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Preventing Disease Through Better Biosecurity

With worldwide focus currently on the threat of coronavirus though more specifically for the equine industry, with the recent outbreak of Equine Herpesvirus (EHV), the term ‘biosecurity’ is an all important topic at present. Yet, what steps can you do as a horse owner to ensure you are doing all you can to prevent an outbreak on your yard? St David’s vet, Claire Hopkins, gives some key pieces of advice… 

Biosecurity can be thought of as a set of procedures that are designed to reduce the likelihood of introduction or reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

Having a protocol for your yard and ensuring you maintain good biosecurity will help reduce the introduction and spread of infectious diseases, help your horses maintain good health and optimum performance, and also help avoid disruption to equine activities such as competitions or training days.

General biosecurity:

  • Ensure each horse has individual rugs, tack, grooming kits and feed/water buckets
  • Ensure you wash your hands after contact with one horse before touching another
  • Regularly clean water/feed bowls, rugs, grooming kits, tack, stables and trailers/lorries
  • Ensure feed rooms are kept tidy and free from vermin
  • Where possible locate the muck heap away from the yard to reduce the presence of biting insects

Protocols for new arrivals to the premises:

  • Isolate all new arrivals for a 3 week period. The isolation facility should ideally be separate from the main stable area and be downwind to limit the spread of airborne diseases
  • Ideally separate staff and equipment should be used for new arrivals. However, where this is not possible, the new horse should be dealt with after other horses and personnel’s boots, hands and equipment should be disinfected before contact with other horses
  • New arrivals should be up to date with vaccinations for Equine Influenza. If the vaccinations have elapsed, the horse should complete the primary vaccination course (the first 2 vaccinations) and wait a further 7 days before moving to the new premises
  • A negative blood result for strangles should be obtained in the week prior to moving premises.

Biosecurity at competitions:

  • Avoid nose to nose contact with other horses
  • Take your own buckets and ideally your own water supply
  • Wash hands after contact with other horses
  • Clean your equipment and boots after each show
  • Clean your trailer/lorry after returning from the show.

Some common contagious equine diseases that we see are the following. Should you have any concerns about any of these diseases affecting your yard, contact your vet immediately.

  • ‘Strangles’:
  • Transmitted via secretions from the nose, pus from draining abscesses, inadvertently via human hands and contaminated feed/water buckets, tools and surfaces.
  • Equine influenza ‘Flu’:
  • Highly contagious, spread via aerosolised secretions over a long distance, direct contact with infected horses and via contaminated feed/water buckets, tools and surfaces.
  • Equine Herpesvirus:
  • Highly contagious, spread via aerosolised secretions, direct contact with infected horses and via contaminated feed/water buckets, tools and surfaces.
  • Ringworm:
  • Highly contagious, zoonotic so can infect other species as well as humans. Spread via contact with any object or surface that an affected animal/human has touched.

If you would like any further advice on biosecurity, including recommended disinfectants and how to apply them, please contact the St David’s Equine team on 01392 876622 (option2).


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