Greetings from sunny Florida! Here in Florida, where Allivet is based, we have survived this year’s Winterpocalypse: two days of slightly chilly weather, where a light sweater sufficed. But what do we get instead of dealing with snow? Mosquitoes, that’s what! These pesky arthropods are not only annoying and irritating, but can be a major health concern for pet lovers, and especially horse owners, all across the world.
The reason: Arboviruses! Mosquitoes can spread a variety of deadly viruses, including dengue, encephalitis, yellow fever, and West Nile Virus. West Nile Virus is classified as an arbovirus because it is transmitted by the bite of an infected arthropod (mosquito). But West Nile Virus (WNV) is also zoonotic, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans. Other examples of zoonotic infectious diseases include rabies, ebola, anthrax, measles and influenza. This means if your horse is at risk, so are you!
Worst of all, there is no specific treatment or cure for horses infected with West Nile Virus. All the vet can do at that point is administer anti-inflammatory drugs and intravenous fluids as needed. The mortality rate for horses infected with West Nile Virus is around 35%. Many infected horses will recover completely, however, approximately 40% of the horses that survive might experience residual clinical signs. Click to read our post on West Nile Virus.
In addition to West Nile Virus, mosquitoes can also spread Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan Encephalomyelitis which leads to swelling of the brain and spinal cord. This is another zoonotic arbovirus that affects temperate and tropical regions of the world. This virus infects the lymph nodes first, causing lymphopenia, leucopenia, and fever. Its symptoms occur one to three weeks after infection, and begin with a very high fever lasting up to two days. During this fever, horses experience sensitivity to sound, excitement and restlessness. Afterwards, brain lesions will appear, leading to aimless wandering, head pressing, abnormal gait, inability to swallow, circling, drooping of the ears, drowsiness and circling. The paralysis that follows causes the horse to have difficulty raising its head, and horses will suffer complete paralysis and death two to four days after symptoms appear. Mortality rates range from 70 to 90%.
So how can you protect before you treat? Follow these steps to keep mosquitoes (and their diseases!) away from your horse:
1) Vaccinate! Vaccinate! Vaccinate! We can’t say that enough. Horse vaccines are the best way to prevent potentially deadly horse diseases. Horse vaccines are available at Allivet for a fraction of the price at other retailers. Among our wide selection of Horse West Nile Vaccines, you will find the top rated West Nile Innovator and Recombitek West Nile Vaccine. As for Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan Encephalomyelitis, Allivet also offers a great selection of Horse Sleeping Sickness Vaccine. For more information on choosing the right vaccine for your horse, check out our nifty Equine Vaccine Chart.
2) Wear a mask. Not you, the horse! Masks are not just for carnival, you know… Allivet’s Super Mask with Ears stays securely in place to protect horses from mosquitoes, flies, dirt debris, and sun.
3) Reduce population. Mosquitoes require standing water or moist soil to breed and thrive. Nip this at the bud by reducing and cleaning water holding containers assiduously.
4) Insect-proof your stable with screens, bug zappers or traps. Remember to stable your horses during dusk and dawn, peak biting periods when mosquitoes feast
5) Use insecticides responsibly. Allivet offers Insecticide sprays and wipes as well as spot-on treatments and lotions. Ultrashield EX insecticide and repellent has a sweat resistant formula and contains sunscreens and coat conditioners to improve your horse’s coat. Find this and other products at your trusted pet pharmacy: Allivet.com!
What do you do to protect your horse from mosquitoes? Leave a comment below!