Friday, 24 March 2017

All About ... Equine Herpes Virus

What is it

As the name suggests Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) is a virus!  It is common in horses around the world.  It has several strains but the 2 most common which result in 'serious clinical disease' in horses are;

  • EHV1 which can cause respiratory problems as well as abortion in pregnant mares and occasionally neurological problems 
  • EHV4 or Equine Rhinopneumonitis Virus usually causes respiratory problems and sometimes causes abortion in pregnant mares.  This strain is most common amongst foals and yearlings.


The virus has an incubation period of 2 - 10 days. 

  • Coughing 
  • Nasal discharge 
  • Increased temperature 
  • Reduced appetite 
  • Depression

The neurological disease signs include:

  • Mild incoordination 
  • Hindlimb paralysis 
  • Lying down with inablity to get up 
  • Loss of bladder and tail function 
  • Loss of sensation to skin around tail and hindlimbs

However, a horse can be a carrier and show NO signs of the virus. 


The virus is transmitted by the nasal discharge through direct contact between horses or indirectly through buckets, rugs, people etcetera.  In addition it is spread through contact with placental fluids etcetera.  


The vet can take a nasopharyngeal swab or blood sample to test. 


ISOLATE horse immediately and CALL THE VET.  All horses who have been in contact with the possibly infected horse should not be allowed to leave the yard area.  Biosecurity measures must be enforced to ensure the virus is not spread any more or to other yards or horses.

Supportive care of the horse, treating the symptoms using anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the pain, fever and inflammation. 

Uncomplicated cases will recover in a few weeks.  Recovery of horses with the neurological disease will depend on how severe the signs are.  Total rest until the horse is fully recovered with a gradual return to work.  


Vaccinations are available but are currently only registered for use against the respiratory effects, not the paralytic form.  Isolation of all new horses brought to a yard with full biosecurity and hygiene measures!

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Until next time!

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