Putting preventive measures in place to keep animals healthy has been a long-standing and successful practice on Canadian farms. Biosecurity planning helps to ensure that practices routinely carried out on your farm are beneficial to animal health.
Best practices in disease prevention include a combination of following a vaccination plan and taking biosecurity preventative measures on your property, while traveling, at events, and when caring for your horse. Suggested biosecurity protocols differ depending on the situation and location.
These preventative measures are vital to maintaining the health of all horses regardless of their use.
Prevention is Key
Does the equine industry face high biosecurity risks? Yes! The transient nature of the equine industry is generally high, so practicing and incorporating biosecurity measure in to everyday routine is critical to reduce risks. Pay mindful attention when attending cattle events with your horse or commingling as horses can transmit disease such as foot-and-mouth disease to other livestock.
A few things that everyone can do to help prevent the spread of disease:
Optimize Resistance to Disease
Vaccinate. The first step to prevention is to keep your horse on a vaccination program that takes into account his/her job (pleasure horse, show animal, working animal, breeding animal, companion), general health status (age, history of illness, etc.), amount of travel, and location (some regions pose more risk of disease than others). This vaccination program should be discussed and implemented with your veterinarian.
Reduce Stress. Stress can compromise the horse’s immune systems and make him more susceptible to infection. Happy horses are more likely to be healthy horses. Make sure the housing and turnout offer the best possible options for your horses.
Optimize Nutrition. Good nutrition keeps your horse strong and healthy and ensures the horse has a better chanced at fighting off possible infections.
Practice Biosecurity. Use all resources to determine what aspects of your horses’ daily lives that put them at risk for disease and establish a plan for reducing those risks.
Limit horse-to-horse and horse-to-human interaction. This one is easier said than done given the gregarious nature of the horse but is vital to horse health. Horses and humans can be carriers for the pathogens that cause disease. Establish groups of horses on your facility to reduce intermingling and encourage all humans to avoid interacting with multiple animals without disinfecting between contact.
Equine biosecurity links and resources
National Biosecurity Standards (CFIA)
Codes of Practice
Biosecurity resources and links
Biosecurity for Horse Owners (Equine Guelph)
Determine the risk of infectious disease spread Biosecurity Risk Calculator (Equine Guelph)
Biosecurity (Alberta Equestrian Federation)
The Basics of Infection Control - whiteboard video about the basics and answers: What are the differences between bacteria and viruses? How are they spread? What can you do to prevent them? (Equine Guelph)
How are diseases transmitted? (Equine Disease Communication Center)
Biosecurity, A Road Map To Your Horse's Health (Alberta Equestrian Federation)
What Horse Owners Should Do During the First 30 Minutes of a Suspected Infectious Disease Outbreak (Equine Disease Communication Center)
Isolation/Quarantine (Equine Disease Communication Center)
Don’t Bring Anything Home with You! Travelling Horse Checklist (Equine Guelph)