The investigation of a chronic, seasonal dermatitis of horses in southwestern British Columbia is described. Typically the history indicated an insidious onset, followed by a gradual progression in the severity of the signs each year. Lesions appeared during the warmer months of the year and tended to regress during the winter. The clinical signs consisted of areas of pruritus and excoriation, affecting predominantly the ventral midline, mane and tailhead. In all cases corticosteroid therapy relieved the pruritus and allowed the lesions to heal.
The salient pathological findings were hyperkeratosis, spongiosis and a dermal infiltration of eosinophils together with mononuclear cells. These changes are typical of an allergic dermatitis, which has been recognized in many parts of the world as a hypersensitivity reaction to the bites of Culicoides spp. In this instance, the epidemiological findings relating to the geographic area, the local insect population and the distribution of lesions implicated Culicoides obsoletus as the etiological agent.
Horses; allergic dermatitis; Culicoides obsoletus; hypersensitivity; Ceratopogonidae
Horses form a unique and special part of their owners' lives and aged horses are no exception. This review considers the health and management of aged horses. In particular how owners manage and care for their aged horses, what diseases and conditions they suffer from and what factors affect their quality of life. As an aged horse reaches the end of its life, an owner will be faced with judging its quality of life and making the decision to end its suffering. The veterinary surgeon plays an essential role in supporting the owner in this process.
Horses form a unique and special part of their owners' lives and aged horses are no exception. This review considers the health and management of aged horses, including the role of the owner and their perceptions of aged horses, potential threats or risks to their welfare and finally, factors affecting quality of life and euthanasia of aged horses. Owners of aged horses are concerned about the health, welfare and quality of life of their aged animals. Yet surveys of management and preventive healthcare reflect that there may be some limitations to what owners are actually achieving in practice. They show declining management as horses age, particularly for the retired horse and insufficient appropriate preventive healthcare via veterinary surgeons. The veterinary surgeon plays an essential and influential role in preventive healthcare, management of diseases and disorders and ultimately in the decision making process for euthanasia of aged horses at the end of their lives. The value of aged horses should not be underestimated by veterinarians and others working with them and the continuing care of aged horses should be regarded with the same importance as the care of younger horses with more obvious monetary value.
geriatric; human-horse bond; health; management; welfare
There are no detailed, representative, horse-level data about equine management practices in different parts of Canada. To help address this, the demographics, management, and welfare of 312 nonracing horses in Prince Edward Island were examined in a randomized, horse-level survey during summer 2002. Owners completed a pretested questionnaire, and a veterinarian examined each horse. Owners were experienced caregivers and the horses were generally in good condition. Areas for improvement included parasite control, dental and hoof care, and tail docking. The mean fecal egg count was 428 eggs per gram; 76% of owners never removed manure from the pasture. Sixty-two percent of horses had never had a veterinary dental examination. Many horses had hoof defects (excessively long hooves, 26.8%; hoof wall breaks, 32.0%; and white line disease, 8.5%). Many (54.9%) draft horses had docked tails. These results suggest owners might benefit their horses by receiving education in aspects of equine care.
