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Old 06-06-2012, 01:24 AM   #1
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Runny noses and coughs

Our mare started with a really snotty nose last week - very thick and lots of it. I called the vet to see if there was anything to watch for or worry about. (She is eating, drinking, acting fine.) He said to watch for fever, off feed, stop pooping - the usual stuff. Well about 5 days later the other 3 developed runny noses (not the real thick stuff, but thinner.). Now the mare and one of the mules have coughs. It is a deep, dry cough. They are still eating and acting normally, which is good.
My animals are fully vaccinated and have not had contact with other horses for months. But obviously we have some kind of respiratory virus going on here. Any one have a guess as to how long this sort of thing lasts - a couple of weeks like people? Has anyone had a horse with similar symptoms that did NOT get better? Mine have always been healthy, so I'm a Nervous Nelly over this.

Sweet Dixie, always a part of my heart
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Old 06-06-2012, 05:55 AM   #2
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hard to say as it all depends what the cause is and type of virus and also depends on your horses as like some people, some animals remain sick longer then others. I would have the vet out to check them out and prescribe medication to help if nessacary.
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Old 06-06-2012, 06:05 AM   #3
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Wet hay down untill coughing stops and sounds like you need a round of penicillin through your barn.
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Old 06-06-2012, 06:56 AM   #4
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Get a vet out to check. Don't just blindly use antibiotics when you have no idea what the problem is, that's a sure-fire way to develop antibiotic resistant bacteria. Besides, if it's allergies or a virus, you'd be throwing money away unnecessarily.
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Old 06-06-2012, 07:13 AM   #5
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Quarantine your barn and wash your hands thoroughly. I would not hesitate to call the vet out for antibiotics and a good checking over. Bleach buckets and everything else.

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Old 06-10-2012, 01:50 PM   #6
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We are still in the midst of this respiratory infection. The mare with the original symptoms is over it pretty much. The first mule who got it is about half way through. The second mule looks to be over the initial part with fever, and the last mule may be just beginning. Sure wish they could have all just gotten it at once!

So the progression looks like this: Incubation period seems to be 5-10 days. Starts with runny nose, then cough, possibly fever, then really snotty nose, then residual cough for a week or two afterwards.

The 2nd mule peaked a fever at 103. I have used bute twice a day for control and to keep her eating and drinking and to hopefully prevent a bout of laminitis. It looks like the fever is now resolving. She has the dry deep cough, but is eating, drinking, pooping.

The last mule is looking just the tiniest bit "off" and has a runny nose, but does not have a fever, is not coughing, and still eating , drinking, pooping.

Of course my vet was out of town this weekend and the guy on call was rude to me on the phone. I just wanted to give an update on how everyone was doing, especially since the little mule's temp had gone up to 102.6 (and then later to 103.) The on call vet said, "Well, what do you want me to do?" with a real arrogant tone. I simply asked him if I should continue the regime set up by my vet or should I be doing something else since the temp had gone higher. After his attititude, I thought I'd just give it another day, treat the fever, and see how they did.

The little mule is better and her cough is still dry and temp was 100.8 this morning, so I think she is going to be OK - now just the snotty nose stage for her.

From all I've read, this sounds just like equine influenza or possibly even a herpes virus. Mine have had their flu shots, but I know there are different strains, just like with people and that the shots don't cover every possiblilty.

If it is a herpes virus, even the EHV-1 strain, there is really nothing to do except rest and supportive care, and to watch for neurological signs, which none of mine have.

Antibiotics have no effect on viral illnesses except to create resistance in whatever resident bacteria happen to be present. If a secondary bacterial infection jumps on board (like pneumonia) THEN the antibiotics would be necessary. It's really NOT a good idea to give antibiotics "just in case" or to "cover all the bases." I've had a situation where the diarrhea from antibiotics caused a more serious problem than the original infection that was being treated.

It just puzzles me as to where this came from, since none of ours have been anywhere in a couple of months. I suppose one of us could have carried something in on our clothes or hands, but we haven't been around other horses, either. There are no horses within 1/4 mile of us on any side, so no chance of droplet contamination such as from coughs or sneezes.

I just hope this passes uneventfully. It's just horrible listening to the coughs. I can't wet their hay, unfortunately, because I can't use feeders or mats because of Buddy-the-Brat-Mule. (He breaks feeders or gets his feet caught in them and throws heavy rubber mats around like paper bags - before he starts ripping pieces out of them.) We are just keeping them quarantined until this is over. I don't even want the farrier to come out so that he doesn't possibly carry this to another barn. All of ours are "healthy" adults (9-15 years) so they will hopefully recover fully. From what I've read, it's the very young, the very old, and the weak/debilitated that succumb to these viruses (just like people.)

