Tuesdays with Tony

This week let’s talk Herpes. We’ve all got it in some form, and we all got it the day we were born from our mothers. Why, you ask, am I discussing herpes on a horse blog? Well you horse people have to make things complicated, and instead of calling it herpes, you call it rhinopneumonitis. As a straightforward kind of cat, I never understand why you humans make the world more complicated. Speaking of complicated: rhinopneumonitis is really, really complicated! Read on for some Tony Truth.


The Wide World of Herpes


There are a whole lot of strains of herpes. There’s at least eight human strains, seven horse versions, and apparently cats are weird since I could only find one version we get. I think cats stop at perfection, so that’s why we only get one version. Anyway, back to horses. Why does it matter that there’s a bunch of strains? Because they all do something a little different. In horses, most of the versions cause short-lived respiratory signs. Fever, runny nose and eyes, and not feeling so good. One strain is just an immune suppressor as far as scientists can tell, and a couple strains are still unsolved mysteries. 


The gift that sticks around


All herpes, cat, dogs, human, horse, pig, you name it, stay forever. Once you get them, you got them, and there’s no making them go away. “WHAT?” you say. That’s right. Herpes is a master of immune system trickery. Through ways not completely understood, these viruses hang out in nerves undetected by the host’s immune system. They can stay that way for years!! What triggers it? Stress. Now that’s a vague word, stress. You may wonder what a cat (or horse) has to stress about. Will our staff be on time to feed us? Will our accommodations be up to our standards? Will I get to sleep the appropriate 18 hours today? Turns out these types of stresses can make herpes rear its ugly head. Know when all those stresses happen in the horse world? At a horse show. Really, anytime your horse gets on a trailer for longer than 2 hours. You heard that right, 2 hours. There’s a scary statistic for you!

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

What’s Rhino do?


Yeah, yeah I switched the name from herpes to rhino. That’s because you horse people call it rhino. I guess I can’t throw stones too far (but I’m a cat, so I’ll try) since the cat herpes is called feline viral rhinotracheitis. Cats and horses share the most common symptoms of a herpes viremia (that’s the scientific name for herpes coming out of its nerve hibernation). Fevers, runny noses and eyes, and not feeling so hot are the most common signs of rhino. It lasts 2-3 days, the immune system says “Whoa, I let that rhino get a little wild,” and then it works to corral them back in the nerves. However, sometimes the strain is particularly good at making lots of copies of itself very quickly, or causing havoc to the lining of the blood vessels. When that happens, it can cause abortions in pregnant mares, and/or severe, even life threatening neurologic disease.


Great. How do I make it go away?

Vaccinate. I can hear you humans now. You’re asking your computer screen, “Tony said the virus never goes away, so why should I vaccinate?” Because I’m a cat, and I said so, and humans should do as I say. Also, vaccination for rhino helps protect all the other horses your horse comes in contact with. Let’s say your horse gets stressed. I’m being hypothetical here. I know your horse would never get stressed, but follow me. The rhino virus takes advantage of this to come out of hibernation, and replicate like crazy. If your horse is appropriately vaccinated, the immune system quickly identifies the virus, and stops the party. Viola! Lots less virus to infect other horses with. Now, being a human, you are thinking selfish thoughts. “I’m not giving this vaccine. It won’t even help MY horse.” If everyone thought that way, you guys would have a world full of feverish, runny-nose horses. Don’t be selfish. Vaccinate. 

Rhinopneumonitis isn’t a straight-forward vaccine schedule. Lots of things depend on your horse, your farm, and your horse’s lifestyle. Know who’s the best in the entire world at getting your vaccine schedule right? My Docs. Listen to the schedule they set up for you. It’s a good plan.

Not enough info for you? Subscribe to my blog below, and I’ll drop wisdom straight into your Inbox every week. Still need more? Check out the human’s podcast: Straight From the Horse Doctor’s Mouth. It’s loaded with horse knowledge! 

Until next week,


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!

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