Insect bite hypersensitivity (IBH) is a chronic allergic dermatitis common in horses. Affected horses mainly react against antigens present in the saliva from the biting midges, Culicoides ssp, and occasionally black flies, Simulium ssp. Because of this insect dependency, the disease is clearly seasonal and prevalence varies between geographical locations. For two distinct horse breeds, we genotyped four microsatellite markers positioned within the MHC class II region and sequenced the highly polymorphic exons two from DRA and DRB3, respectively. Initially, 94 IBH-affected and 93 unaffected Swedish born Icelandic horses were tested for genetic association. These horses had previously been genotyped on the Illumina Equine SNP50 BeadChip, which made it possible to ensure that our study did not suffer from the effects of stratification. The second population consisted of 106 unaffected and 80 IBH-affected Exmoor ponies. We show that variants in the MHC class II region are associated with disease susceptibility (praw = 2.34 × 10−5), with the same allele (COR112:274) associated in two separate populations. In addition, we combined microsatellite and sequencing data in order to investigate the pattern of homozygosity and show that homozygosity across the entire MHC class II region is associated with a higher risk of developing IBH (p = 0.0013). To our knowledge this is the first time in any atopic dermatitis suffering species, including man, where the same risk allele has been identified in two distinct populations.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00251-011-0573-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Insect bite hypersensitivity; Summer eczema; ELA; MHC; Horse
Salivary proteins of Culicoides biting midges are thought to play a key role in summer eczema (SE), a seasonal recurrent allergic dermatitis in horses. The present study describes the identification, expression and clinical relevance of a candidate allergen of the North American midge Culicoides sonorensis. Immunoblot analysis of midge saliva revealed a 66 kDa protein (Cul s 1) that was bound by IgE from several SE-affected (SE+) horses. Further characterization by fragmentation, mass spectrometry and bioinformatics identified Cul s 1 as maltase, an enzyme involved in sugar meal digestion. A cDNA encoding Cul s 1 was isolated and expressed as a polyhistidine-tagged fusion protein in a baculovirus/insect cell expression system. The clinical relevance of the affinity-purified recombinant Cul s 1 (rCul s 1) was investigated by immunoblotting, histamine release testing (HRT) and intradermal testing (IDT) in eight SE+ and eight control horses. Seven SE+ horses had rCul s 1-specific IgE, whereas only one control animal had IgE directed against this allergen. Furthermore, the HRT showed rCul s 1 induced basophil degranulation in samples from seven of eight SE+ horses but in none of the control animals. rCul s 1 also induced immediate (7/8), late-phase (8/8) and delayed (1/8) skin reactivity in IDT on all SE+ horses that had a positive test with the whole body extract (WBE) of C. sonorensis. None of the control horses showed immediate or delayed skin reactivity with rCul s 1, and only one control horse had a positive late-phase response, while several non-specific late-phase reactions were observed with the insect WBE. Thus, we believe rCul s 1 is the first specific salivary allergen of C. sonorensis to be described that promises to advance both in vitro and in vivo diagnosis and may contribute to the development of immunotherapy for SE in horses.
Culicoides spp.; Summer eczema; Salivary proteins; Recombinant allergens; Immunoblotting; Histamine release test; Intradermal testing
In North America, there are few representative data about the effects of management practices on equine welfare. In a randomized survey of 312 nonracing horses in Prince Edward Island (response rate 68.4%), owners completed a pretested questionnaire and a veterinarian examined each horse. Regression analyses identified factors affecting 2 welfare markers: body condition score (BCS) and stereotypic behavior. Horses’ BCSs were high (mean 5.7, on a 9-point scale) and were associated with sex (males had lower BCSs than females; P < 0.001) and examination date (P = 0.052). Prevalences of crib biting, wind sucking, and weaving were 3.8%, 3.8%, and 4.8%, respectively. Age (OR = 1.07, P = 0.08) and hours worked weekly (OR = 1.12, P = 0.03) were risk factors for weaving. Straw bedding (OR = 0.3, P = 0.03), daily hours at pasture (OR = 0.94, P = 0.02), and horse type (drafts and miniatures had a lower risk than light horses; P = 0.12) reduced the risk of horses showing oral stereotypies. Some of these results contradict those of other studies perhaps because of populations concerned.
African horse sickness (AHS) is an equine disease endemic to Senegal. The African horse sickness virus (AHSV) is transmitted to the mammalian hosts by midges of the Culicoides Latreille genus. During the last epizootic outbreak of AHS in Senegal in 2007, 1,169 horses died from this disease entailing an estimated cost of 1.4 million euros. In spite of the serious animal health and economic implications of AHS, very little is known about determinants involved in transmission such as contact between horses and the Culicoides species suspected of being its vectors.
The monthly variation in host/vector contact was determined in the Niayes area, Senegal, an area which was severely affected by the 2007 outbreak of AHS. A horse-baited trap and two suction light traps (OVI type) were set up at each of five sites for three consecutive nights every month for one year.
