This week we take a little break from poisonous plants to look at a disease that horses are véry susceptible to. Tetanus. This disease can cause death and is so easy to prevent! The common name for Tetanus is Lockjaw. It is not transmitted from one horse to another, the bacteria that causes tetanus is present in the soil and gains access to the body through wounds, usually a deep penetrating wound that we often do not even see because it seals over. The tetanus bacteria do not like oxygen so they thrive in a closed wound, like a deep puncture wound such as from a wire, a nail, a stick etc. Castration wounds are very prone to allowing the disease to develop, that is why we vaccinate the stallions before the castration. Symptoms of the disease can develop anything from one week to several weeks after the injury has occurred. Wounds are often difficult to locate and often go unobserved! Early signs include colic and vague stiffness of the muscles. The neck, jaw and hind limbs begin to go stiff. The third eyelid over the eye protrudes and is considered a diagnostic symptom if the other symptoms are present too. As the disease progresses, the horse starts to struggle to breathe and the legs get very stiff, making the horse stand like a sawhorse with the neck stretched out forward, tail stretched out, ears erect and flared nostrils. In advanced cases the horse may go down and may die from suffocation. If the disease is recognised early enough and intensive treatment is initiated quickly the horse has a chance of recovery. The best way to avoid the disease is a simple vaccination and also taking care of any open wounds by properly cleaning them properly and even applying a dressing. The tetanus vaccine can be administered on it’s own or it is included in some of the Flu vaccines. If your horse shows any of the symptoms, be sure to call us for help as soon as you can. If you are unsure about the vaccination status of your horse, rather be safe and get your horse vaccinated.

Horsey greetings.

Dr Marleece.
Parys Dierehospitaal.