The Woodward News

Local News

June 11, 2014

Take steps to protect your horses from virus

Woodward, Okla. — As the weather outside gets a tad muggier, it may be uncomfortable for you, but not for mosquitoes.

So for horse owners, it's time to think about that pesky problem called West Nile Virus, and  Western and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, say officials from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry.

There have been more than 40 cases in each of the past two years in Oklahoma where horses have been positively diagnosed as infected with mosquito-carried diseases.  The bird population serves as the reservoir for the viruses, and it is then spread by mosquitos to horses and humans, officials said.

According to Dr. Rick Olson of Buffalo Veterinary Clinic,  some of the diseases mosquitoes carry can end a horse's productive life, even if it lives through the illness.

"The old Eastern and Western Encephalitis are pretty devastating when they hit and the vaccine is cheap enough that it is really worth it to go ahead and vaccinate," Olson said.

Horse owners can purchase vaccinations at farm supply stores, such as Atwoods and Tractor Supply. But Olson advises to visit with your veterinarian to develop a vaccination protocol that will work for your particular horse's needs.

"A good example of this is, I was looking through a veterinarian catalog last night and even I got confused," he said laughing.

But for those who otherwise would not get their horses vaccinated, the vaccines at Tractor Supply and Atwoods run between $20 and $40 for multi-viral protection (for Eastern, Western Encephalitis and flu viruses common in horses). The West Nile shot runs about $25.

 Olson emphasized that horse owners who have young animals should especially plan to vaccinate because those horses likely have no immunity whatsoever.

"The West Nile vaccine is expensive enough, I know it is tempting to skip it," Olson said. "But here again, it is especially important on young horses."

ODAFF officials recommend eliminating pools of water where mosquitoes can lay their eggs.

Horse owners should not let water stagnate in birdbaths or water tanks and should turn over wheelbarrows when not in use. Any containers that are needed for constant use, such as water troughs, should be emptied and flushed twice a week in order to remove the possible mosquito eggs.  When possible, owners should reduce horses’ outdoor exposure at dawn and dusk, the times of day when mosquitos that transmit the West Nile virus are most active.

“Signs of West Nile Virus include weakness, fever, incoordination, seizures, blindness and difficulty getting up,” said Assistant State Veterinarian Michael Herrin, D.V.M.   “There are several vaccines available, and we are encouraging horse owners to visit with their veterinarian and determine the vaccination protocol that will best fit their operation.”

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