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The terrible toll of tetanus

Of all the infectious diseases that can affect horses, tetanus is one of the most disturbing because of how quickly it can kill. Within a few days of the first signs appearing, around 80% of horses will die a painful death. One horse owner from Victoria recently found out first-hand the terrible toll that tetanus can take, as her miniature pony – rescued from an animal shelter only a week earlier – died before her eyes from this devastating disease.

Pony infected through an unnoticed wound

The new owner was excited about offering the 6-year-old pony a new life. But what she didn't know is that some time before she took possession, the mare suffered an unnoticed wound in one of her hind legs. Bacteria lurking in the soil had entered the wound and were rapidly multiplying and producing a powerful nerve toxin that progressively caused many muscles of the body to go into uncontrollable spasms.

From hind limb stiffness to death in a matter of days

Only four days after she took the pony home, the new owner noticed the mare was stiff and stilted in a hind leg. A vet was called, but because there was no fever and the pony was still bright and alert, the vet suspected a locking stifle joint, and treated the horse with anti-inflammatories. Over the next two days, the pony's condition worsened, and she was no longer able to stand or eat. The diagnosis of tetanus was made and the vet started emergency treatment with tetanus anti-toxin and high doses of antibiotics. The mare initially improved and was able to eat and even stood up. But then, the pony experienced a sudden cardiac or respiratory arrest and died.

Don't risk it – Is your horse protected?

As you can see, tetanus is serious and distressing. But fortunately, you can vaccinate your horse against tetanus with Equivac® T or Equivac® 2 in 1 to provide immunisation against tetanus and strangles (another potentially devastating infection). The Equine Infectious Diseases Advisory Board recommends vaccination against tetanus every twelve months to ensure your horse’s protection against the disease. To calculate the vaccination needs of your horse, click here.

Talk to your vet today about vaccinating against tetanus (and other serious diseases).

Contact your vet immediately if you suspect your horse has tetanus. Early treatment with tetanus anti-toxin is the only hope of survival.