as equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (the neurological form of equine herpesvirus-1), eastern equine encephalomyelitis and West Nile virus have spread across the country over the past few years, raising concern among horse owners. These outbreaks have scared many into not competing at venues they may have gone to in the past. Some have stopped traveling with their horses altogether, while others have taken precautions but continue to show their horses as planned.
2012 has barely just begun, but it has not been disease-free for horses in the United States. On January 5, equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy, or EHM, also referred to as neurological rhino, was confirmed in a mare in North Carolina1. In addition, as of January 13, five horses have tested positive for EHV-1 in Orange County, California2.
Many equestrians have already made their move to the warmer climates of California, Florida and Texas to compete in the winter circuits. With the help of your veterinarian and careful precautionary measures, experts suggest that there is no reason not to compete as usual.
All horses, whether they are competing or staying on the farm, should be vaccinated against the core diseases, including tetanus, eastern and western equine encephalomyelitis, West Nile virus and rabies. In addition, depending on the region, veterinarians may recommend vaccinating against some of the risk-based diseases, such as equine herpesvirus, equine influenza and strangles. Be sure to consult a veterinarian about which vaccines may be necessary for your horse. For horses that do a great deal of traveling, vaccinations alone may not be enough. In these instances, many veterinarians recommend adding an immunomodulator to help support and boost your horse's immune system.
Stress from traveling may have a negative effect on a horse's immune system. Using an immunomodulator can help stimulate and prepare a horse's immune system to function more effectively. Immunomodulators should be administered prior to exposure to stressful situations, such as horse shows, transportation or exposure to disease. ZYLEXIS? from Pfizer Animal Health is a demonstrated safe and effective immunomodulator that helps to reduce upper respiratory disease caused by EHV-1 and EHV-4. Immunomodulators should not be used in horses with a fever or showing signs of clinical disease. Owners should discuss their options with a veterinarian.
?As a trainer and horse owner, I don't want to do anything to put my horses in danger or risk the time and money spent to get them performance-ready,? says AQHA member Corey Cushing of Corey Cushing Performance Horses. ?I trust that the barn managers and grounds official have taken biosecurity precautions. However, giving my horses ZYLEXIS gives me and my clients added peace of mind knowing I am doing everything possible to help keep my horses protected.?
Gina Miles, 2008 individual Olympic silver medalist in eventing, requires all of her horses and clients? horses traveling to receive ZYLEXIS.
?Any time I travel long distances or fly my horses internationally, I give them the required three doses of ZYLEXIS,? Gina says. ?I have incorporated ZYLEXIS into my preventative health care program for many years, and it has been shown to be very successful.?
?Traveling puts a lot of stress on all horses, from the young horse just starting (his) show career to the seasoned veteran. At my facility, we take equine herpesvirus respiratory outbreaks very seriously. However, with the aid of ZYLEXIS, we have not had to alter our show schedule,? Corey says.
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Equine herpesvirus can largely be avoided by instituting and maintaining standard biosecurity measures. Some of the easiest protocols to implement include separate food and water buckets for each horse, individual tack that is not shared from horse to horse and quarantining horses returning to the facility after shows, sales and trail rides. Other items that should not be shared include twitches, lip chains, halters or other items that may touch a horse's eyes, nose or mouth. Practice good barn hygiene when you arrive at the destination facility and daily on the farm. Disinfect stalls prior to moving your horses in and don't forget that the trailer needs to be disinfected regularly, as well.
Infectious diseases can break out anytime and anywhere. As horse owners, if you do your part to help limit stress and boost your horses? immune system, keep them current on their vaccinations and practice biosecurity at home and on the road, you are well on your way to a healthy, successful show season.