Monday, April 6, 2015

equine influenza

So there ya have it folks: our horses have equine influenza. NOT strangles, and not EHV. I didn't even know horses got the flu, but yep, they do - and it happens to be highly contagious and spreads quite rapidly. (To recap: 9 sick out of 30 horses in six days; 3/4 herds affected)


This viral infection is characterized by fevers from 103-106*F, a dry harsh-sounding cough, clear nasal and eye discharge, swollen lymph nodes, lethargy and loss of appetite. Blood tests and nasal swabs can confirm the diagnosis.

It has a relatively short incubation period - tho reports vary on this. My research found sources claiming the incubation is only 1-5 days, but our vet says it can take as long as 2 weeks. Thus the 2 week quarantine.



The virus itself isn't particularly alarming - except that it damages the respiratory tract, including lung tissue and the windpipe. This makes the horse susceptible to secondary bacterial infections, which explains why antibiotics helped the horses in recovery even tho the primary infection was viral.

These secondary infections ARE worrisome, as the risk for developing pneumonia is high without proper precautions.



Treatment is rest and support. The rule of thumb is one week of rest for every day of fever, with a three week minimum. This period of rest allows for the respiratory tissue to repair itself - a process that can take up to 30 days. 

The return to work should be gradual - tho hand walking the sick horse is recommended to improve circulation. 



Isabel's fever broke on the second day and her cough is almost gone - good signs, I think. She'll stay on stall rest through this week on vet's orders, then back out to the field 24/7. She's generally not one for a lot of play, so I'm not worried about her over doing it out there. 

Quarantine lasts one more week following that, and then we'll start back under saddle - giving her exactly three weeks of rest. The rides will start with light arena work to assess how she's doing, then short and sweet trails - gradually building up to include more hills. I will probably aim for frequent rides - maybe 5-6 days a week - but very low intensity. 



We will see how she does - and what the vet thinks of her condition when she's cleared for turnout. I'm hoping her general fitness (even tho she wasn't exactly in peak condition) will make getting back to full work fairly straight forward - so long as we don't stress her lungs. 

She IS an arab after all, tho - and they're fairly famous for their massive and powerful lungs. Fingers crossed this serves us well in her recovery!

Have you ever worked with a horse with a compromised respiratory system? Any insights on getting them going again? 

34 comments:

  1. So glad you have a diagnosis and Isabel is well on her way to recovery! And that biohazard suit w/ horse mask just about make me spew coffee all over my screen!!

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    1. lol thanks!! god forbid it ever get too serious around here haha ;)

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  2. Glad to hear that everything is under control! Hopefully they all make a full recovery. And I love the photos ;) :P

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    1. thanks! so far it's looking promising that all will be well :)

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  3. Bahahaha! Those photos!

    I don't have experience bringing a horse back from respiratory distress, but I do have a LOT of experience bringing myself back. ;) It sounds like Isabel and I actually had the same damn thing, only mine actually DID turn into pneumonia and I have chronically terrible lungs, not fabulous Arab ones!

    Here's how I bring myself back from a really terrible respiratory illness:
    Stage 1. TAKE IT SLOW. Don't stress the breathing. Lots of walking to help take in more air and expand the lungs, without speeding up my breathing too much. I do this for about a week. Brisk walks, gradually increasing in length.
    Stage 2. When the walks aren't triggering wheezing or shortness of breath, I move back into jogging. Usually my body is raring to go, but I outrun my breath quickly. So, keep in mind that Isabel might feel FANTASTIC, but later can't breathe. Lung tissue can burn after exercise if you overdue it, stick to your guns about staying slow in your work. I'd keep your exercise in this stage to about 30% of your normal. No jumping. Very minimal canter. Mostly trot and walk. Lots of breaks. I'd do this for about a week, maybe two if the respiratory issues were particularly bad.
    Stage 3. Once I stop feeling like I'm outrunning my lungs, I start to ask for more from them. This is where I'd personally start adding more speed runs and longer distances, in Isabel's case you might add in more canter work, longer trot sets, and start jumping again. Keep things low, and make sure to keep taking those walk/rest breaks. Don't worry if she's tired faster than normal or not cooperating all the time. Getting back to work sucks. This period can be anything from 2-3 days to a whole week. I call it "testing the waters" to see how my lungs will handle more stress. If things go well, I move on.
    Stage 4: Normal work. Go for gold!

