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Tuesday, 12 September 2017

How To Treat A Horse With Tetanus

What is Tetanus in Horses? 

Tetanus is caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetanii which enters the body through wounds that the horse may get.  Neurotoxins are then produced by the bacteria cause an infection.  The incubation period (from when the horse gets the infection to when the horse shows signs) is around three weeks.   
Tetanus is usually contracted from a puncture wound to the horses body (often the foot) either from an accident or a surgery.  The toxins will spread to the spinal cord and the horses survive will depend on how much of the toxins have actually gone to spinal cord.   
Up to 75% of horses will not survive tetanus so it is very important to look for signs if your horse has a wound.  The wound can heal up before the horse starts showing signs of the infection so it is very important to remember each wound that a horse gets and when it got the wound.   

What are the Symptoms of Tetanus  

The toxins that are produced by tetanus attack the nervous system.  The horse will therefore show huge signs of tetanus.  The problem is, once the horse starts showing symptoms it can be too late to treat the horse.  Here are some symptoms that are well known with tetanus.   

  • Muscular Stiffness  

  • Muscle spasms 

  • Difficulty eating  

  • Struggling to walk or move 

  • The third eyelid starts to protrude  

  • Excess sweating  

  • Tail is held straight out 

  • Anxious look on the horse's face 

  • Collapsing  

  • Convulsions  

By the time these symptoms show the horse will be in a lot of danger.  The horse will have had tetanus for up to three weeks so the vet will need to be contacted as soon as possible.   

How is tetanus Treated? 

Tetanus often leads to death in horses so the most important thing to do is watch wounds and get a tetanus vaccination if there is any worry.   
If the horses infection is caught early then the horse can get treatment to reverse the toxins.  This is usually metronidazole (instead of penicillin as it has be linked to producing convulsions) and tetanus Antitoxin injection to stop the infection.  This will bind the toxins so if they have not already reached the spinal cord the horse will most likely be treated.  If the toxins have already reached the spinal cord, it can still be effective at stopping more toxins.  There is a low chance of survival in this case.   

They may also require fluids as the horse will not want to move as so can become dehydrated.  The horse may be taken to a equine vet house but if not the horse will require a huge amount of care.  The hay should be placed at a height that the horse can reach without moving to far.  They may need slings to stand up because of the muscle weakness.  The horse should be monitored constantly.   


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