Equine Disease UpdateBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · May 2, 2012
Because of the early spring experienced by several regions in the United States, wild animals may become active earlier than usual this year. This means that animals that carry and spread rabies—skunks, foxes, raccoons, bats, and others—may begin to come in contact with grazing horses and those kept in barns. Horse owners should check with a veterinarian to be sure rabies vaccinations are current for their horses, as rabies is invariably fatal once the disease becomes apparent.
In Texas, an outbreak of pigeon fever has been noted. About 100 cases of this equine disease are recorded every year by the Texas Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, but in 2011 there were more than 350 positive cultures for the causative organism Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis. Pigeon fever has no connection to pigeons and is named for the swollen appearance caused by abscesses in the horse's chest muscles. The disease is most common in dry areas in the summer and fall, but cases diagnosed in other parts of the country may be on the increase.
Veterinarians in Saskatchewan, Canada, have seen a rise in the number of horses affected by equine infectious anemia (EIA) earlier this spring. The disease has been reported from at least 20 farms. It is spread by biting insects such as deer flies and horse flies. No vaccine is available for protection against EIA, and control is by testing horses and preventing affected animals from coming near healthy horses. Proof that a horse is not carrying EIA before it enters show grounds or a racetrack is an effective way to limit the spread of this disease.