A Quarter Horse breeding farm had 15 horses become acutely ill since December 3rd, according to an disease alert published by the Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC) today.
Two horses died within 48 hours of onset of clinical signs, 10 were euthanized due to rapid clinical decline within the same time frame, and 2 are still alive at the LSU veterinary teaching hospital.
Preliminary investigation has suggested contamination of a common feed source is responsible for the disease suspected to be botulism. One potential source includes alfalfa hay cubes produced in Colorado. Owners with Horses showing similar signs should contact their veterinarian immediately. Veterinarians should report any suspect positive horses to Dr. Rose Baker at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Louisiana State University (225) 578-9500).
Botulism is a progressive, flaccid paralysis resulting from ingestion of a bacterial toxin (from Clostridium botulinum) which can be rapidly fatal if not aggressively treated from the first clinical signs.
Clinical Signs of Botulism include the following: Severe muscle weakness, Flaccid paralysis with normal mentation, Inability to swallow, Poor tail, tongue and eyelid tone, Hypoventilation, respiratory arrest, Paresis/inability to stand for extended periods, Limb paralysis, Progression to muscular weakness and recumbency, Drooling, Muscle trembling, Unexplained mydriasis with sluggish pupillary light reflexes, Tachycardia, Colic and decreased gastrointestinal motility, Sudden unexplained death and inability to rise after lying down.
Treatment with antiserum can be used if administered early in the disease.
Vaccination is effective and may be used in environments known for the disease.