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Monday, 4 September 2017

How To Treat A Horse With Botulism

What Is Botulism in Horses? 

Botulism in horses is the same as in humans as a type food poisoning.  It is caused by a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum.  This is bacteria produces toxins that attack the horse's nervous system causing havoc on the horse's health.  This can be a potentially fatal condition that needs urgent care.   

How does a horse Get Botulism? 

The most common way that horses get Botulism is from forage and feed.  Haylage is one of the more common types of forage that cause Botulism because of the moisture and warmth that the haylage is producing in fermenting.  If a wild animal dies in a field where the haylage is being grown then the harmful bacteria can spread to the haylage, grow because of the moisture and then be consumed by the horse.   
The same can happen with hard feed, although less common it is possible for the bacteria to spread onto the food from the field.  There is also a problem with straw bedding and occasionally water supply.   
Another way that a horse can get Botulism is from a cut.  This is very uncommon although if a horse were to cut his leg and come in contact with Clostridium botulinum then there is a risk.   
The last way I am going to mention is with a horse who's clostridium botulinum has been activated.  Now, this can be a little confusing as a horse can become extremely ill from this bacteria but they have some in their own body?  Well yes!  A lot of animals can have this bacteria in their intestinal tract.  This is not a problem for healthy horses as the cells are not active.  If a horse becomes ill from a different health problem then there is a possibility of the cells becoming active.   
There is some indication of Clostridium botulinum causing shaker foal syndrome.  This has been proved to decrease the number of cases when the broodmare has a Botulism vaccination.  Although it must be noted that there hasn't been a lot of research done at this time.   

What are the Symptoms of Botulism in Horses? 

The symptoms of Botulism will start small and work up to be severe.  It causes overall weakness and eventual paralysis.  The symptoms below are in the order from the starting of the sickness to the ending if not treated.  This shows how important it is to get a vet as soon as possible to avoid death.    

  • Problems with swollowing and moving the tongue.   

  • Trouble holding his head up  

  • Problems with bowel movements  

  • Difficulty moving the tail  

  • Overall weakness and trouble holding his own weight.  

  • Finding it difficult to stand up after a lie down. 

  • Trouble breathing  

  • Eventually will not be able to breath anymore or the heart muscles will be paralyzed. 

How to Treat A Horse With Botulism? 

Treatment for Botulism can be very difficult.  The use of medicine is needed and will sometimes be a medicine used in humans to treat toxins in the body.  Hyperimmune plasma can also be used although all treatments are expensive.   
The next thing to do after medicine is to help the horse.  Intense calories are needed to keep weight on and to get the horse nutrients to help him get stronger.  The Horse may be tubed with something to get rid of the remaining bacteria and toxins.  There is a need for fluids and help with bowel movement.  The horse will be so weak that they will be to be kept standing from slings.   
If you catch this illness early on then there is a good chance that the horse will make a good recovery.  If it isn't caught then this chances decrease rapidly of survival.   


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