Keep Horses Healthy with Biosecurity and Barn Disinfection

By maintaining a clean facility, instituting several simple biosecurity precautions, and regularly disinfecting your barns and stalls, you will be better able to prevent and control disease on your farm.

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Keep Horses Healthy with Biosecurity and Barn Disinfection
Regularly disinfecting barns and equipment can help keep disease outbreaks at bay. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse
Although few of us would let our horses miss their yearly tetanus shots, we often overlook another important aspect of disease prevention: Disinfection. While vaccines go a long way toward averting disease, none are guaranteed to be 100% effective. More importantly, none are even available for organisms such as Salmonella, even though the infectious disease it causes can spread quickly through a herd, wreaking havoc on a horse farm.

Fortunately, regularly disinfecting barns and equipment can help keep such flare-ups at bay. While regular disinfection might seem labor-intensive and costly, you must consider the consequences of not disinfecting.

An outbreak of Salmonella newport at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center in 2004 serves as a grim example. Sixteen horses had tested positive for Salmonella either before or at their time of death, but it was unknown how many of those deaths were caused by the bacterium as many of the animals were critically ill upon admission. To control the disease’s spread, the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals was forced to close its doors to new patients and to sandblast, disinfect, and repaint the facility.

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Routine disinfection is not just good horse management—it is a necessary component of an adequate disease prevention program

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Written by:

Erika Street is a writer and filmmaker with a BA in animal physiology.

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