What is ring rot in horses

Horses, like us humans, get sick from a wide variety of virus pathogens. Bacteria and viruses can cause serious diseases. In addition to equine influenza or equine flu and other infectious diseases, herpes virus infections are known and spread with different frequencies.


What is herpes virus?

Like other viruses, the herpes virus needs a foreign cell base, a host, in order to survive. In the equine herpes virus, the horse is the host. Different organ systems are always affected, such as the respiratory tract, the genitals, the eye and even the nerve tracts of the horse. Herpes viruses are everywhere, which does not necessarily lead to the disease. Only a weakened immune system, for example due to a change of coat, parasites, bad food, bad conditions and other infections leads to the multiplication of the viruses and thus to the outbreak or the visibility of the disease. Once a horse has herpes, it will remain a virus carrier for its entire life.

The incubation period, i.e. the time between infection and the appearance of symptoms, is between 2 and 10 days. The number of viruses plays a role here.

There is the biannual herpes vaccination (EHV-1 and EHV-4). Although it does not offer any protection against infection, experience has shown that vaccinated horses are less ill or not at all. In a herd of horses, of course, all animals should be vaccinated against herpes viruses so that the viruses have little chance of multiplying.


How do you recognize a herpes virus?

There is a wide variety of herpes viruses and still not all of them have been researched. They are divided into 4 different types, which can also occur in combination. The equine herpes viruses 2 and 3 mostly occur unnoticed, as they very often do not cause any clinical symptoms.

In pregnant mares, it is in most cases the equine herpes virus 1 that leads to a miscarriage (usually between the 7th month of pregnancy and the due date). It can also lead to the birth of a non-viable foal.

If the horse develops respiratory disease, then in most cases the EHV-4 is responsible. Fever, watery nasal discharge, eye discharge and cough are the symptoms. In particularly severe cases, the weakened horse can even develop pneumonia.

The worst and most terrifying form of herpes is a disease of the horse's nervous system. Paralysis or symptoms of paralysis (mostly on the back of the hand) and coordination disorders occur. The equine herpes virus 1 and 4 can be responsible for this. It can be so bad that the horse can no longer get up on its own. You may also experience bowel movement problems.

In type 1, the clinical picture can include: respiratory diseases, symptoms of paralysis, miscarriage

In type 2 the clinical picture can include: Involved in eye inflammation

In type 3, the clinical picture can include: vesicle formation on the genitals

In type 4 the clinical picture can include: respiratory diseases, symptoms of paralysis

further characteristics for a possible illness with herpes viruses:

  • Temperature rise in the further course up to 38.8 - 39.5 °
  • possible nasal discharge with cough
  • It could go on with a fluctuating gait pattern
  • then there is no body coordination and horses come to rest


How can your horse get infected?

A horse suffering from herpes viruses is unlikely to pass on many viruses in its environment. The herpes viruses can be transmitted through inhalation or mouth contact (droplet infection). If the horse has a strong immune system, the viruses cannot multiply. If the number of viruses is very high and a horse's immune system does not defend itself, the result is disease. However, a very high number of viruses are required to cause this disease.

With appropriate stall hygiene and an early response with quarantine and isolation, the herpes virus infections remain confined to one stall in most cases. Equine herpes cannot be transmitted from horses to humans. However, humans and dogs can transmit the herpes virus.

That means:

  • Isolate horses suspected of being infected from other horses; they should not leave their stalls
  • Do not switch horses to another herd
  • do not accept guest horses
  • Keep visitors away from the stable, spread by humans is quite possible
  • Change and disinfect clothes (also in the car, for example)
  • Wear protective clothing
  • the vet will likely come with protective clothing

The quarantine should be maintained for four weeks after the last case of illness. The quarantine applies to the entire company.


How can you prevent?

There are 2 ways the infection can break out. Many horses are carriers of the herpes virus. The viruses can become active at any time. And there is the droplet infection from another horse.

In order for the inactive equine herpes viruses not to become active in the horse, avoid that your horse has permanent steress. The following contributes to this:

  • Avoid extreme stressful situations!
  • Pay attention to species-appropriate feeding and husbandry!
  • Carry out a conscientious herd management!


What to do if a herpes virus infection is suspected

Bacteria could be fought with antibiotics. That doesn't work with viruses! The only chance to fight and eliminate the herpes viruses is through the horse's immune system. Build and strengthen the immune system so that it can produce antibodies against the virus. It is not possible to fight the virus directly.

The treating veterinarian will carry out symptomatic and immune-strengthening treatment.

When the symptoms have subsided in all the sick horses in the stable, it is advisable that the entire stable is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. The equipment that has come into contact with the sick animals must also be disinfected!


Did you know that the Sächsische Tierseuchenkasse has a funding program? The TSK wants to promote the voluntary closed vaccination of entire horse stocks. You can download the grant application here:

>> Aid application from the TKS Sachsen for the voluntary vaccination of whole horse stocks against herpes <<


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