Ask the Veterinary Services Expert – Leah Turner

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Ask the Veterinary Services Expert – Leah Turner

Vesicular Stomatitis is a disease we learned about in Veterinary school then kind of forgot about as it does not occur here. The last case in Canada was in 1949.

Right now it is causing a lot of trouble.  Many Albertans take their horses down to Arizona for the winter to rope, ride, train for barrel racing, etc.  To get them down there they need a health inspection and a Coggins test to make sure they don’t have Equine Infectious Anemia.

They can come back within 30 days on the same certificate normally but once they stay over 60 days they have to get a vet inspection in the US to come back.

Now Arizona had had some cases of Vesicular Stomatitis.  It is caused by a virus and can affect horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, llamas, and deer.  Occasionally it causes influenza-like symptoms in humans.

The virus causes blisters in the mouth, on the lips,tongue and nose, on cow’s udders and above the hooves.  The blisters break leaving raw, sore areas.  There is a mild fever, animals go off feed and are sometimes lame.  The incubation period is 2-8 days and most animals recover within a few days.  Older animals may take longer.  Sometimes the surface of the tongue sloughs off so eating is very painful and these animals may need treatment and will take longer to heal. The mouth lesions cause excessive salivation.

The coronary band lesions can cause lameness.  The udder lesions cause havoc with both dairy and beef cows.  The lesions resemble those of Foot and Mouth disease so it’s very important to distinguish the two.  Vesicular Stomatitis is not pleasant but Foot and Mouth Disease has serious economic implications.

Vesicular Stomatitis is a reportable disease in the US and in Canada.  The federal government gets involved and premises with positive cases are quarantined until 21 days after all lesions are healed.

Last summer there were many cases in Colorado.  The disease is spread by biting flies and direct contact with the ruptured blisters.  Water buckets, tie rails, bits etc used recently by infected horses can pass the disease along but the virus is in the blisters, not the blood stream so once the blisters heal the horse should no longer be infectious.

Now there have been a couple of cases of VS in horses in Arizona.  Our friends down there have to get a blood test and an inspection within 15 days of returning here to get back.  They also have to apply to the CFIA for an import permit.  This can be done on the CFIA website on the computer.  If the Canadian horses have been down in Arizona for over 60 days they have to go to another state that is free of VS for 21 days before returning. People will have to board their horses at a strange place for 21 days.  What if that state turns positive?  Who wants to quarantine strange horses?  What if their horses get sick?  It’s a big problem.  Most of our clients I have talked to will keep their horses in Arizona until the ban is lifted.

If you want more info on VS google Vesicular Stomatitis, there is an hour long video on youtube from Colorado State University.

This is just another example of why it’s important to practice biosecurity on your premises and when travelling to horse shows and events.