Throughout his life, equidae, a family of mammals that includes horses, zebras and donkeys, can suffer respiratory infections, the most common of which is equine influenza. This disease spreads rapidly and is highly contagious from one horse to another or from contamination in equipment or air. Although this pathology is not fatal, it is important to emphasize that it requires special attention because it is highly contagious.
Next, we will mention the symptoms that appear frequently when horses get equine influenza and the care they must undergo to quickly overcome the infection.
First symptoms of equine influenza
The virus that causes this respiratory disease is that of equine influenza, belonging to influenza A. The incubation period goes from 3 hours to 7 days. In most cases, it disappears from the body of the equine at 10 days.
The first symptoms are very similar to those of common respiratory infections, such as fever, cough and secretions that release viral particles, which spread easily in the air.
Dry cough, fever and discharge of nasal mucosa occur when the influenza is already in a more advanced state. The infected animals could eliminate the virus before they manifest the symptoms, although in this phase it is difficult to determine if there is an infection, since they do not present the signs that communicate the pathology.
The cough may last more than 15 days; while the horse is recovering, the pharyngeal catarrh decreases.
The horse can present high fever, from 39.5 ° C to 41 ° C. The pulse also rises between 50 to 60.
The conjunctivae turn red with a slight yellow color. The tearing and photophobia are constant, the eyelids swell and mucopurulent secretion accumulates in the conjunctival sac.
Other symptoms include lethargy, drooping ears, decreased physical activity, edema in the legs, swelling of the mandibular lymph nodes, muscle pain and loss of appetite. The nervous system is also affected, manifesting lumbar paralysis.
Once the symptoms begin, the animal must be treated with the corresponding care to overcome the infection; if it is not treated with adequate rest, the recovery can take up to six months, that is, the clinical evolution is prolonged.
Care to fight influenza
For the care to be effective, the main thing is to keep the sick horse in the open air, in a place with shade and without dust, away from other equines that could be infected. In addition, it is important not to mobilize the horses to places where there is concentration, such as horseback riding events, festivals and exhibition fairs.
It is necessary that animals with symptoms of equine influenza be at a distance from healthy animals.
When the symptoms are first visualized, it is necessary to inform veterinarians quickly. The treatment begins once the veterinarian confirms the diagnosis, since the symptoms could be similar to other diseases of the respiratory system. The fastest and most visible diagnostic method is when the specialist looks for the presence of the virus in the nose and analyzes the secretion.
In order to recover quickly, rest should include isolation in a clean place with constant air. In addition, food should be provided that the horse can chew and ingest easily. The feed that is given daily as food should be replaced by fruit, soft quality feed, wet or other foods recommended by the veterinarian to be attractive to the taste of the horse.
Hard symptoms of equine influenza
In some cases, when there is evidence of bacterial infection, it means that the influenza is complicated and the veterinarian will provide antibiotics. If the horse is very weak and is not provided with adequate food and care, there is a risk of death.
Anti-inflammatories help reduce fever. In the most severe cases, antipyretics are given.
The horse must remain in absolute rest; Intense exercise should be avoided completely.
For conjunctivitis, the veterinarian will prescribe solutions of boric acid and astringent eye drops. Warm moist compresses and ophthalmic ointments with penicillin help to decrease swelling of the conjunctiva.
For the lethargy and weakness of the joints, it is convenient that the horse lies down on the soft grass, so that afterwards some exercises are performed while changing position slowly. Also, the injection of aneurine commonly known as vitamin B1 is recommended, this plays an important role in cellular respiration and in the nutrition of the nervous system.
To apply all these treatments, it is highly recommended that the person handling the animal wash their hands before and after having contact with it, so that it prevents the transmission to healthy animals.
¿How to prevent equine influenza?
When acquiring or adopting a horse, you must ensure that you do not have equine influenza and that you have received the recommended vaccines in the stipulated time, which is once a year.
So that there is less risk of infection, the equipment or utensils with which the horse is handled in the treatment must be disinfected.
Even if the equine has overcome the flu once, this does not mean that it can not catch the virus again. The vaccine against equine influenza is mandatory to prevent the disease. When horses participate in exhibitions or competitions, one of the indispensable requirements is that they are vaccinated against the virus.
In spite of being vaccinated, this does not guarantee that it is immune for life, however, it is always important to vaccinate so that it tolerates the symptoms better and is not so complicated or bothersome. For the vaccine to be effective, it must be applied every year to all horses that are in the same space.
The vaccine should be applied quickly to the equids that are close to the patient, but it is never recommended to vaccinate those who already have the flu.
Unlike avian influenza, this type of infection is not transmitted to humans. Its zoonotic and mortal potential is not known; however, it is not recommended to have a lot of contact with the sick animal since it could increase the risk of transmitting, through contact, the disease to healthy animals.