Of 254,338 Culicoides midges collected 209,543 (82.4%) were female and 44,795 (17.6%) male. Nineteen of the 41 species collected were new distribution records for Senegal. This increased the number of described Culicoides species found in Senegal to 53. Only 19 species, of the 41 species found in light trap, were collected in the horse-baited trap (23,669 specimens) largely dominated by Culicoides oxystoma (22,300 specimens, i.e. 94.2%) followed by Culicoides imicola (482 specimens, i.e. 2.0%) and Culicoides kingi (446 specimens, i.e. 1.9%).
Culicoides oxystoma should be considered as a potential vector of AHSV in the Niayes area of Senegal due to its abundance on horses and its role in the transmission of other Culicoides-borne viruses.
Animal health; Suspected vectors; Culicoides oxystoma; Culicoides imicola; Population dynamics
Little is known about lay understanding and decision making in response to colic. Horse-owners/carers are key to identifying colic and initiating veterinary intervention. Understanding how owners think and act in relation to colic could assist veterinary surgeons in tailoring information about colic with the aim of improving colic outcomes.
A mixed methods approach was employed including qualitative in-depth interviews and a cross-sectional questionnaire. Qualitative data were analysed using Grounded theory to conceptualise processes involved in horse-owner management of colic. Following this, a cross-sectional survey was designed to test these concepts. Cluster analysis explored the role of the human-horse relationship upon colic management strategies.
Fifteen horse-owners with a range of colic experience participated in the interviews. A theoretical conceptual model was developed and described how horse-owners’ recognised, assessed and responded to colic. Three main management strategies were used including ‘wait and see’, ‘lay treatments’ and ‘seek veterinary assistance’. Actions in response to colic were moderated by owners’ experience of colic and interpretation of the severity of colic signs. A postal questionnaire gathered data from 673 horse-owners from the North-West of the UK. The majority (605, 89.9%) of respondents were female. Cluster analysis revealed 5 meaningful groups of horse-owners based upon assessment of questionnaire items on the human-horse relationship. These groups included 2 professional and 3 amateur owner typologies. There were differences in the responses to some questionnaire items among the identified groups.
This study describes lay understanding and management of colic among a population of horse-owners from the North-West of the UK. The information may serve as a basis upon which to tailor existing programmes designed to educate owners about colic management strategies, and may inform veterinarians’ interactions with horse-owners.
equine colic; horse-owners; sociology; mixed methods research; epidemiology; grounded theory; qualitative data
Crib-biting and windsucking (CBWS) behaviour in horses has been associated with increased risk of colic in general, recurrence of colic and specific forms of colic. The aims of the present study were to determine the prevalence of colic within a population of horses that display CBWS behaviour and to identify risk factors for colic.
Owners/carers of horses in the general UK equine population that display CBWS behaviour were invited to participate in a questionnaire-based survey about the management and health of these horses. Data were obtained for a number of variables considered to be possible risk factors for colic. The prevalence of colic was calculated and multivariable logistic regression was used to identify associations between horse- and management-level variables for two outcomes of interest: a history of colic ever and a history of colic in the previous 12 months.
Data were obtained for 367 horses. One or more episodes of colic had been observed in 130 horses (35.4%). A total of 672 colic episodes were reported and 13 colic episodes required surgical intervention in 12 horses. Where the horse/pony had been in that persons care over the previous 12 months (n=331), colic had been observed in 67 horses (20.2%) during that time. A total of 126 colic episodes were reported in the preceding 12 months of which veterinary attendance was required in 69 (54.8%) episodes. Increased duration of ownership, increased duration of stabling in the Autumn months (September-November), crib-biting/windsucking behaviour associated with eating forage and horses that were fed haylage were associated with increased risk of colic (ever). Increasing severity (frequency) of CBWS behaviour and increased duration of stabling in the Autumn were associated with increased risk of colic in the previous 12 months.
