What Should I Do if My Horse Was Exposed to Disease?

A veterinarian offers advice the steps to take if your horse could have been exposed to an infectious disease.
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What Should I Do if My Horse Was Exposed to Disease?
If you have concerns your horse was exposed to disease, isolate him immediately from all other horses and implement the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ biosecurity management practices. | Photo: iStock
Kevin Hankins, DVM, MBA, Zoetis senior technical services veterinarian, offers advice on what to do if your horse could have been exposed to an infectious disease.


You know your horse better than anyone. When he begins not acting like himself and showing clinical signs of illness, you fear he’s been exposed to disease. Normally, within 24 to 48 hours of exposure, infected horses begin to demonstrate coughing, fever, depression, and decreased feed intake.

What should you do if your horse was exposed to disease?

No. 1: Immediately isolate the horse.
If you have concerns your horse was exposed to disease, isolate him immediately from all other horses and implement the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ biosecurity management practices.

No. 2: Call your veterinarian.
Involve your veterinarian as soon as possible to help limit disease progression and your horse’s time out of work.

No. 3: Determine the disease.
Work with your veterinarian to implement diagnostic testing, which involves a wide range of screening tests to quickly diagnose disease, allowing for the most appropriate and rapid treatment for your horse.

No. 4: Keep a close watch on your horse.
Isolate him for at least two weeks, and no less than three weeks if diagnosed with strangles. With strangles, your horse might require diagnostics and nasal swabs to ensure he’s clear of Streptococcus equi bacteria before he’s allowed contact with other horses. In any case, take your horse’s temperature twice daily and closely monitor his feed and water intake.

No. 5: Help protect against future disease risks.
Work with your veterinarian to develop a comprehensive vaccination program for your horse. Work with your veterinarian to vaccinate your horse annually against the five core equine diseases: Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, rabies, tetanus and West Nile. Consider your horse’s lifestyle and discuss with your veterinarian if he may benefit from risk-based vaccinations to help protect against diseases such as equine influenza, equine herpesvirus, or strangles.

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