What is Rotavirus?

Rotavirus is an organism that is a major infectious source of equine diarrhoea, causing about 1 in 4 cases of diarrhoea in foals.1

When rotavirus enters the digestive system, the organism replicates and damages the lining of the intestines.2

It most commonly affects foals under the age of 6 months, especially if their mother has not been vaccinated against rotavirus.2

Signs include2

  • Diarrhoea – in its mild form, the foal may simply have soft faeces but, as the digestive system becomes damaged, the disease can progress until the foal has water-like diarrhoea
  • Depression
  • Dehydration, which if severe can result in death

Transmission of rotavirus occurs through direct contact with infected faeces, for example, if a foal eats or even licks infected droppings.2

Once a foal has been infected, it can shed the virus for up to 10 days2, and the virus then survive up to 9 months in the environment3

Minimising risk

There are steps you can take to minimise the risk of problems caused by rotavirus infection:

  • Vaccinate your breeding mares.2,4
  • Keep infected foals away from other young horses.4
  • Strict hygiene is vital – disinfect the affected stall, equipment and any clothing that has come into contact with the sick foal.4
  • Wear protective clothing when you come into contact with an affected horse, and either discard it afterwards or leave it in the affected stall.4 

You can vaccinate your pregnant mare against rotavirus with Duvaxyn® R, available from your vet. This inactivated vaccine stimulates the production of antibodies against equine rotavirus in colostrum and milk, helping to protect the foal from diarrhoea.

Your pregnant mare should have her first, second and third doses during the 8th, 9th and 10th months of pregnancy. For subsequent pregnancies, she will need a booster one month prior to foaling.

For more details about Duvaxyn® R and correct dosing information, visit the Products section of this site


  1. Australian Government Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. Rotavirus and equine diarrhoea. Equine Research News, July 2013.
  2. Equine rotavirus in horses. Available online: Accessed 27/8/13
  3. Bailey et al, Equine Rotaviruses – Current Understanding and Continuing Challenges, Veterinary Microbiology (2013)
  4. Dwyer RM. Control and prevention of foal diarrhea outbreaks. Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the AAEP 2001; Vol 47: 472–5.

Don't Wait to Vaccinate



Join Health 4 Horses Today
For A Healthier, Happier Horse

Stay up-to-date with the latest news on horse health and what's happening in our community, plus gain access to
our regular newsletter, exclusive deals and competitions and view extra video series footage of the Hendra
documentary: 'A safer tomorrow'.