Horses are the most regal and gentle of all God’s Creatures. Since their domestication over 30,000 years ago, the horse has proven to drive the progress of mankind into the industrial age. Since then, horses have remained in our modern history as a companion, friend and something to be revered. However, horses can give us zoonotic diseases just like all the domesticated animals if left unchecked. Many of the diseases we might contract from the horse are the same as those of the dog and cat. Most of these diseases involve direct contact. Thus, the people that handle horses are the most at risk for contracting such diseases.
While I understand most of you do not own horses,
it is still interesting to note all of the potential diseases
that could be transferred to us. We will concentrate on
the first three diseases.
Ringworm is not a worm at all but actually a fungus. Here in northwest Ohio and
southeast Michigan we often see ringworm in the spring, summer, and early fall.
The horse will develop ringworm as raised patchy clumps of hair over the neck, back, legs, and face. Some horses will develop generalized dermatophytosis (skin fungus over entire body) if left untreated. The main types of fungus cultured are the Trichophyton species (usually T. equinum). Many of these horses are young and somewhat immunosuppressed.
Although rare infections occur in humans, it should be remembered that any horse with a scaly bald patch in a horse should be cultured by a veterinarian and verified diagnosis established. If humans are infected, most will respond to treatment. Also, ringworm can be a secondary infection that can develop at the site of damaged skin related to minor injuries or fly bites. Fomites or saddle blankets and halters can spread the disease.
Many horses will resolve the infection on their own after several months but the dermatophyte is contagious to other horses through direct contact or these fomites. Treatment protocols use antifungal topicals and vigorous bathing. Controlling the underlying bacterial skin infection will also help in the resolution of the disease by using antibacterial shampoos and salves.
Rabies in hoses is a real threat to the novice horseman. Horses may contract the “Dumb” form of rabies from bites from wild animals while being out in the pasture. The rabies virus is spread via infected saliva. Therefore it is very important that every horse in every barn be vaccinated annually against rabies by a veterinarian.
Salmonella in horses is nothing new in the northeast and in some areas across the United States. Recently, Salmonella in horses tends to be resistant to most antibiotics.
Salmonellosis is a disorder of the gastrointestinal tract that causes depression, fever, loss of appetite, colitis, and systemic infection. Some horses can be carriers and not show symptoms. Transmission occurs by the oral route and stress can cause horses that are exposed to the disease to become symptomatic. All horses should have their own water/feed buckets. Isolation of horses that are traveling and coming home should be implemented for at least a period of three weeks to prevent transmission. Most horses that are infected will develop lethargy, colic (abdominal pain), diarrhea, and dehydration. If these symptoms are noted, special consideration of their fecal handling should be used to prevent the transmission to humans. Severe illness can result in the unsuspecting human caretaker as the antibiotic resistance may prove to worsen and prolong the disease.
While the transmission of disease from your horse is rare, you still need to remember that it can occur.
I hope you enjoy your horse and keep riding high!
If you have any questions give us a call at 419-824-8177. We’re here for you and your pets … even your horses!