It’s that time of year – summer brings out those pesky mosquitos and dreaded carriers of West Nile disease. This is a viral disease that can cause illness or fatal encephalitis (inflammation of the brain and/or spinal cord) in horses through the bites of infected mosquitoes. The disease may not be evident until the death of the horse but some of the signs of illness include discomfort or anxiety, loss of appetite, low grade fever, lack of coordination, weakness, muscle twitching, and intermittent lameness. Your veterinarian can recommend a vaccination schedule for your horse based on the most current guidelines.
Practice Prevention: To reduce the mosquito population around your property:
• Be extra vigilant about draining standing water. In addition to the obvious water-holding containers that are quite visible, (wheelbarrows, pots, cans) check your roof gutters that may be clogged. It has been said that mosquitoes need just one inch of water to breed!
• Stock ornamental pools and permanent ponds with fish that eat mosquito larvae.
• Keep horses in the barn at dusk and dawn during the mosquito’s favorite feeding time
• Use fans and traps in the barn
• Use approved repellents
• Contact your local or state health department to report dead birds. They can be tested to see if mosquitoes in your area are carrying the virus.
Good stable management along with appropriate vaccinations will go a long way in avoiding the risk of West Nile infecting our horses. While you’re at it, take precautions to protect yourself from this illness which seriously affects people!
Reminder to horse insurance policyholders – if your horse has any illness, disease or injury, notify your insurance company adjustor as soon as possible whenever veterinary care becomes necessary.