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Preventing Infectious Disease: Part 2

Last week in our blog post our friend Dr Alana McQuarry shared some measures you can take to help keep your horse safe from infectious disease and some signs to look out for that might suggest your horse may be suffering from an infectious disease.  (Click here to read last week’s blog post). As many of our readers will know, in 2011 we experienced a large outbreak of the neurologic form of EHV-1.  This outbreak caused many equestrian events to be shut down and sadly the loss of several horses.

EHV-1 is one of a number of what are known as “reportable diseases”, diseases that if your vet believes your horse is suffering from they are required to notify government authorities. The thought of having the government involved with your horse strikes fear and anxiety into many people.  What exactly is their purpose in these situations?  What will they expect of you?  What will happen to your horse?  A lot of fear in such situations comes from not understanding what will happen or be expected of you.

Dr McQuarry spent time working as a vet for the state of California and here she is going to share with us what the role of such a vet is as well as explaining in more detail what reportable diseases are and what will be expected from you if your horse is thought to have contracted one.

This is a large and important topic, much larger than we can cover here.  So on Wednesday April 25th at 5pm PDT Dr McQuarry and I will be holding a teleseminar discussing this topic in more detail and answering any questions you may have.  Do not miss out on this great opportunity to learn more about how you can keep your horse safe.  Click the orange button to be taken to the registration page for the teleseminar.

The role of state and federal agencies in the management of infectious diseases:

The role of state level veterinarians such as those with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) as well as those at the federal level with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in regards to animal health is to minimize the risk of disease spread to people and animals; their goals are to promote their states / United States animal agriculture (both nationally and internationally) and to promote human health and safety.  Particularly in the current environment of limited government staff and funding, these agencies are focusing on diseases that have the greatest potential economic or public health risk.

Stereotypical Beliefs Are Not Always Reality:

The state veterinarians that work in the field to investigate possible disease do not want to make life difficult for you, they do not want to restrict animal movement or quarantine animals just for the fun of writing out the paperwork.  I have worked with state and federal veterinarians throughout California and found them to be a practical and logical bunch, primarily interested in safeguarding animal agriculture and human health.  They do not want to interrupt the flow of business unless it is absolutely necessary.

Additionally, if the state does come out to investigate a possible reportable disease, they will not charge you for their time, experience or testing.  It is a great deal to have a state veterinarian come out because you get to take advantage of the cumulative experience of everyone in the Animal Health Branch (CDFA) without it costing you anything but some time.

Regulatory Diseases – Why does the government want some diseases reported?

Reportable diseases are generally diseases that:

  • May spread to or affect humans (zoonotic diseases, public health threat, food safety threat)

Great examples of reportable diseases that can affect humans are Brucellosis and Tuberculosis.  These are both bacterial diseases that can be contracted by having direct contact with infected animals; however, a more common route for most people to be exposed is from eating/drinking unpasteurized dairy products (raw milk, fresh cheese).

  •  May cause significant mortality (death) or morbidity (sickness) in the affected animal population.

Diseases of particular concern are those that are not native to the US (foreign animal diseases), spread rapidly and sometimes before clinical signs are widely observed, and are likely to dramatically impact the financial security of US Agriculture for example Foot and Mouth Disease.  California has different categories of reportable diseases: Emergency Conditions (report within 24 hours of discovery), Regulatory Conditions (report within 48 hours of discovery), and Monitored Conditions (reported monthly by diagnostic facilities).  The delineations are based on how fast the disease may spread and how severely the disease may affect the people, animals or related financial interests.

 WHO MUST REPORT: In California any licensed veterinarian, any person operating a diagnostic laboratory, or any person who has been informed, recognizes or should recognize by virtue of education, experience, or occupation, that any animal or animal product is or may be affected by, or has been exposed to, or may be transmitting or carrying any of the reportable conditions, must report that information to their local CDFA Animal Health Branch Office. http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/animal_health/pdfs/CA_reportable_disease_list_poster.pdf

Call a Veterinarian If You See Any of the Following Clinical Signs:

High morbidity (sickness) or mortality (death)

Unusual or Unexplained Illness

  • Unusual (ornate) ticks, unusual larvae (think screwworm…eating live flesh)
  • CNS (nervous system) signs (stumbling, staggering, change in attitude/mentation)
  • Vesicles (blisters)
  • Mucosal diseases (lesions on gums, severe diarrhea)
  • Hemorrhagic septicemias (blood infection, bloody diarrhea, bruising on body)
 What a trace forward and trace back are and why they are important:

Both trace forwards and trace backs are parts of a disease investigation where the investigator is trying to figure out where the disease came from (trace back) and where the disease may have spread to (trace forward).  The extent of a disease tracing investigation depends on how the disease is spread (aerosol, oral, fomite, vector, direct contact) and how severe the consequences of ongoing spread may be. The goal of tracing is to identify all possible contact premises in a timely manner after identifying infected premises.

Trace Forward” refers to tracing locations of animals that have left infected premises

Trace forwards involve the efforts to find and follow any animals that have left infected premises during the critical period (which is defined by the disease of concern) when they may have been in contact with infected animals. These animals may be spreading the disease to new areas so that the premises to which they have gone must be identified and investigated.

Trace Back” refers to tracing the origin of animals brought onto infected premises

Epidemiological trace backs involve finding and following the origins of animals brought onto the infected premises before the disease was noticed.  These may be the source of infection. Their origin must be identified, together with any other locations that they may have infected during transit.

 Important records you should be keeping:

I would suggest keeping information in a couple places (think about access during a natural disaster):

  1. Printed and placed in a fire-proof safe
  2. Online / on an external hard drive
  3. With friends or other people who provide care to your animals

Some example of records that you should be keeping include;

Animal Identification – very important if you are separated in a disaster

  • Microchipping is highly recommended for all animals (horses are usually microchipped on the left side of their neck)
  • Photos (both sides, and front) for identification of your horse

Vaccination and deworming records

Medical history Include any past medical problems (colic, lameness…)

  • Medications your horse is currently taking (brand/generic name, dose, frequency)
  • Veterinarian contact information, including emergency hospital information

Travel history – include when/where, make special note if any sick horses were encountered

Diet records

  • Hay and any supplements fed, amounts fed
  • Special notes (“my horse chokes every time he is fed alfalfa cubes”)
The way I think about records:

What information would someone need to be able to step in and take care of my animal in exactly the same way I have been caring for it if I am suddenly unavailable?  You cannot have too much information.

There is a lot of good information and a lot of misinformation available on horse care, veterinary medicine and disease.  One of my favorite phrases, given to me by a professor in veterinary school was, “You miss more by not looking than not knowing.”  Pay attention, know your horse, and know who to ask for help or information if something seems off about your horse.

If I can be of help, never hesitate to contact me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/HappyTrailsVet) or via email at DrAlanaDVM@gmail.com.  If you live in Northern California (Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter or Yuba county), please contact Dr Alana to schedule a house call or clinic.

Creative Commons License
Preventing Infectious Disease: Part 2 by Clair Thunes PhD and Dr Alana McQuarry DVM is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Published: Apr 20, 2012
 | 
Last Modified: 
October 21, 2021 @ 6:56 pm

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