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Leptospirosis in Horses

Horses can become infected with leptospirosis, causing bacteria to grow in the bloodstream, and affecting other vital organs and functions. In this article, our Hattiesburg and Wiggins vets talk about leptospirosis in horses, what the symptoms are, and how it can be treated and prevented.

What is leptospirosis in horses?

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease found in many animals. It can be spread to humans that come into contact with the bacteria. Horses become infected with leptospirosis when mucus in their eyes, mouth, and nose, or cuts and scratches on the legs, come into contact with infected urine or blood. Leptospirosis can also be picked up by horses if they ingest hay, grain, or water that has been contaminated with the infected urine of other animals.

What are the symptoms of leptospirosis in horses?

The typical symptoms of leptospirosis in horses may include loss of appetite, depression, and fever. You may also see uveitis, which occurs when inflammation within your horse's eye causes tearing, swelling, discharge, and cloudiness. If your horse frequently experiences uveitis, they have a risk of becoming blind. If the infection caused by leptospirosis is severe enough, it can put the horse at risk of kidney and liver failure. Unfortunately, in the case of pregnant mares, leptospirosis can cause abortion. 

There is no way to determine how many horses are typically affected by leptospirosis. It is believed that nearly half of all horses will be exposed to this condition at some point in their lives.

Diagnostic Methods & Treatment Options for Leptospirosis in Horses Treatment

To find out whether your horse has leptospirosis, your vet can conduct a bacterial culture, serology, or PCR assay. Unfortunately, technical and cost limitations often prohibit veterinarians from using these diagnostic methods.

Incidental or clinical infections in cattle can be diagnosed with a microagglutination test. If the infection and the antibodies are discovered at an elevated level, then they would also be detectable in the placenta and fetus.

Leptospirosis in horses can be treated with local and topical immunosuppressive agents. Your vet may also administer systemic antimicrobials such as penicillin. If the horse is experiencing uveitis, the vet will likely recommend intravitreal injections of low-dose gentamicin to prevent future episodes of uveitis. 

How can leptospirosis in horses be prevented?

Leptospirosis can be prevented with a relatively new vaccine. This vaccine is safe for use on horses that are at least six months old. The vaccine is also a viable option for the protection of mares throughout pregnancy to avoid abortion caused by the infection.

Vets recommend keeping wild animals away from your horses, their feed, and their water. Be sure to replenish water sources often.

Note that veterinarians and animal caretakers have an increased risk of contracting leptospirosis, which means that those in these professions should be sure to avoid contact with the urine of infected animals.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you would like to learn more about how you can protect your horse from conditions such as leptospirosis, please contact our Hattiesburg and Wiggins veterinary team and we can refer you to some equine vets in the Hattiesburg and Wiggins area.

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Holland Veterinary Hospitals in Hattiesburg and Wiggins are accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of all animals. Get in touch today to book an appointment with our experienced vets.

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