Horses Can Get West Nile Virus Too?! Here's some tips for prevention from LEARN horse rescue

Simple and affordable ways to prevent West Nile Virus for your horses.

There are upsides to having a mild winter – more time outdoors, lower electric bills and longer growing seasons for produce. The down side is that come the spring, we are inundated with bugs. This summer’s flea season has been horrendous, there are flies at every turn and the mosquitoes are legion.

The fleas are a major nuisance for our very allergic dog, but it’s manageable with treatment, prevention and medication. The mosquitoes, however, are a much more serious problem than just itchy skin. In regards to pets, not only can mosquitoes transmit heart-worms, they can also infect some of our other four legged friends with the West Nile Virus. According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, horses represent 96.9% of all reported non-human mammalian cases of WNV disease.

Unfortunately, there is about a 30% fatality rate for horses that contract this illness.  Symptoms of the disease include mild low-grade fever 101.9-103.5°F, loss of appetite, lethargy, difficulty maintaining balance, tremors, cranial/facial paralysis and weakness of the tongue and/or complete paralysis of one or more limbs. Simple blood tests are the diagnostic tools for determining whether or not your horse is infected.

Fortunately, WNV is not transmittable between horses and humans, but people should definitely recognize an infected animal as a warning sign that there are disease carrying mosquitoes nearby. The good news is that there is an arsenal of vaccine options available to prevent equine West Nile Virus, and, just like most things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. One shot can protect your horse for a whole year! There are options for horses in all stages of life, so whether you have an adult, a pregnant/nursing mare, a foal or a senior, please contact your veterinarian to find out about your vaccine options.

Not only can we vaccinate against this deadly virus, we can shore up our defenses against it as well. By following these simple steps, you can do a great deal to protect your horse as well as yourself.

  • Use insect repellents frequently; re-apply after rain.
  • Keep horses in at night when possible, or apply insect repellent.
  • Use fans and air movement to decrease mosquito feeding activity.
  • Eliminate or minimize standing water.
  • Stock tanks or ponds should be stocked with mosquito-feeding fish.
  • Eliminate brush piles, gutters, old tires and litter.
  • Remove all equipment in which standing water can collect.
  • Once again, VACCINATE! Call your vet for more information about the correct kind of vaccine for your horse.

Now, I know that insect repellent isn’t cheap and that horses generally come with lot of real estate to try to keep covered in bug spray. So, courtesy of horse rescue, here is a simple and affordable recipe to help keep the bugs off you and your ponies!


Four drops blue Dawn dish soap
80% white vinegar
20% Avon Skin So Soft

Mix it in your garden sprayer and treat barns, yards, or any area near you and your animals. It's especially great to use before a get-together! It keeps gnats away too, which, as anyone who’s ever been eaten alive by the “no see-ums” will tell you, is kind of a big deal.

Remember – this terrible illness is not difficult to prevent for your horses, simply through taking some easy steps. A shot and a homemade bug repellent goes a very long way in protecting your animals.

Like what you read here today? Stay tuned for more horse care tips!

Click here to learn more about LEARN.

***Please go to www.aaep.com for more information. I’d like to note that I pulled most of my information for this post from their website.***

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lindsay Street August 31, 2012 at 02:34 PM
I'm definitely in the prevention camp! I have seen horses die from encephalitis caused from EEE (but WNV causes encephalitis) and it is horrific. A simple, relatively inexpensive shot twice a year can prevent this terrible death. At the barn and even around my house in the suburbs, I always remove standing water. Yuck!


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