How Weather Affects Equine Disease

Changing weather patterns can increase your horse’s risk for contracting infectious diseases. Learn more in the December 2022 issue of The Horse.

A horse being rescued from flooded property following Hurricane Irma in 2017.
A horse being rescued from flooded property following Hurricane Irma in 2017. | Courtesy University of Florida Veterinary Emergency Treatment Services
News about climate change is everywhere these days, but did you know natural disasters and changing weather patterns can also increase your horse’s risk for contracting some of the most serious infectious diseases?

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recommends all adult horses be vaccinated at least annually against five diseases, regardless of the animals’ age, intended use, or travel frequency. These “core” vaccinations ­protect against West Nile virus (WNV), Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE), rabies, and tetanus. All these diseases are transmitted naturally through mosquitoes (the primary vector for WNV and EEE/WEE), wildlife (rabies), or contaminated wounds (tetanus). Natural disasters and severe weather patterns often bring excessive rainfall, flooding, and displacement of both wildlife and resident animal populations, making each of these modes of disease transmission much more likely.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that rising global average temperature is associated with widespread changes in weather patterns and that extreme weather events such as heat waves and large storms are likely to become more frequent and intense with climate change. The EPA also reports that average temperatures have increased across the contiguous 48 states since 1901, with an increased rate of warming over the past 30 years. The prevalence of extreme single-day precipitation events has risen substantially since 1980. The occurrence of abnormally high annual precipitation totals has also increased in recent

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We at The Horse work to provide you with the latest and most reliable news and information on equine health, care, management, and welfare through our magazine and Our explanatory journalism provides an understandable resource on important and sometimes complex health issues. Your subscription will help The Horse continue to offer this vital resource to horse owners of all breeds, disciplines, and experience levels.


Written by:

SallyAnne L. DeNotta, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, is a clinical assistant professor and equine veterinary extension specialist at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in Gainesville.

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