Tuesdays with Tony
All the buzz around the clinic is the recent outbreak of Vesicular Stomatitis. This was a new one to me, I do not recall ever hearing the docs talk about it before. I suppose it is possible I was off galavanting around outside when it was discussed, but my cat hearing is usually pretty keen when it comes to listening to the diseases the docs talk about. So when I heard them talking about it the other day, I felt some research was necessary so I could pass on the information to my adoring fans.
What is Vesicular Stomatitis?
Vesicular Stomatitis is a viral disease that affects livestock including horses, ruminants, and pigs. The virus causes ulcer-like lesions on the mouth, feet, and udders. Lesions are painful and can lead to anorexia, mastitis, and even laminitis.
Why am I telling you all about this disease when the outbreak has not affected horses in Florida? Well, there are a few reasons, the first one being that Vesicular Stomatitis is a reportable disease. What does that mean? That means that if your horse develops ulcers, vesicles, or erosions around their mouth, feet, or on their udders, and the docs look at them and suspect vesicular stomatitis, they must call the state and federal veterinarian and inform them of the case. This will lead to facilities being quarantined and movement of animals will be restricted.
The next reason we need to talk about vesicular stomatitis is the fact that animals are transported all the time. While we have not seen a case of vesicular stomatitis yet in Florida, it does not mean that an animal from another state where an outbreak has occurred may not enter Florida and spread the virus. As a horse owner, it is your responsibility to monitor your horses, check them for lesions, watch for changes in behavior and appetite, and be aware of new animals coming on to the property where your horse is located. I am available for “cat-scans” of any new animals, just bring them to the clinic and I will perform my world famous Tony cat-scans. While you’re here, you could have one of my docs check out the new member of your farm.
Yet another reason we need to talk about vesicular stomatitis is that, while it’s not a deadly disease in and of itself, it can lead to complications that may lead to death and it can look very much like other diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease. If left undetected, vesicular stomatitis can restrict international trade and can cause widespread Foot and Mouth Disease among the livestock in the US.
Finally, we need to discuss vesicular stomatitis because it is zoonotic. I am a pretty smart kitty, but I had to look up what zoonotic means. It means that the virus that causes vesicular stomatitis can be spread from animals to people resulting in people becoming ill.
As if bugs were not pesky enough and didn’t cause us enough trouble, we can officially add spreading vesicular stomatitis to the list of annoying things bugs do. Everything from sandflies, black flies, and culicoides can spread disease. Once an animal develops a lesion, the insects feed on the lesions or secretions from the lesions and becomes infected with the virus. The virus is then spread to other animals via the insects. Once an animal or herd of animals is infected, the virus is easily spread from animal to animal by direct contact. All I know is, if any other animals come near me with lesions on their mouth, they will get the claws! Feed/water buckets, milking machines and other farm equipment can also spread the virus. As I said before, the virus is zoonotic, so people can become infected by coming in contact with lesions or secretions from the lesions as well as insect bites.
Vesicular stomatitis is characterized by vesicles, papules, erosions, and ulcers around the mouth, feet, udders and prepuce. Occasionally, a fever may be noted but has usually resolved before the animal is examined by a veterinarian. Lesions typically begin as blisters that range in sizes and may cover the lips, tongue and palate of the animal. Blisters burst and become painful erosions and ulcers. These lesions can lead to anorexia, refusal to drink, and subsequent colic.
If lesions develop on feet, they usually develop as blisters along the coronary band which can lead to lameness, laminitis, and even sloughing of hooves. Lesions can affect milk production, and lead to weight loss and secondary infections. Vesicular stomatitis is not considered a deadly disease but secondary ailments can lead to the death of affected animals.
In order to diagnose vesicular stomatitis, the virus must be obtained directed from fluid found in the blisters before the burst, swabs of ulcers/erosions, and skin cells that form the blisters. If you notice any of these lesions on your horse, you will want to get him/her seen by one of my docs as soon as possible. They will want to sedate your horse and possibly perform a local anesthetic to the lesions prior to obtaining a sample from the lesion. They will also pull some blood to sample.
Once they get their samples they will send it off to the lab for analyzing. Those super smart, sciencey people at the lab will run tests on the sample to isolate the virus that causes vesicular stomatitis. Once the virus is isolated the lab will let my docs know, the state and federal veterinarians will be notified and quarantine protocols will be put in place if not already in place.
Like all viruses, there is no definitive treatment. All treatment is symptomatic. This includes cleansing of the lesions with a mild antiseptic, topical protection from bugs, and offering softened feeds. The docs will also likely prescribe pain medications such as bute or banamine. Typically antibiotics are not required for viruses, they just have to run their course. However, if secondary bacterial infections occur, my docs may also prescribe an antibiotic for your horse. Just remember, do not use these medications unless one of my docs tells you to. Boy, are they bossy sometimes!
The best way to prevent the spread of vesicular stomatitis is to isolate affected animals from unaffected animals. This includes moving affected animals to a separate location on the farm. It also involves restricting movement of any animals onto or off of the farm until quarantine is lifted by the state or federal veterinarian, which is typically 21 days after all lesions have healed.
Sanitation is key. Disinfection of feed and water buckets, farm equipment, and milking equipment should be performed daily to prevent the spread of disease. There has been some research that found that animals that are kept stabled during an outbreak tend to heal quickly and spread less disease. As always, insect control is key. If you want to learn more about insect control, be sure to come out to the clinic on Thursday at 6:30 pm for our Summertime Blues Seminar where my docs will discuss all the pesky things we deal with all summer long, including bugs. As a bonus you’ll get to visit yours truly and I could really use some extra pets these days.
Until next time,
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Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!