EHV-1 case dies of other health issues

A Saskatoon-area horse that was diagnosed with the neurologic form of equine herpes virus 1 (EHV-1) has been humanely euthanized after developing other health issues.

The horse was the first of two local equine patients diagnosed with EHV-1 in the past two weeks. Veterinarians from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) were providing treatment and supportive care for the horse at its home stable.

Despite ongoing treatment, the horse developed additional, severe medical problems. In consultation with the clinical team, the owner decided on humane euthanasia on Mar. 27.

“When a horse is fighting a serious viral infection like EHV-1, other health problems can often arise and overwhelm the animal’s immune system. Unfortunately, that is what happened in this case,” said Dr. Fernando J. Marqués, a specialist in large animal internal medicine and the assistant hospital director of the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre’s Large Animal Clinic.

The second horse diagnosed with the neurologic form of EHV-1 — another equine boarder at the same Saskatoon-area stable — is in isolation and continues to be treated and monitored by WCVM veterinarians. The boarding stable is under voluntary quarantine.

On Mar. 24, more than 30 local horse owners attended a public information session about EHV-1 that was organized by equine clinicians at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre. 

EHV-1 is a common equine virus to which nearly all horses are exposed during their lifetime. It is not transmissible to people and most animal species, but the virus is highly contagious among horses and camelids (llamas and alpacas).

While EHV-1 is mainly transmitted through direct contact between horses, people can play an indirect role in spreading the virus by sharing contaminated tack and equipment, or moving between horses without following adequate hygiene procedures. Aerosol transmission over close distances (for example, when horses cough and form infectious droplets) may also contribute to the virus’ spread.

EHV-1 usually causes mild respiratory disease, but in some cases, the virus can spread to other parts of the body. In rare cases, the virus can affect the nervous system and cause the neurologic form of EHV-1 to develop. It can also cause abortions in pregnant mares.

The neurologic form of EHV-1 typically affects the horse’s hind limbs and urinary tract. Common signs include inco-ordination, urinary incontinence and bladder distension. The neurologic disease’s clinical signs may be preceded by fever, coughing and nasal discharge (clinical signs of respiratory disease).

For more information, contact your local veterinarian or call the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre’s Large Animal Clinic (306-966-7178).

Click here to download an EHV-1 fact sheet.