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Equine Influenza- What you need to know

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 Equine Flu: Symptoms and Treatment

While everyone is doing their best to avoid the flu lately, we really need to make sure that our horses are also protected. Like the the human flu, equine influenza is highly contagious. The equine flu can be spread from one horse to another by contaminated walls and surfaces, including transport vehicles, feed buckets, tack, or even a sleeve of an owner or caretaker who has come in contact with a sick horse. A sick horse snorting or coughing can also spread the illness.

Symptoms of Flu in Horses

If horses are sick in your barn, be on the lookout for the following symptoms of equine influenza:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Nasal discharge
  • A hacking cough
  • Muscle pain or weakness
  • Anorexia (unwillingness to eat)
  • Slightly enlarged lymph nodes
  • Secondary bacterial infections

Prevention of Equine Influenza

The best way to prevent the flu is to vaccinate your horses against influenza. Equine influenza is a year-round sickness that most horses should be vaccinated for unless the horse is located in a very isolated or closed facility. Your veterinarian will help you determine whether or not your horse’s living situation fits this exception.

Vaccination schedules for horses will vary depending on the age, broodmare status, previous vaccines, and potential exposure. Equine flu viruses also mutate over time like human flu viruses. This means vaccines must be periodically updated.

Treatment and Recovery

Treatment for the horse flu usually involves multiple steps, which may include one or all of the following:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
  • Antibiotics for fevers that last more than a few days (3-4)
  • Restricting strenuous exercise
  • Soaking the horse’s hay to minimize any dust inhalation

Recovery time for equine influenza is typically two to three weeks.

Need a Vet Visit?

If you suspect that your horse may be coming down with the flu, reach out to your veterinarian to for a visit. Carolina Equine Hospital has an experienced veterinary team and offers 24-hour emergency care if needed. Call us at 336-349-4080.