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Illnesses in Horses written by Katie O’Thy of Yoma Ltd

Posted on Monday, February 18, 2019 by Heather Dodd

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Illnesses in Horses

written by Katie O’Thy of Yoma Ltd

The recent outbreak of equine flu has been detrimental to our horses, causing huge problems for the racing industry particularly. Only now after 6 days of shutdown, do we see a managed return to racing for trainers – with this return involving just the horses that have been vaccinated against the virus in the last 6 months. Very similar to human flu, the equine flu is highly contagious and is mainly spread through close contact with others with the disease. Affecting the respiratory system, potentially leading to infections, the flu can prove fatal to young or unhealthy horses.

With concern for our horses in mind, this post considers three other common illnesses which can affect their health and livelihood.

Equine Arthritis & Osteoarthritis

Equine Arthritis refers to the inflammation and subsequent permanent damage in horse’s joints. It can be caused by an acute injury or gradually over years of work, and if left untreated can lead to osteoarthritis, where the exposed bone of the joints can grind. Unfortunately, this illness is irreversible, meaning it can only be treated not cured. Common treatments include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and joint supplements. Without excessively exercising your horse, it is also helpful to keep it moving to promote flexibility and to keep their hooves trimmed.


Horse colic is a condition causing abdominal pain with four main variations differing in severity. The two most common of the four are ‘impaction’ and ‘spasmodic’. Impaction colic occurs where a there is a blockage in the intestine or where the gut is stretched due to dry or course feed. Spasmodic colic refers to increased intestinal contractions caused by the build up of gas. You can treat horse colic with products from Spillers, and although colic can be hard to prevent, some measures can be taken, such as ensuring your horse always has access to fresh, clean water and roughage.


Laminitis is a disease involving the breakdown of the bond between the distal phalanx (coffin bone) and the hoof wall. This illness is common and can be devastating to a horse’s health. It generally affects the front two hooves but can occur in all four. It can be caused by a number of factors, such as diet, Cushing’s disease, trauma to the feet through excessive riding and jumping, or if an injury has been inflicted in one foot, the other may be likely to develop laminitis. If you are concerned that your horse may be suffering, you should call a vet immediately and follow their treatment advice – this will probably involve moving the horse to a smaller bedded stable. To prevent laminitis occurring, a horse’s diet should be monitored, ensuring that a healthy weight is maintained.

Hopefully this article will provide an insight into illnesses to be considered when caring for a horse or pony. If you have any concerns regarding your horse’s health, it is important to seek professional advice as soon as possible, in order to prevent any possible deterioration.


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