The dangers of mosquitoes can affect all that we love, our families, our children, our dogs and cats and yes even our hoofed companions, our horses. The mosquito, even though tiny, is one of worlds deadliest predators. Searching the world feeding on anything that breathes, the mosquito that bites you or your horse may be carrying a mosquito-borne illness with it as well.
Horses come under the classification called Equines. Equines include the horse, mule, donkey, zebra, miniature horse and pony. There are two prevalent mosquito-borne diseases that can infect our equine friends, West Nile Fever and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Eastern Equine Encephalitis( also know as EEE or “sleeping sickness”) was first diagnosed in 1831 when 75 horses perished in Massachusetts from the illness. This virus was first isolated from the brain of a horse infected with EEE in 1933.
Though rare, there has been reported cases of EEE in humans. In 1938 the first confirmed human cases of the disease were identified when 30 children died as a result of the illness in the northeastern United States. There is no specific treatment for EEE in humans or horses. The dangers posed and possibility of contraction are much greater for equines than to humans.
Symptoms of Eastern Equine Encephalitis are usually prevalent within 5 days of a horse being bitten by an infected mosquito. Initially the horse will seem depressed and quiet, this is why it is called “sleeping sickness” among veterinarians and those in the horse industry. Symptoms will progress to impaired vision, circling and wandering aimlessly ,head pressing and rubbing, an irregular staggery gait, inability to swallow, paralysis, convulsions and eventually death.
Even though the illness is rarely seen in humans, EEE is on the rise among horses. The threat is real and horse owners need to educate themselves on how to prevent the illness. Common sense precautions such as safe stabling practices and eliminating sources of standing water and moisture in and around the horses environment are the first safeguard against the disease. Setting up a misting system of Pyrethrum around the barn and in each stall is also recommended. Misting systems such as those used in the prevention of mosquitoes in the barn, are also now available for home use for people as well. Mosquito Squad of the North Shore offers this same misting system for barn and home use. The pyrethrum mist that is used in these systems is safe for humans and animals, but toxic to mosquitoes.
Most importantly your horse should be vaccinated to prevent the disease, since there is no treatment for a horse already infected with EEE, vaccinations are essential to the prevention of the disease. The EEE Vaccine is given in two doses, ask your veterinarian about the appropriate vaccination schedule for your horse.
If you have horses and would like to learn more about our misting systems, or would just like to learn more about keeping mosquitoes out of your living areas, give Mosquito Squad of the North Shore a call. We can make sure you and your horse ride safely off into the sunset! (978) 887-1177.