Preventing and Detecting Diseases


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Signs of Illness or Disease

Every horse needs a program of health care, frequent inspections, and regular hoof maintenance. Horses need people who know what to look for and who inspect them often to make sure they are in good health. Older horses may need specialized care. Horse owners must know when it is time to euthanize an animal, intentionally ending its life to relieve pain and prevent suffering.

Some visible signs of illness to watch for in a horse are:

  • Change in the horse’s behaviour (e.g. lethargic, depressed, anxious)
  • Reduced feed intake
  • Change in water intake
  • Change in consistency of manure
  • Unexplained change in weight (loss or gain)
  • Signs of pain or discomfort (e.g. reluctance to move, increased rate of respiration and sweating)
  • Signs of colic
  • Lameness
  • Swelling
  • Discharge from the eyes, ears or nose
  • Coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Fever

A horse needs people who recognize signs of good health and who detect health problems early by watching for signs of disease.


What does the Code of Practice say about disease?

“Suspicion of a reportable disease as defined by the Health of Animals Act (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) must immediately be brought to the attention of a veterinarian.

Reportable diseases that may affect horses include:

  • Anthrax
  • Brucellosis
  • Contagious Equine Metritis
  • Dourine
  • Equine Infectious Anaemia
  • Equine Piroplasmosis
  • Glanders
  • Rabies
  • Tuberculosis
  • Vesicular Stomatitis”

In Alberta, a veterinarian should be notified if a horse has the following diseases:

  • West Nile
  • Neurotropic Equine Herpes Virus Type 1.
Source: Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines (NFACC)

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Activity 3.4 – Disease and Medical Care

In this activity identify a disease that can affect your horse and describe how this disease can impact care of the animal. Complete this activity in the Module 3 Booklet

Reference the material from the topics we have covered so far and / or use the Weblinks below to help you complete the activity.


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Weblinks for Activities 3.2 >3.4

Use any of the links below to complete the activity.

National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC)’s  Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines

Find out more about horse health and diseases in the 4-H Project Manual for Horses.

Watch the video, First Aid Kits for Horses, to find out what first aid supplies horse owners should have on hand.

Find detailed information in the Health & Disease section of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development Horses’ webpage.

Fact sheets on different animal diseases are available by clicking on the Reportable and Notifiable Diseases links on this Canadian Food Inspection Agency webpage.

More information on laminitis and founder is provided by the Alberta SPCA.

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