Well, It seems as though horse owners in Colorado will not get a break from disease for yet another year. Although to this point in the riding season, we have not had a major problem with West Nile Virus or Pigeon Fever, there is another disease looking to upset our seasons activities. At the date of this writing, VS has been diagnosed in New Mexico, Texas and Colorado. The last outbreak occurred from May 1998 through January 1999.
Vesicular Stomatitis (VS), which has historically spread from southwestern states northward as far as Canada, is a sporadic, reemerging viral disease characterized by vesicular (soft fluid filled bumps) lesions on the tongue, mouth, teats or coronary bands. Many horses become infected without showing symptoms, and those in poor health, under stress, or suffering from a compromised immune system are at greater risk for VS. VS symptoms generally last 7 to 8 days.
Vesicular Stomatitis is of concern not only for the treatment and health of the infected horse, but also for its similarity to foot and mouth disease, and the subsequent trade restrictions both interstate and international. Distinguishing VS from foot and mouth disease (FMD) is of great concern, as clinically the two diseases are indistinguishable. However, Hoof and Mouth disease is extremely contagious and far more devastating to infected animals. The similarity between VS and FMD has a substantial impact on trade restrictions. The inability to distinguish between the two requires that VS cases be treated as potential FMD cases to avoid the reintroduction of the disease to this country.
While quarantine is the most drastic of the impacts a horse owner might expect from the outbreak of VS, one can expect some changes in guidelines and regulations for shows, rodeos and fairs. To exercise precaution against transmission of VS, participants are typically required to arrive at the event with a health certificate that was issued within 48 hours of departure for the event. In addition to the examinations and checks which are found on a health certificate under regular circumstances, veterinarians are required to issue a statement confirming that the animal has been specifically checked for and found not to have symptoms of VS, and that the animal has originated from a premise without any cases of VS.
To minimize your animal's risk of contracting VS pay close attention to health, minimize stress, control insects, practice good bio-security and sanitation and minimize common water and feed. If you are planning to any rodeo check with show officials for any of their specific requirements. If you are traveling out of state or out of the country, you will need to check each state or country's requirements and restrictions just prior to your date of travel, as these can change on a daily basis. With proper precaution from horse owners and specific attention from veterinarians, we may hopefully limit the spread of VS and increase the chances of a healthy riding season.