The prevalence of colic in a population of horses that display CBWS appeared to be relatively high. The results of this study can be used to identify horses that display CBWS who are at increased risk of colic and identifies areas for further research to determine if there are ways in which this risk might be reduced.
Understanding the influence of non-susceptible hosts on vector-borne disease transmission is an important epidemiological problem. However, investigation of its impact can be complicated by uncertainty in the location of the hosts. Estimating the risk of transmission of African horse sickness (AHS) in Great Britain (GB), a virus transmitted by Culicoides biting midges, provides an insightful example because: (i) the patterns of risk are expected to be influenced by the presence of non-susceptible vertebrate hosts (cattle and sheep) and (ii) incomplete information on the spatial distribution of horses is available because the GB National Equine Database records owner, rather than horse, locations. Here, we combine land-use data with available horse owner distributions and, using a Bayesian approach, infer a realistic distribution for the location of horses. We estimate the risk of an outbreak of AHS in GB, using the basic reproduction number (R0), and demonstrate that mapping owner addresses as a proxy for horse location significantly underestimates the risk. We clarify the role of non-susceptible vertebrate hosts by showing that the risk of disease in the presence of many hosts (susceptible and non-susceptible) can be ultimately reduced to two fundamental factors: first, the abundance of vectors and how this depends on host density, and, second, the differential feeding preference of vectors among animal species.
epidemiology; dilution effect; vector-borne disease; basic reproduction number; Culicoides
Virtually all horses are infected with helminth parasites. For some decades, the control of parasites of Swedish horses has been based on routine treatments with anthelmintics, often several times per year. Since anthelmintic resistance is becoming an increasing problem it is essential to develop more sustainable control strategies, which are adapted to different types of horse management. The aim of this study was to obtain information on practices used by Swedish horse owners for the control of endoparasites.
A questionnaire with 26 questions about management practices and parasite control routines was posted to 627 randomly selected horse establishments covering most types of horse management in Sweden.
The response rate was good in all categories of respondents (66–78%). A total of 444 questionnaires were used in the analyses. It was found that virtually all horses had access to grazing areas, usually permanent. Generally, pasture hygiene was infrequently practiced. Thirty-six percent of the respondents clipped or chain harrowed their pastures, whereas weekly removal of faeces from the grazing areas was performed by 6% of the respondents, and mixed or rotational grazing with other livestock by 10%. The number of anthelmintic treatments per year varied from 1–8 with an average of 3.2. Thirty-eight percent considered late autumn (Oct-Dec) to be the most important time for deworming. This finding, and an increased use of macrocyclic lactones in the autumn, suggests a concern about bot flies, Gasterophilus intestinalis. Only 1% of the respondents stated that faecal egg counts (FEC) were performed on a regular basis. The relatively high cost of FEC analyses compared to purchase of anthelmintics was thought to contribute to the preference of deworming without a previous FEC. From the study it was evident that all categories of horse owners took advice mainly from veterinarians.
The results show that routines for endoparasite control can be improved in many horse establishments. To increase the knowledge of equine endoparasite control and follow the recommendations for how to reduce the spread of anthelmintic resistance, a closer collaboration between parasitologists and veterinary practitioners is desirable.
This paper investigates the commonalities in ethnoveterinary medicine used for horses between Trinidad (West Indies) and British Columbia (Canada). These research areas are part of a common market in pharmaceuticals and are both involved in the North American racing circuit. There has been very little research conducted on medicinal plants used for horses although their use is widespread. The data on ethnoveterinary medicines used for horses was obtained through key informant interviews with horse owners, trainers, breeders, jockeys, grooms and animal care specialists in two research areas: Trinidad and British Columbia (BC). A participatory validation workshop was held in BC. An extensive literature review and botanical identification of the plants was also done. In all, 20 plants were found to be used in treating racehorses in Trinidad and 97 in BC. Of these the most-evidently effective plants 19 of the plants used in Trinidad and 66 of those used in BC are described and evaluated in this paper. Aloe vera, Curcuma longa and Ricinus communis are used in both research areas. More research is needed in Trinidad to identify plants that respondents claimed were used in the past. Far more studies have been conducted on the temperate and Chinese medicinal plants used in BC and therefore these ethnoveterinary remedies reflect stronger evidence of efficacy.