I don't know if this info will help anyone else, but here it is.

Sweet Dixie, always a part of my heart

Last edited by DixieMom; 06-10-2012 at 01:54 PM.
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Old 06-10-2012, 04:50 PM   #7
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Dixiemom, here's my thoughts

1. If the closest livestock (of any sort) is only 1/4 mile away; that's not at all far for airborne virus to travel.

2. Get on the livestock portion of the CDC website to see if there have been any sort of livestock disease outbreaks within a 50 mile radius of you.

3. How far off the main highway are you? It's even possible a trailer of "something just drove down the road. Believe that or not, that happened to my neighborhood back in the early 80's with shipping fever.

3.1 As I wrote those words "shipping fever", that's a possibility.

4. I know you're in the desert and feed hay. Is there any chance of there being any kind of mold spores in your last load of hay that may have caused this?

5. I also would not arbitrarily give antibiotics. I know you've had huge vet bills in the not-so-distant past but I think I might still make the vet come out before sticking a needle full of some antibiotic

Hope all is well with you these days
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Old 06-10-2012, 06:09 PM   #8
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The virus could have come with your farrier, you, or any other supplier to the barn.

Glad your equids seem to be recovering.
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Old 06-10-2012, 06:48 PM   #9
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Wow- it all sounds horrible to me-sorry u r dealing with this and hope hey all get better soon!
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Old 06-10-2012, 07:59 PM   #10
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Be assured that I do not give antibiotics unless ordered by the vet. I've worked hard to build a trusting relationship with him. As far as flu and herpes virus, as far as I can tell they are spread by droplet - not airborne.

The hay question is a good one. My supplier copped out on me at the end of the season and didn't deliver 80 prepaid bales. I had to scrounge what I could find and it was pretty bad stuff. (Fortunately I found a new supplier today - went out and inspected the hay and put in an order for a year's worth - payable upon delivery!) I don't think a repsiratory virus could last that long in hot, dry bales. Bacterial spores, yes, but pretty unlikely for viruses. I am certain this is viral in origin.

My farrier was out about 6 weeks ago (time for another visit, but I'll put it off a couple of more weeks). That is pretty much outside the incubation period for these things.

So far they are all still eating, drinking, pooping. Maggie's temp was down today and I think we are over the hump unless Tess gets sick, but Tess is a very hardy soul. If there is any question about complications I will have the vet out in a heartbeat.

I will definitely check out the website for any spikes in equine illnesses here. Good idea, thanks. CA had some more EHV-1 recently and that is in the back of my mind, but again, there has to be a route of transmission and we have not been out or around other horses in at least a couple of months.

Very strange. Thanks for the information and encouragement, all. It is not fun having the whole herd affected.

PS: Something I learned with Dixie, who was a very high maintenance mule due to her many health issues, was to always have an equine emergency fund stashed away. I always keep a thousand bucks in my saving account for them. It really does give peace of mind and relief of anxiety to know that I can always pay for an emergency vet visit if I have to. Besides having prepurchase hoof xrays, that is the next best piece of advice I would get to anyone considering horse ownership!

Sweet Dixie, always a part of my heart

Last edited by DixieMom; 06-10-2012 at 08:03 PM.
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Old 06-12-2012, 08:08 PM   #11
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The vet came today. He's been seeing this fever/snotty nose/cough virus in different places, but without any common features except the weather was hot/cold/hot/cold/ now hot and very dry. His best guess is that is the respiratory strain of EHV-1.

The little Maggie mule (the one with the fever and worst cough) has bronchitis and possibly the earliest hint of a secondary bacterial pneumonia. Buddy mule has a sinus infection, so both of them got a long acting cephlasporin antibiotic shot which I will repeat on Saturday. Hopefully everyone will be better real soon. They will still have at least 2 more weeks of rest, which is fine because it's too hot to do anything anyway.

The only one without full blown symptoms is Tess mule who is the one who came from Missouri over a year ago. It's possible she is a carrier who was exposed years ago and then starting shedding it with the weather changes.(Herpes viruses never go away completely and can remain dormant for a long time and then pop up again.) She may well be immune from the worst symptoms if she had it before.

So there it is. My herd is most likely infected with Equine Herpes Virus 1, from who only knows where - possibly from Tess.

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Old 06-12-2012, 08:30 PM   #12
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I went to an interesting vaccination semenar last fall, and the Dr's giving it said they have found that viruses can travel up to 10 miles on the wind.
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Old 06-13-2012, 12:33 AM   #13
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Sweet Dixie, always a part of my heart
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