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    1. as always Austen - THANK YOU for that detailed response. i suspected that she'll feel good and want to GO, but that her lungs probably won't be able to handle it... but this definitely provides a solid (and doable) road map for ensuring i don't let her feisty attitude trick me into going too far. the key will be getting through that first week of mostly walking without extreme boredom or silly fights haha

      so anyways, thanks - and sorry you had the ppl-version of this illness too, it definitely looks like no fun at all!

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  4. I'm glad Isabel's fever broke quickly! Sounds like your barn took the all the right actions as fast as possible. Hopefully those big strong arab lungs do her good. Such a crappy situation. So sorry all your had work over the winter has to go on hold :(

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    1. thanks! i'm really happy with how the barn handled it all. i'm really glad it didn't turn out to be the worst case scenarios, but if it had i trust that we're in good hands...

      and yea, i'm really pretty disappointed about having to take so long of a break now, after avoiding any extended time off over the winter... but that's horses right?

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  5. I could barely even read this post because I was too busy swooning over your amazing outfit.

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  6. Oh god, I'm dying at the mask pictures. HAHAHAHA!

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    1. haha that mask was maybe my best $30 amazon purchase EVER lol

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  7. I'm just always shocked at how whatever Isabel is about the mask. I'm pretty sure both of mine would be freaked out. I'm glad all the ponies are on the mend and you and Isabel will be back at it soon enough. All the light work is a good excuse for lots of trail riding!

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    1. haha isabel may or may not be more familiar with this mask than she cares for.... but my handful of candy canes helps ease away whatever misgivings she might have :)

      and yes - we are gonna trail ride alllllll over the place soon (provided ms thing can keep herself sane and not jig everywhere)

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  8. Thank goodness everything is going to be good in time. Sending good vibes for Isabel (and everyone elses')'s speedy recovery! Loving the isolation garb- how did you know that's how we professionals do it? ;)

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    1. haha thanks! things had gotten a little sad and depressing around the barn (esp given my friend losing her lease, as written about yesterday) - so we needed a little good cheer and isabel never disappoints :)

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  9. Good information! When Simon gets a cough (rare), we treat it with Apple Cider Vinegar in his food. It's all natural, organic and I do notice a difference. Maybe something to ask your vet about while she's a little bit compromised? I doubt it could hurt.

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    1. huh that's interesting, i never would have thought of that am already kind of a fan of apple cider vinegar.. definitely might be worth a shot - thanks!

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  10. I'm glad this is a (relatively) simple outbreak we're talking about here! Get better soon, redhead!

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  11. "Hello Isabel. I'm Dr. Horsowitz and I'm here to give you a slight heart attack. I mean, help you..." Ah, it's so good! Love it and love that you and the mare will get back to regular life here pretty quick.

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    1. lol - poor isabel tolerates so much from me!!

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  12. good to know what was going on!

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    1. definitely!! and good that it's not worse too :)

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  13. Holy moly I stepped away from blogland for a few days and came back to see this! Glad you have answers and a plan to get back into the swing of things.

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    1. thanks! and yea it really only took a few days for things to seemingly spiral out of control.. but thankfully everything is going to be ok!

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  14. I'm just wondering if any of the infected horses and the horses who remained healthy had been vaccinated against the flu.

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery. Carol

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    1. thank you! i don't know about the rest of the horses (the affected are primarily privately owned and therefore many vaccinations are at the owner's discretion), but my mare was not vaccinated for the flu.

      however, once we landed on this diagnosis, all remaining healthy horses received the flu/rhino nasal vaccine (much to their dismay!) and we have since had no more cases (to my knowledge). i believe the infected ones did not require the vaccine bc they should have the necessary antibodies upon recovery

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  15. Man what an awful upset though :(

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  16. The mask pic is amazing! I'm so sorry to hear this though. Wow! I've never been through a quarantine myself.

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    1. thanks! i'd never been through a quarantine either... and will be happy if i don't have to do it again! at least it's not as bad as it could have been...

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  17. I am just catching up on your blog and I'm so sorry to hear all this has happened. Sigh..never a dull moment. Hope it all passes very soon.

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    1. never a dull moment indeed... thankfully the illness seems to be clearing up without any true lasting consequences!

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