my-cart-icon svg-my-account svg-arrow-next svg-arrow-prev

Common Equine Diseases and How to Go About Treatment

Posted by Country & Stable on 24th Apr 2023

Common Equine Diseases and How to Go About Treatment

Horses are beautiful and majestic animals, but they can also be prone to a variety of infectious equine diseases that can be passed from horse to horse or by a parasitic host.

As horse owners, it is essential to be aware of these diseases and the preventive methods of care in order to maintain the health of our horses.

Read this article to learn about the common diseases and illnesses that affect horses, the symptoms that can help you identify the illness, and how to go about the treatment of these illnesses.

1. Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA)

Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) is one of the most common diseases in horses, and it can have serious consequences if left untreated.

This infectious disease causes a lack of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the bloodstream, which can lead to fatigue, weakness, and even death in some cases. These signs and symptoms usually manifest anywhere from 7 to 30 days after the first viral contact.

Symptoms of EIA

The typical symptoms of EIA include

  • High fever
  • Lethargy (severe fatigue)
  • Anemia
  • Thrombocytopenia (lack of platelets)
  • Stocking up (swelling) of the lower legs and abdomen
  • Heavy bleeding on the gums

Treatment for EIA

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for EIA. If your horse is infected, you must permanently isolate or keep them 200 yards away from other horses.

Doing so will prevent a horsefly from biting an infected horse and then flying to another horse close by and infecting it.

2. Strangles (Streptococcus Equi)

The bacteria Streptococcus Equi are responsible for the infectious disease known as strangles. It is a contagious bacterial disease, and is typically spread through shared water sources and tack in horse farms.

Symptoms of Strangles

Strangles can cause a variety of unpleasant side effects including;

  • Fever
  • Mucus secretion
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Coughing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble swallowing

Treatment for Strangles

Treatment for strangles involves more supportive care. This includes making sure they eat and drink water and quarantining them on stall rest so that they may heal and prevent spreading bacteria.

Banamine, which is an anti-inflammatory, which an help them gain an appetite and bring their fever down. Additionally, your veterinary practitioner may prescribe antibiotics, such as penicillin, depending on how severe the disease is and whether abscesses have opened yet.

However, this can slow down the abscess maturation process. In this case, warm compresses can help abscesses mature faster if applied daily. Once it opens, your veterinarian will gently flush and cleanse the abscess to help drain the bacteria so that it cannot spread.

3. Equine Herpesviruses

In horses, equine herpesvirus type 4 most commonly manifests as respiratory illness. However, it has also been linked to abortion and neurologic disease.

Herpesvirus-1 is also seen in weanlings and yearlings, causing similar symptoms. Infected horses can spread the virus to others by their coughs and sneezes; the incubation period is four to six days.

Symptoms of Equine Herpesvirus Infection

Symptoms of equine herpesvirus-4 and equine herpesvirus-1 include the following;

  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge
  • Cough
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hind limb ataxia (incoordination)
  • Uveitis (inflammation of the eye)
  • Neurologic signs (including hind limb weakness and paralysis)
  • Recurrent abortion in pregnant mares

Treatment for Equine Herpesvirus Infection

Treatment for equine herpesvirus depends on the severity of the horse's condition. In less severe cases, the infection will only last a few weeks. The horse will only need to take anti-inflammatories and anti-pyretics such as flunixin meglumine and phenylbutazone.

Additionally, you must keep your horse fed, hydrated, and comfortable. If your horse isn't drinking water, intravenous fluids can be administered. You can also add antibiotics to their treatment to get rid of bacterial infections originating from viral infections.

In severe cases, the horse may need to be hospitalized, as they need extensive care. This is especially necessary for horses that have trouble standing. However, recovery may not always be possible. If the horse does recover, they should rest and gradually return to work.

4. Colic

Colic is a serious and potentially deadly horse disease that affects 10% of the equine population. Gas, intestinal impaction, eating too much grain, swallowing too much sand, and having parasites are all possible triggers.

Quick action is required if you suspect your horse has this illness. Monitor its temperature and heart rate, get it up and moving if you can, and then contact your vet as soon as you can.

Do not let the horse eat or drink until after speaking with the vet as this could make the situation worse.

Symptoms of Equine Colic

Colic in horses manifests itself in a number of ways, including;

  • Lack of interest in food
  • Kicking at its flank or stomach
  • Lying down or rolling on the ground
  • Moving excessively in an agitated state.
  • Tacky gums
  • Lack of manure
  • Passing dry or mucus (slime)-covered manure
  • Heart rate over 45 beats per minute

Treatment for Equine Colic

Medical treatment for colic includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Banamine to reduce pain and inflammation. Most horses respond well to this and recover within a few days.

However, in rare instances where medicine and treatments don't work, surgery may be necessary. In this case, recovery may take weeks to months.

5. Laminitis

Laminitis, A.K.A founder, is a painful and recurring condition that affects the tissues (laminae) attaching the hoof wall to the pedal bone in the hoof of horses, ponies, and donkeys.

This condition arises when the laminae do not receive enough blood, which causes inflammation and breaks down the connection between the hoof wall and the coffin bone.

Symptoms of Laminitis

Laminitis manifests itself in a variety of ways, some of which include;

  • Shuffling its feet
  • Lying down at an unusual or stops moving about
  • Transferring body weight on to the heels and hind legs
  • Strong digital pulse and hot hooves
  • Trembling, sweating and anxiety
  • Heart rate increase of 100 or more beats per minute.
  • Foul smelling manure with grain in it

Treatment for Laminitis

The first step in treating acute laminitis is to administer pain and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to control the pain. This will ensure their comfort and decrease inflammation in the hoof.

The infected horse should be provided with deep bedding and be on strict stall rest. This will help minimize rotation during a founder episode.

If the horse has mild founder, they will live a long and productive life with proper diet and hoof management.

However, in severe cases, the horse may experience life-long lameness. You can use NSAIDs for pain management, however, many choose euthanasia due to the horse's discomfort.


In conclusion, people who own horses should know about the common diseases that can affect them. It's crucial to get in touch with a vet immediately if you're worried about your horse's health.

Additionally, if you're looking for horse wellbeing products, Country & Stable offers many horse health products that will bring your horse comfort in their time of need.

Always seek advice from a veterinary professional should your horse become unwell. 

The contents and materials contained on are for educational and informational purposes only. “Content” is considered to be text, videos, images, and other materials contained on this website. The content in this article should not be considered a replacement for expert or veterinary advice. If you have questions or concerns about your horse, we always recommend you seek the advice of a qualified professional.