09/03/2021

Haygain Helps with EHV-1 Precautionary & Management Measure

Just as the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to be slightly easing its toll on people, horses fell victim to their own fast-spreading virus with dire health consequences: the equine herpes virus, aka "EHV."

By Kim Miller  | Equestrian Writer

Canadian horses were the first to suffer in the current outbreaks, starting in early February. The "extremely aggressive and infectious" disease continues to be a crisis for Canadian horses and the equine industry. In late February, EHV was reported at a jumping event in Spain. As of March 3, 10 European countries had shut down FEI competition to help contain the spread. In the United States, four EHV-1 cases have been reported, two in Florida and one each in Pennsylvania and California. In the latter two states, both horses were euthanized.


The situation is evolving daily in all affected regions.


EHV is highly contagious. It spreads through direct horse-to-horse contact, usually through nasal discharge. It can also be picked up when shed onto any surface: i.e. feed buckets, grooming gear, tack trunks.

Most Severe Strain

There are several strains of the equine herpes virus. Unfortunately, the current outbreak's source is the most severe and contagious: the EHV-1 that is associated with the neurological disease equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy.


The incubation period for EHV-1 is typically 4-6 days, but can be as short as 24 hours or longer than 4-6 days. A fever is often the only warning sign of the neurological disease, which reaches its peak impact usually within 24 to 48 hours of the initial symptoms. Respiratory infection indicators like discharge from the nose and eyes can, but don't necessarily, precede neurological signs.

Incoordination, hind limb weakness, loss of tail tone, lethargy and leaning against something to maintain balance are among the clinical signs. EHV-1 can also cause abortion, neonatal death and respiratory disease.


Best practices include temperature monitoring for early symptoms and isolation of any horse infected or at risk of exposure to an infected horse or area where the virus might be have been shed. Extensive bio security measures are critical to minimize spread.

Haygain's Steamed Hay & ComfortStall Can Help

While hay is loaded with microscopic, harmful particles, forage is not typically a host for EHV viruses unless an affected horse has touched it. However, forage that is free of those respirable particles can help EHV patients stabilize and recover.


Haygain high-temperature steaming's ability to rid hay of 99% of those particles enables the affected horse's immune system to focus on fighting EHV. The horse's already-weakened state won't be worsened by having to battle the effects of respirable dust, mould, bacteria and other allergens commonly found even in hay of good nutrient content.


Any equine illness is often accompanied by loss of appetite and dehydration. Research confirms that most horses prefer steamed hay over dry, so it helps get patients back on their nutrition plan. The increased moisture content - three times that of dry hay - is beneficial for hydration and digestion.


Since well before this outbreak, prominent European sport horse veterinarian Dr Emmanuelle Van Erck Westergren has insisted her clients feed their horses Haygain steamed hay. It's even more beneficial now, she explains.


“We need to keep the airways as healthy and strong as we possibly can. We need to alleviate the microbial burden as much as possible to avoid unnecessary respiratory complications caused by the virus. Potential complications include bacterial or fungal infections."


A history of asthma or other respiratory issues especially warrants the precautionary benefits of steamed hay. "Any noxious stimulation can precipitate the recurrence of an asthma attack," Dr. Van Erck Westergren adds.

Flooring Can Be Disinfected

Haygain's ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring aids important stable bio-security measures because it can be disinfected. Its layer of orthopedic foam is covered with a single-piece rubber top cover sealed to the stall wall. In use daily for over 10 years at the Cornell Veterinary Hospital surgery center, ComfortStall is easily cleaned. Fluids don't seep down to the stall base and are easily mopped up, enabling thorough cleaning between residents.


The layer of orthopedic foam provides cushion, support and traction. Bedding is not needed for cushion, reducing the quantity of materials that could retain and spread a shed virus.


Calling your horse's veterinarian is always the first step to addressing concerns: all the more so if EHV-1 exposure is feared because the disease can progress and spread so fast. British Equestrian has extensive resources on preventing and managing EHV and tracking the status of the disease's spread. Click here to access them.

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