Mosquitoes are pesky bugs that annoy most of us on summer evenings. Citronella candles, bug spray and avoiding stagnant water are ways we often combat these pest. For horses, it’s not quite so easy. Bug spray and reducing standing water are important but for some diseases spread by mosquitoes, vaccination is your best tool.
As I sit in the office and write this article, we’ve already seen cases of West Nile Virus and EEE in the US for 2017. Both are mosquito-borne diseases that often result in mortality. A simple vaccination, and annual booster, can greatly reduce the risk that your horse, or donkey, will contract the disease. Mosquitoes can breed in any pond of water that remains for more than 4 days, so it is important to make sure this doesn’t happen on your land (if possible). Keeping your horses stalled at night and using sprays or fans can help reduce exposure to infected mosquitoes.
West Nile Virus (WNV) is exhibited by flu-like symptoms in equine species. They may seem mildly depressed, have a decreased appetite, hypersensitivity to noises or touch, occasional drowsiness and asymmetrical weakness. The mortality rate ranges from 30-40%. Depending on the area you live in, your horses may need a booster in the spring and the fall. Be sure to consult your veterinarian for the best health plan for your herd!
EEE (Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis) is transmitted by infected mosquitoes and one horse has already died from the disease in North Carolina this year. EEE causes inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms may include impaired vision, aimless wandering, circling, inability to swallow, and paralysis. It can take anywhere from 3-10 days for a horse to exhibit signs after being bitten. It is usually fatal and the horses often suffer a great deal before succumbing to the disease.
Vaccinations are an important piece of any herd health plan and it is important to keep accurate records on all of your animals. These may mean the difference between life and death for your horses. There is no evidence of horses being able to transmit the viruses to other horses, animals or people through direct contact. Please talk to your veterinarian about vaccinations for WNV, EEE, and other prevalent diseases to maintain the health and safety of your animals.