11: Infectious Respiratory Diseases

Action Point: Understand the most common infectious respiratory diseases and how to prevent them from occurring.

Rationale: Respiratory conditions are fairly common and can have a significant impact on individual horse health and performance and, in the case of infectious diseases, can be easily spread. Prevention is the best measure in ensuring respiratory health.

Management decisions play a significant role in maintaining respiratory health and protecting horses against infectious disease. Best practices include, developing a vaccination schedule in consultation with a veterinarian, and implementing biosecurity protocols, i.e. isolate all newly arriving horses, and isolate horses with clinical signs immediately.

Respiratory  system diseases fall into two categories. (1) Infectious upper respiratory tract disease (IURD) primarily affect young horses and often occur in the form of an outbreak. The most common IURD conditions to be aware of are equine influenza virus, equine herpes virus, equine rhinovirus, sinusitis, and strangles. (2) Infectious lower respiratory tract disease (ILRD) affect any age of horse. Includes pleuropneumonia, lungworm, and parascaris equorum.

Respiratory Diseases in Horses: What You Can Do to Prevent Them

Slater, J. D. & E.J. Knowles. (2012). Ch. 14: “Medical nursing.” In K.M. Coumbe (Ed.), Equine Veterinary Nursing. p.246-285 John Wiley & Sons Incorporated 

Future post: non-infectious respiratory system diseases

03: Designated Isolation Area

Action Point: Establish a designated isolation stall or paddock on the property.

Rationale: A designated isolation area should be available at all times on any property with more than 1 horse, even in the case of a small family farm with a closed herd. If a horse falls ill, isolation is key in protecting the other horse(s) on the property from a potentially infectious disease.

Unless there is proof of a negative Coggins test and up-to-date vaccination records when a new horse arrives on the property, the best practice is to keep it isolated for 2 to 3 weeks before introducing it to the rest of the herd.

03: Protecting the Herd from Disease

Action Point: Tailor a biosecurity protocol specific to the farm.

Rationale: Cleanliness, consistency, and attention to detail are all required to ensure horses are protected from infectious disease to the best of one’s ability.

While most steps below will be relevant to all facilities, there will be some variation. For example, this farm does not have horses that travel off of the property or visit from other farms. However, people do visit from other farms and therefore must sign-in, walk through a foot bath, and clean their hands prior to entering the barn and/or interacting with our horses.

A Coggins test and proof of vaccination are required for any new horse that will be residing on the farm. Likewise, a quarantine protocol will be developed in case there is a sick or new horse. There will be at least one quarantine area available at all times.

03: Establish a Vaccination Program

Action Point: In consultation with a veterinarian, establish a vaccination schedule for each animal on the property.

Rationale:  Establishing which vaccines are necessary at which intervals will help protect the herd and each individual against infectious disease.



03: Hand Hygiene

Action Point: Ensure there is hot running water, soap and clean towels available in the bathroom at all times. Install alcohol-based liquid hand sanitizer or sanitizer wipe dispensers throughout the barn and encourage everyone to use them before and after touching horses.

Rationale: Proper hand cleaning isn’t only for veterinarians. Clean hands save lives and help prevent the transmission of infectious disease.

Clean Hands Save Lives: Horsey-Style

Proper Hand Hygiene Prevents Equine Disease