by Brenda Ammons - Almo, Ky.
Equine Botulism vaccinations can save your mule and donkey’s life
At last the snow is gone and spring is in the air. Preparation is underway to start a new season of riding. Molly Shakespear has been taken out of the pasture and brought up to the corrals. Now is the time for a spring clean up. Molly S. needs to be clipped, new shoes and most important a yearly visit from her vet, Dr. Kim Abernathy-Young. Molly's visit from Dr. Kim will include having blood drawn for cogins and vaccines for Eastern & Western Equine Encephalomyelitis, West Nile, Tetanus, & Rabies. Bob and I also travel with Molly Shakespear and Libby so for that reason we also include vaccinations for Influenza, Rhinopneumonitis, Strangles and Equine Viral Artecitis (EVA). We have found that when it comes to our mules we want all of the bases covered since our mules come in contact with several different equines in our travels to different parts of the country and camping at large horse camps.
Bob and I are adding a new vaccine this year for Equine Botulism....yes, I said Botulism. We were totally clueless about Equine Botulism until a couple of weeks ago. We had some riding friends lose three really nice horses to this dreaded disease. Needless to say these people were very upset. They spent a small fortune trying to save their horses. Of course they wish now that they had known about Equine Botulism. For this reason I want to share some information with you about this subject.
Equine Botulism is a disease that is caused by toxins that are produced from the bacteria Clostridium Botulinum. These toxins are so potent that one teaspoon of the toxin is enough to kill 5,000 horses. Botulism is a rapidly progressive disease that quickly paralyzes an affected horse's nervous system. Unfortunately, this disease is nearly 100% fatal even if it is treated. If left untreated, affected horses usually die within 48 to 72 hours as a result of respiratory paralysis.
There are several causes of Botulism including muddy soil, contaminated feed, and contaminated water. It is believed that the horses mentioned above got into a dry lot with some cattle and ate silage which was contaminated. The signs of Botulism is hard to diagnose because initially it looks like many other diseases. The onset of clinical signs can range from 12 hours to several days depending on how much of the toxin was ingested.
The first sign that you might notice about your horse/mule is muscle weakness and tremors. Later the equine may appear to be colicing. The signs more specific to botulism include severe loss of tongue and tail tone along with difficulty eating and swallowing. The inability to retract the tongue is another sign of Botulism.
Now for the good news: Equine Botulism can be prevented. The vaccine for Equine Botulism comes in a series of three injections. One injection per month for three months. The vaccine is very inexpensive considering it's for your best friend. The cost is approximately $20 per injection with an annual booster needed after the initial injections. Prevention is really inexpensive as compared to approximately $5,000 spent to try and save an infected mule which is usually unsuccessful.
I am by no means a vet so please discuss Equine Botulism with your individual DVM.
I hope you find this information helpful and PLEASE vaccinated your buddy. Safe and happy trails, Brenda Ammons & Molly Shakespear.