Horses and Tetanus
Many animals, including humans can get infected with the bacteria that cause tetanus. Horses however are said to be more at risk of getting this condition. This is because horses are said to have a lower level of natural immunity. This is compounded by the fact that horses also live in an environment that has plenty of opportunities for infection. Horses can pick up bacteria while grazing, while being ridden or even while it is just in its stall. Because the condition can lead to a painful death, horses that are infected should receive immediate medical attention.
Causes and Disease Progress
The disease is caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetanii. Although it is not contagious, it can be easily picked up by horses from a variety of sources. The bacteria can be found in contaminated feces or rusty objects in pastures and stalls. Puncture wounds are the most common points of entry but other kinds of openings can also be used by the bacteria. Since the bacteria are anaerobic, they often thrive best when a wound has closed and has poor oxygen supply. The bacteria can incubate from anywhere between 3 days to 3 weeks.
Once inside the body, the bacteria produce toxins. These are transported to the bloodstream, nerves, spinal cord and even to the brain. Eventually, tetanus will paralyze the nervous system. In the final stages of the disease, a horse will collapse and be unable to breathe.
Symptoms Tetanus in Horses
It is important to detect symptoms immediately to increase the chances of saving a horse’s life. Initial symptoms may include colic, minimal stiffness, third eyelid protrusion and spasms. In an advanced stage of tetanus a horse will have very stiff limbs, sweating, difficulty moving, labored breathing, difficulty swallowing, jaw contractions and seizures.
Treatment and Prognosis
The treatment for tetanus would depend on the severity of the condition. Treatment approaches may involve surgery, penicillin injections and antitoxin administration. An infection of this kind is almost always a cause for alarm so infected horses should be treated in veterinary facilities.
Recovery from an infection is not impossible. Some experts note though that survival for infected horses is often low. This is especially if a possible infection is not quickly detected. Many horses have had to be euthanized after an infection that has progressed.
Prevention of Infection
The best way to prevent tetanus is to have horses vaccinated. Of course, part of prevention always involves good environmental management. Pastures and stalls should always be clean and rusty tools and nails in the premises should be immediately removed.
Horse owners should also carefully watch out for wounds. Any wound on a horse, even a small flesh wound should be treated and dressed.
Indeed, tetanus may be fatal to a horse. There is however, always a way for infected horses to recover with prompt and proper treatment.