Tetanus in the horse

Tetanus occurs when a wound becomes infected with tetanus spores, which are present in soil.

Horses are extremely susceptible to this disease. Once inside the wound, if the conditions are favourable, the spores will germinate and produce a powerful toxin that affects the central nervous system. The size of the wound can be so small that it may not be noticed. Some of the signs to look for in a horse suspected of having tetanus are evidence of the third eyelids prolapsing across the eyes, a stiff-legged gait, often with the tail held out away from the body, pricked ears and "lockjaw". The muscles become rigid and the horse may go down. Convulsions can occur and death may result from paralysis of the respiratory system. Treatment is difficult, expensive and often unsuccessful.

Every horse from the age of 12 weeks should begin a vaccination program to provide long term protection against tetanus. If a wound occurs, tetanus antitoxin (Equivac® TAT) may be given for short-term protection.

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