Dr. Susan Kerr, WSDA Education and Outreach Coordinator
4-H horse project youth, your horse depends on YOU to keep him/her safe and healthy!
There were 33 confirmed cases of equine influenza in Washington State in 2020. There were an additional 29 suspected cases, and 25 more horses were exposed to the virus by infected horses. These cases were distributed throughout the state. Fortunately, none of these horses died, which is typical for this disease.
Part of influenza treatment involves strict rest, and some horses do not return to normal for six months! Can you imagine not being able to ride or exercise your sick horse for weeks or months? Horses infected with the influenza virus can develop secondary pneumonia, which can be much more serious and require antibiotic treatment.
If your horse is at risk of catching influenza from other horses, why not prevent this disease and all its complications by vaccinating him/her? The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recommends horses at risk be vaccinated for influenza every six months.
Is your horse at risk of influenza? YES if he/she has contact with other horses “outside its bubble” at shows, trail rides, schooling, etc. Also YES if you keep your horse at a stable where other horses are coming and going and mixing with other horses. Even if your horse doesn’t go anywhere, another horse can bring the virus to him/her.
If your horse stays at your home barn with a steady “bubble” of barn mates and doesn’t have direct or indirect contact with other horses, he/she is at minimal risk of influenza.
A very good article with more details about equine influenza is available at https://www.equinediseasecc.org/disease-information. For more information about equine vaccinations, see the AAEP’s recommendations at https://aaep.org/horse-owners/owner-guidelines/owner-vaccination-guidelines or speak with your veterinarian.
The foundation of animal welfare is preventing animal illness, pain, and suffering. Vaccinating against diseases of concern is a very simple and effective way to do this.