Boil-Water Notices: What About Horses?

If a water utility issues a boil-water notice for humans, are horses at risk for disease if they drink unboiled water? Dr. Peter Timoney shares his thoughts.

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boil water notice horses
If a water utility issues a boil-water notice, the water supply might have been contaminated with human or animal effluent, in which case it could be a source of an infectious disease transmissible to humans and/or animals, including horses. | Photo: iStock

Q.My boarding barn uses a water utility, and this is the source of drinking water for the horses. There is currently a boil-water notice for all the utility’s customers. I understand the risk to humans if there are microbes in the water and that boiling the water will kill those microbes, but are our horses also at risk if they drink unboiled water?

—Nicole, Oregon

A.The question raised is whether it would be safe to allow horses to drink water sourced from a public utility that is currently the subject of a boil-water notice if used for human consumption

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Written by:

Peter J. Timoney, MVB, MS, PhD, FRCVS, is a professor and Frederick Van Lennep Chair in Equine Veterinary Science at the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center, in Lexington. He received a MVB degree in veterinary medicine from National University of Ireland (UCD), MS in virology from the University of Illinois, PhD from the University of Dublin, and Fellowship from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, London. He has worked at the Veterinary Research Laboratory in Dublin, Ireland; Cornell University; and the Irish Equine Centre, and has specialized in infectious diseases of the horse since 1972.

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