Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Do your horse a favor, give it a flu shot

Dr. Brian Joseph 
Washington State Veterinarian

Donkeys and horses are susceptible to equine influenza virus
but with regular vaccinations the disease is preventable. 
Equine influenza virus (EIV) or “horse flu” is a highly contagious but preventable disease found here in Washington.

Protect your animals with regular vaccinations and proper hygiene.

About horse flu

Equine influenza outbreaks occur annually in Washington and across the United States and are a major cause of economic loss due to lost training days and veterinary costs.

They can be prevented through immunization, but the virus remains persistent because of irregular or inadequate vaccination and asymptomatic disease carriers.

Horses in Washington have been infected

Every year, horses in Washington become infected with EIV. Since mid-November 2018, eight confirmed cases have been reported to the Washington State Veterinarian’s office. However, EIV is a common disease and is managed by private veterinarians, not WSDA.

Signs that your horse may have EIV

High fever
Thick green or yellow nasal discharge
Swollen lymph nodes under the jaw
Harsh, dry cough
Depression, loss of appetite and weakness

Most horses recover in two to three weeks, although complete recovery in severely affected animals may take several months. Any horse showing clinical signs should be isolated for at least 21 days.

Can humans get EIV?

No, but dogs can.

What to do if you think your animal may have the flu

Call your vet if you think your horse may be infected. Veterinarian treatment is vital for proper diagnosis and care. Uncomplicated cases require rest and supportive care. Affected horses should rest for a minimum of three weeks -- one week for each day of fever.

These horses should not attend shows or leave the premises during that time.


Equine influenza virus spreads rapidly through barns, race tracks and training facilities through the inhalation or contact with germs shed by infected horses.

Contaminated equipment such as feed buckets, tack and grooming aids can spread the disease.

Practice good hygiene

The virus can be inactivated by commonly used disinfectants and diligent use of hand sanitizer.
Exposure can be reduced through quarantine and observation of newly acquired horses for a two week period; a prudent practice after any horse acquisition or transport.

How to protect your animals

Vaccinate. This is a preventable disease with regular immunizations and biosecurity.

It is recommended that at-risk horses, such as show horses, be immunized at three month intervals while sedentary horses may be vaccinated annually due to a smaller risk of exposure.

Work with your veterinarian to come up with a vaccination program and biosecurity plan tailored to your needs.

For additional information visit WSDA's Animal Health Program page.