The warm weather is finally here but so is the seasonal fly and mosquito season. There are several measures you can take to make sure your horse will be protected against mosquito borne diseases.
The most common mosquito borne diseases that are transmitted to horses in North America are Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE), Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (WEE), and West Niles Virus Encephalomyelitis (WNV). These viruses cause encephalomyelitis or inflammation in the brain or/spinal cord that can lead to central nervous system dysfunction in the horse. Signs include can include general signs of illness like low-grade fever, anorexia, muscle tremors, or signs of colic. Encephalomyelitic horses also show neurologic signs such as incoordination, head pressing, circling, difficulty swallowing, recumbency with the inability to rise, grinding teeth, convulsions and even death. If any of these signs are present in your horse you should consult your veterinarian immediately.
Encephalomyelitis diseases can be fatal, therefore it is important that horse owners take the necessary steps to prevent disease outbreak in their animals. Here are a few ways to help prevent mosquito borne illness this summer.
1) Vaccinate your horse. Many veterinarians recommend at least a yearly vaccine booster with EEE, WEE, and WNV in previously vaccinated horses. Many veterinarians recommend vaccinating more frequently (bi-annually) in more endemic areas like Florida and some Southeastern states with a larger mosquito populations.
2) Drain standing water. Make sure that containers that can hold water are dumped to decrease the number of places that mosquitoes can lay their eggs. This includes buckets, ceramic pots, unused troughs, wheelbarrows, etc.
3) Topical sprays containing mosquito repellents are available for horses.
4) Protective clothing: Fly masks and sheets can protect horses especially in pasture from biting insects.
5) The peak times for mosquitoes are early dawn and dusk hours. Keeping animals inside during these periods reduces the exposure to getting bitten.
6) Use barn fans for stalled animals or keep windows open to encourage ventilation so air is kept moving for better protection.
Using these simple tips can help your horse to stay protected against mosquito illness and disease this summer.