Equine Herpes Virus (Rhino)

Recently there have been reports of cases of rhinopneumonitis in the valley that have many people concerned about the safety of their horses. Please read the following to make sure you are well informed about this disease.

Background Information: Rhinopneumonitis is caused by Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) and is commonly referred to as “rhino”. The virus has many different forms and can cause many different symptoms. Classically, EHV causes a respiratory disease similar to influenza (flu) or streptococcus equi (strangles). It is also a leading cause of abortion. In the last few years a new type of EHV disease is beginning to emerge that causes a neurological form of the disease. The neurological form of EHV is most common in young horses. Neurological symptoms such as awkward steps, abnormal mentation, and difficulty eating may be present with this condition. This can unfortunately result in loss of use or even death. The disease spreads by contact with the nasal discharge from an affected individual, but since it is a herpes virus it can be spread from a horse that is showing no signs of disease at all. The respiratory form and the abortion form are prevented to some degree by vaccination, but as each disease is caused by a different form of the EHV virus, there is no evidence that the vaccine protects against the neurological form. Many of the horses that have died have been fully vaccinated against EHV (rhino). If a horse shows any of the above symptoms, please contact us as soon as possible in order to give your horse the best chance of survival.

Diagnosis: EHV-1 is diagnosed by taking a nasal swab of both nostrils and taking a blood sample. Both of these will test for presence of the virus.

Prevention and Treatment: Recent information suggests that vaccination may decrease viral shed, possibly reducing risk for the herd, but this is not a reliable method of protection. We do have products that aim to boost the immune system before or after exposure that may be of benefit. If your horse is either in a high risk situation or traveling to a high risk situation, it is advisable to treat your horse with one of these products. After this, we are left to practicing good hygienic care of our horses, and sound barn management practices. Do not share barn equipment or tack if possible, and only after it has been disinfected thoroughly. Isolate affected horses immediately for a minimum of the duration of the disease plus 7 days. Isolate new horses for 3 weeks. This includes horses that travel to a show and come back. They are the ones that are likely to have been exposed. Clean hands and clothing including shoes thoroughly when moving between stalls. Call immediately if your horse is showing suspicious behaviors.

Prevention and early detection allow for the best opportunity to beat this disease.

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