Let’s talk about quarantine.
Whenever a new animal comes onto the farm, horse, pig, sheep, goat, chicken, you name it, even if we know their vaccine history, they ALWAYS get 30 days of quarantine. For horses, we now do 45 days. Because our residents are predominantly horses, let’s focus on them.
What does quarantine mean? It means no nose-to-nose contact. It means separate buckets/feeders that are kept separately from the regular buckets. It means the water hose never touches the water trough. It means when the tractor goes in the QT field with a round bale, it gets sprayed down with chlorhexidine afterward. It means the QT horses are the last animals we touch each feeding before we go inside and shower. And it means that we wash everything that comes in contact with them or their paddock, in chlorhexidine.
Sound like overkill? Believe me, it’s not, and let me tell you why.
Early this year we took in 3 killpen horses, Taos, Jack and Jilly. They are all lovely horses, and though underweight, seemed otherwise healthy. Taos and Jilly gained weight nicely, Jack not so much (and we are still working with the vet trying to help him) They were placed in our quarantine paddock, which is in the far back corner of our facility, it has a shelter, is remote and allows no contact with any other animals on all 4 sides. On day 29 of their quarantine, one day before they were technically allowed to be released into the ‘general population’ I was grooming Taos and discovered a lump under his jaw. Immediately I knew what it was, even though I desperately didn’t want it to be so.
Strangles. If you aren’t familiar, Strangles is a bacterial infection that manifests by forming abscesses throughout the respiratory tract. It is rarely fatal, usually only if there are other comorbidities involved, but it is ugly and messy and it spreads like wildfire.
I called the vet. He took one look, looked at me and said ‘you know what this is’. I said I did, I just didn’t want it to be. We both had a laugh, and then set to work. And work it was.
Taos’s abscess was lanced, drained and flushed. All 3 horses were presumed positive so 45 more days of quarantine, then a nasal lavage to test. But, even though we already had rigid quarantine procedures in place, I still had to be sure the rest of our herd was safe. So, for 30 days, I took and logged the temperature of every horse at our facility, looking for anyone with a temp of 100 degrees or more for 2 days or more.
Now, I’m not one to toot my own horn, but our vet said we deserve it, so I’m going to. Not a single additional horse on our property even so much as spiked a fever. He credits our existing quarantine procedures with keeping the rest of our herd safe. We were 2 days from putting those 3 horses out with the herd. 2 days from essentially infecting our entire herd with Strangles. Young horses, compromised horses, horses that surely would not have survived infection.
THIS IS WHY QUARANTINE IS ESSENTIAL!
Jack, Taos and Jilly had a strong case. After their first test they all 3 came back as positive again. They had 2 rounds of scoped guttural pouch penicillin flushes, and ultimately remained quarantined for 5 months before they tested clear. Their treatment has been physically and emotionally exhausting and incredibly expensive. We are eternally grateful to Horse Plus Humane Society @horsehumane for their generous grant that paid a portion of one of the scoped flushes.
Much of the regular care for these 3 horses had to be put off, from farrier work to dental floats. But we are finally getting caught up.
So let this experience be your example. Be us! Start NOW with a quarantine policy, and stick to it! No matter how small or large your operation. Especially if you do, or plan to, take in horses with unknown histories.
Taos and Jilly are happy and healthy now. We are working with our vet to get Jack where he needs to be. This picture was taken on intake.
If you are able, we would very much appreciate help paying off their veterinary bill. We still owe over $1000 and would love to get that to our wonderful vets at Old Dominion Equine Associates @olddominionequine
As always, many thanks to all of our supporters. We could not do this without you!