Neurological Equine Herpes Virus 1 update.
We must advise that an outbreak of EHV-1 has been confirmed at a premises in Hampshire. This premises is taking veterinary advice and is managing the situation extremely responsibly including posting on their own website warning people that have attended the premises with their horses for competition. The warning applies to any horse attending the premises on or after the 20th December 2019.
Sampling and laboratory testing is underway and the exact extent of infection will be known likely early next week if not by the end of this week. It is only then that we can establish the true risk to horses that attended events there and then returned home. It is considered safest to take a precautionary but pragmatic approach. To this end it is advised that at risk horses be placed in isolation for 14 days (to avoid direct and indirect contact with other horses), undergo daily clinical monitoring (ideally including twice daily rectal temperature recording) with a blood sample for serum antibody testing at the beginning and then again at the end of isolation. A swab should be taken from inside the nose (nasopharyngeal swab) by your vet towards the end of the isolation period and tested for viral DNA. Only if this is negative can the horse be released from isolation. To confirm, a horse is at risk if it attended the premises on or after the 20th December 2019.
Horses that develop clinical signs whilst in isolation, which may include just fever, off food and lethargy but also nasal discharge, coughing and limb swelling through to neurological signs, should undergo veterinary examination with samples taken at the time for EHV-1 including a nasopharyngeal swab for PCR (DNA). Horses that remain clinically normal throughout the isolation and don’t have signs that they’ve been recently exposed to the virus on their blood samples, or a positive nasopharyngeal swab can be considered non-exposed and non-infectious and can be released from isolation.
IT IS ADVISED NOT TO COMMENCE VACCINATION in horses that may have been exposed or that are undergoing the isolation or screening process.
Obviously this is all pretty complicated so please don’t hesitate to contact the practice and ask to speak to one of the vets for clarification or with any questions.
To confirm, EHV-1 is not a “notifiable” disease so none of the above can be enforced, so we rely on everyone to do the right thing here and do as they’d wish others to do in the same situation.
The Animal Health Trust keep us informed of any confirmed new cases or outbreaks by text and we will be passing this information on straight away. Hopefully this outbreak will prove an isolated one.
Annual Health Assessment
The cold, dark and wet Winter months are soon to disappear, and horse owners everywhere are keen to plan the season ahead with their horse.
To help ensure your horse is in peak condition for Spring, ask your vet to perform an annual health assessment on your horse now. This will help to identify any potential or underlying problems, as well as giving your vet the opportunity to assess your horse’s general health and wellbeing.
Your horse’s hooves have a very tough job!
Your horse’s hooves have a very tough job! Not only do they have to bear the weight of your horse over a relatively small surface area and varying terrain, but they also have to be strong enough to withstand huge additional forces. Did you know the force of a horse’s foot on landing from a 2ft jump is around 1430kg? That’s equivalent to the weight of a small car! Strong, healthy hooves are essential for your horse’s wellbeing, and to ensure they can be the performance athlete you want them to be.
Microchipping compulsory by October 2020
From October 2020, regardless of their age, it will be compulsory for all horse owners to microchip
their horses, ponies and donkeys. The new law has been introduced to crack down on abuse and improve animal welfare.
If by October 2020 horse owners have not microchipped their horses, ponies and donkeys, they could face sanctions from their local authority including a compliance notice and a fine of up to £200.
If your horse, pony or donkey is not yet microchipped, we strongly advise you get this done soon. Why not combine it with a routine vet visit?
How long is a mare’s gestation period?
The average gestation period for a horse is 330-345 days – or around 11 months. The natural breeding season for horses is from May until August, to bring foaling at a time when environmental conditions should be best for their survival. For thoroughbreds, the breeding season begins much earlier in the year. The 1st of January is the official date of birth for thoroughbreds, meaning earlier foals will be as mature as possible when they begin their racing careers.
Body condition scoring
Does your horse appear to be overweight or underweight? If so, now is a good time to reassess your horse’s body condition score to ensure your horse is fit and healthy.
Prior to adjusting your horse’s diet, it is essential to have an objective idea of the horse’s body condition score (between 0-5 scale, 2.5 being ideal condition). This objective score relies on the amount of fat deposits on the neck, withers, shoulder, ribs, loin and tailhead.
If you are worried about your horse’s weight, speak to your vet who will be able to devise a plan for the season ahead, whilst also determining if there are any underlying problems.
Frosty grass – laminitis risk!
Frosty mornings are beautiful, but they can increase the risk of laminitis.
Frost can cause levels of fructan in grass, which is a risk to horses and ponies who are prone to laminitis. To help reduce their exposure to fructan, avoid turning your horses out on sunny, frosty mornings, and keep them off the grass until the frost has thawed. If this is unavoidable, try to ensure your horse has plenty of access to appropriate forage as alternative to frosty grass.
Monitor your horse daily for signs of laminitis. Symptoms can include discomfort on hard ground, warm hooves or a raised digital pulse.
Prevention is always better than cure – if in any doubt, always call your vet.
On average, a horse’s brain is the size of a large orange, which is only around half the size and weight of a human brain. Given that horses are much larger than humans, their brain size is proportionally much smaller in relation to body size.
The horse’s brain is broadly divided into three regions, each with a left and right side or hemisphere:
The cerebral cortex (forebrain) is the largest part of the brain and is responsible for perception, information processing and voluntary control of movement.
The cerebellum lies behind the cerebral cortex and manages coordination of movement and fine control.
The brainstem is a bridge between various parts of the nervous system and contains tracts carrying information from the cortex and cerebellum towards the spinal column.
It also contains the roots of nerves to the head and neck (cranial nerve ganglia). These include the trigeminal and facial nerves that coordinate movement and sensation in the face and the vestibular nerve that controls the position of the head, eyes and main body in relation to gravity.
Bots can be irritating for your horse and winter is usually the best time for you to get these parasites under control.
Bots are the insect larvae of the bot fly. They are a common adult parasite found within the horse’s stomach, yet they don’t show up in a standard Faecal Worm Egg Count (FWEC).
The female bot fly can produce up to 1,000 distinctive yellow eggs on the hair on your horse’s legs and shoulders or around the eyes, mouth and nose.
Your horse will inadvertently ingest the bot eggs while he’s grooming himself or a companion. The bot larvae will mature in his mouth and develop in the stomach for up to a year before emerging via dung.
The best way to control bots is to administer a suitable wormer in the winter, after the first frost when the adult flies have died and before the bots mature.
The correct worming protocol will not only help to safeguard the health of your horse but will also have an impact in reducing the bot fly population in your area - which could help to make you and your horse’s life more comfortable next summer.
If you haven’t yet treated your horse for encysted small redworm a practical and cost-effective solution may be to combine this with your bots treatment. It’s important to speak to your vet or SQP to find the most suitable treatment for your horse.