The African horse sickness epizootic in Senegal in 2007 caused considerable mortality in the equine population and hence major economic losses. The vectors involved in the transmission of this arbovirus have never been studied specifically in Senegal. This first study of the spatial and temporal dynamics of the Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) species, potential vectors of African horse sickness in Senegal, was conducted at five sites (Mbao, Parc Hann, Niague, Pout and Thies) in the Niayes area, which was affected by the outbreak.
Two Onderstepoort light traps were used at each site for three nights of consecutive collection per month over one year to measure the apparent abundance of the Culicoides midges.
In total, 224,665 specimens belonging to at least 24 different species (distributed among 11 groups of species) of the Culicoides genus were captured in 354 individual collections. Culicoides oxystoma, Culicoides kingi, Culicoides imicola, Culicoides enderleini and Culicoides nivosus were the most abundant and most frequent species at the collection sites. Peaks of abundance coincide with the rainy season in September and October.
In addition to C. imicola, considered a major vector for the African horse sickness virus, C. oxystoma may also be involved in the transmission of this virus in Senegal given its abundance in the vicinity of horses and its suspected competence for other arboviruses including bluetongue virus. This study depicted a site-dependent spatial variability in the dynamics of the populations of the five major species in relation to the eco-climatic conditions at each site.
Vector-borne disease; Insect vectors; Spatial and temporal dynamics; Light traps; Culicoides oxystoma; Culicoides imicola; Africa; Arbovirus; Orbivirus; Equids
The Icelandic horse is a pristine breed of horse which has a pure gene pool established more than a thousand years ago, and is approximately the same size as living and extinct wild breeds of horses. This study was performed to compare the length of the skeletal growth period of the "primitive" Icelandic horse relative to that reported for large horse breeds developed over the recent centuries. This information would provide practical guidance to owners and veterinarians as to when the skeleton is mature enough to commence training, and would be potentially interesting to those scientists investigating the pathogenesis of osteochondrosis. Interestingly, osteochondrosis has not been documented in the Icelandic horse.
The radiographic closure time of the appendicular growth plates was studied in 64 young Icelandic horses. The results were compared with previously published closure times reported for other, larger horse breeds. The radiographs were also examined for any signs of developmental orthopaedic diseases. In order to describe further the growth pattern of the Icelandic horse, the total serum alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity was determined and the height at the withers was measured.
Most of the examined growth plates were fully closed at the age of approximately three years. The horses reached adult height at this age; however ALP activity was still mildly increased over baseline values. The growth plates in the digits were the first to close at 8.1 to 8.5 months of age, and those in the regions of the distal radius (27.4 to 32.0 months), tuber olecrani (31.5 to 32.2 months), and the stifle (27.0 to 40.1 months) were the last to close. No horse was found to have osteochondrosis type lesions in the neighbouring joints of the evaluated growth plates.
The Icelandic horse appears to have similar radiographic closure times for most of the growth plates of its limbs as reported for large new breeds of horses developed during the past few centuries. It thus appears that different breeding goals and the intensity of breeding have not altered the length of the growth period in horses. Instead, it can be assumed that the pristine and relatively small Icelandic horse has a slower rate of growth. The appendicular skeleton of Icelandic horses has completed its bone growth in length at approximately 3 years of age, and therefore may be able to enter training at this time.
Five horses were presented because of a dermatitis of the forehead. Unlike previous reports, ventral midline dermatitis was not the major problem, and was present in only two of five cases. All five horses responded to levamisole therapy at a daily dosage of 5.5 g for one week. Owners were cautioned that repeat therapy may be necessary.
