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Symptoms of Equine Influenza & How It's Treated

Equine influenza, or "horse flu," is a highly contagious upper respiratory disease that can cause serious secondary infections in our equine friends, especially in foals. Here, our Wichita vets explain the symptoms to watch for and how equine influenza is treated. 

Equine Influenza & Your Horse

One of the most common illnesses seen by our Wichita horse vets is equine influenza. This airborne disease is primarily spread by droplets dispersed when an infected horse coughs. Because of this mode of transmission, horses up to 160 feet away could become infected. Horses who frequently attend shows, racetracks, or busy stables are more likely to contract the disease.

Equine influenza targets a horse's respiratory system, causing damage to the lining and mucous membranes in the animal's respiratory tract. The incubation period for this condition is typically 1-3 days after infection. 

Symptoms of Equine Influenza

Equine influenza affects the upper respiratory systems of horses, causing symptoms similar to those of human influenza such as:

  • Deep, dry cough 
  • Nasal discharge 
  • Lack of energy, lethargy
  • Enlarged lymph nodes  
  • Reduced appetite 

Treatment For Equine Influenza

Equine influenza treatment consists of treating the symptoms and allowing your horse to rest. Equine influenza, like the human flu virus, has no cure. For the damaged upper respiratory tract liner to heal properly, at least 6 weeks of rest is recommended.

While your horse is healing it should be stabled in a clean, well-ventilated to avoid excess dust, which may exasperate its condition further. They should also be supplied with plenty of fresh hay and water. 

Sometimes horses can develop secondary infections, such as pneumonia, from equine influenza that may require antibiotics to treat. If your horse does not appear to be recovering you should contact your veterinarian. 

Preventing Your Horse from Contracting Equine Influenza

Our vets believe that prevention is always the best method of defense against contagious conditions such as equine influenza. If your horse frequents shows, race tracks, or shared stables, you may want to speak to your vet about having your horse vaccinated against equine influenza. You can also take protective measures such as ensuring all the equipment you're using for your horse is sanitized, and that anyone coming in contact with your horse that has been around other horses practices good personal hygiene. 

If you are introducing a new horse to other horses on your property we recommend isolating the new horse for about 28 days to prevent the new horse from potentially spreading illnesses (including equine influenza) to your other horses. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding animals, or professional advice regarding equine regulations. For the diagnosis of your animal's condition and help to navigate regulations governing the care and transportation of equine animals please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you think that your horse has a respiratory tract infection? Contact Equine Surgery & Medicine right away to schedule a visit from one of our experienced equine vets. 

Schedule an Appointment Today

Equine Surgery & Medicine is accepting new patients. Our team of veterinarians has been providing expert equine care since 1975. Get in touch with us today to book an appointment.

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