What is Horse Flu – Equine Influenza?

Equine influenza is more commonly known as horse or equine flu. It is caused by a virus in the respiratory tract of horses and ponies. Donkeys and mules can also get horse flu. Horse flu is very contagious and can be spread by horses touching. It can also be spread through sharing feed buckets or human touch. However, unlike strangles, horse flu does not survive outside the horse. Horse flu cannot be passed to humans just as human flu can not be passed to horses. However, the fever type symptoms are similar.

What are the signs of Horse Flu? Equine Influenza

  • The horse is lethargic
  • The horse loses its appetite, isn’t eating or has little interest in their feed
  • The horse has a harsh dry cough that can last a couple of weeks
  • The horse’s lymph nodes are enlarged – glands under the lower jaw
  • The horse’s lower legs can fill
  • The horse has watery nasal discharge
  • The horse temperature is over 100F (103 – 106F) which can last for a few days

If you suspect that your horse has horse flu then you must isolate the horse and call the vet immediately. The vet will diagnose the horse and provide advice on treatment.

How to treat Horse Flu – Equine Influenza

  • The horse should be isolated from other horses
  • The horse should not travel or compete
  • The horse should be given complete rest due to the respiratory infection
  • Ensure that their stable has good ventilation
  • Minimise the horse’s exposure to dusk and spores – use dust free bedding and feed-soaked hay or haylage from the floor
  • As the horse’s temperature goes down the horse will benefit from being turned out alone for a few hours
  • Medication can be given to aid the horses breathing. Antibiotics do not have any effect against a virus however they can help to control the secondary bacterial invasion.

How to prevent Horse Flu – Equine Influenza

Vaccination against horse flu is the ideal method of prevention and is compulsory for horses competing in affiliated events, FEI, the riding club and under British Horseracing Authority.

The current vaccine schedule is:

  • 1st vaccine
  • 2nd vaccine 21 – 92 days after the first
  • 3rd vaccine 150 – 215 days after the second vaccine
  • Annual booster not more than 365 days from the 3rd vaccine
  • Horses competing under FEI rules must receive their booster vaccine not more then 6 months and 21 days before competition – check with the rulebook