Vesicular Stomatitis: What You Need to Know

Rarely a week goes by during late summer and fall that a state animal health authority doesn’t report vesicular stomatitis cases. But, what is this disease and should you be concerned about it infecting your horses?
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Vesicular Stomatitis: What You Need to Know
The virus causes vesicles (blisters) that form primarily on the lips and tongue. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Jason Lombard

Rarely a week goes by during late summer and fall that a state animal health authority doesn’t report vesicular stomatitis cases. But, what is this disease sweeping across the Southwest and West, and should you be concerned about it infecting your horses?

Paul Morley, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, director of infection control at Colorado State University’s (CSU) James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, and Angela Pelzel-McCluskey, DVM, a national equine epidemiologist for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services, recently teamed up to review with concerned horse owners what they need to know about the disease and how to protect horses from contracting it.

What is vesicular stomatitis?

Most commonly identified in the southwestern United States, “vesicular stomatitis is a viral disease—so it’s caused by a virus—and it mostly affects horses, cattle, and swine,” Pelzel-McCluskey said, noting that sheep, goats, and camelids are also susceptible to the disease. “The disease causes the formation of vesicles, or blisters, that are usually seen on the tongue, lips, around the mouth or the nose, even on the udder or sheath or along the coronary band

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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