A questionnaire survey regarding endoparasite control practices in Danish horse herds was carried out in 1995. The participating veterinarians and herd owners were sampled using convenience and purposive sampling. In the analysis of risk factors for development of a high endoparasitic burden (>200 eggs per gram faeces) 903 horses were sampled and the analysis of the efficiency of a single anthelmintic treatment was based on 605 horses. The following factors had a significant effect on the endoparasitic burden: herd type, age of the horses, use of pasture rotation, anthelmintic treatment of horses visiting the herd, use of an adviser in the planning of endoparasite control and advice regarding pasture rotation. An interaction between pasture rotation and advice regarding pasture rotation was found, but due to high collinearity this was not reported. The factors influencing significantly on the reduction of the faecal egg count after a single anthelmintic treatment were the type of herd, the age of the horse, the drug used, and the anthelmintic-resistance-status of the herd. A negative effect of permanent pastures was observed. If pasture hygiene was performed on the advice of the veterinarian, the effect of a single anthelmintic treatment was less compared to a single anthelmintic treatment without any advice. An interaction between the treatment group and the resistance-status of the herd was found. Additional factors, normally accounted for, when endoparasites and anthelmintic resistance is discussed, were investigated, but not found significant in this study.
endoparasites; epidemiology; anthelmintic; resistance
Summer eczema, allergic dermatitis of the horse, was studied on 275 affected horses in Finland in 1997–2007. Features of the horses, clinical signs of the disease and owners' opinions of aggravating factors were recorded. Differences, especially, between two of the native Scandinavian horse breeds, the Finnhorse and the Icelandic horse, were evaluated. The study was based on clinical examination and information from the owners. Of the horses, 50% were Finnhorses, 26% Icelandic horses and 24% consisted of different breeds of ponies and other horses. Of the Finnhorses, 76% had summer eczema by the age of 5 years, but in the Icelandic horses born in Finland the average age at onset was 7 years. The vast majority of the horses, 75%, had moderate clinical signs, while 16% showed severe and 9% mild. The severity of clinical signs did not depend on the duration of the disease nor was it related to the age at onset. The only linkage to severity was the breed of the horse or import from Iceland; New Forest ponies and imported Icelandic horses showed severe clinical signs significantly more often than Finnhorses. Of the owners, 38% regarded insects as the only aggravating factor, 24% mentioned several simultaneous factors, including grass fodder and sunlight, while 22% could not specify any. In Finland, a typical horse breed suffering from summer eczema is the Finnhorse and the characteristics of the disease are mainly uniform with the other breeds affected. Equine summer eczema seems to be aggravated by various combinations of environmental factors.
African horse sickness (AHS) is an equine viral disease that is spread by Culicoides spp. Since the closely related disease bluetongue established itself in The Netherlands in 2006, AHS is considered a potential threat for the Dutch horse population. A vector-host model that incorporates the current knowledge of the infection biology is used to explore the effect of different parameters on whether and how the disease will spread, and to assess the effect of control measures. The time of introduction is an important determinant whether and how the disease will spread, depending on temperature and vector season. Given an introduction in the most favourable and constant circumstances, our results identify the vector-to-host ratio as the most important factor, because of its high variability over the country. Furthermore, a higher temperature accelerates the epidemic, while a higher horse density increases the extent of the epidemic. Due to the short infectious period in horses, the obvious clinical signs and the presence of non-susceptible hosts, AHS is expected to invade and spread less easily than bluetongue. Moreover, detection is presumed to be earlier, which allows control measures to be targeted towards elimination of infection sources. We argue that recommended control measures are euthanasia of infected horses with severe clinical signs and vector control in infected herds, protecting horses from midge bites in neighbouring herds, and (prioritized) vaccination of herds farther away, provided that transport regulations are strictly applied. The largest lack of knowledge is the competence and host preference of the different Culicoides species present in temperate regions.
A survival analysis was used to compare the culling rate of Icelandic horses due to the presence of radiographic and clinical signs of bone spavin. A follow-up study of 508 horses from a survey five years earlier was performed. In the original survey 46% of the horses had radiographic signs of bone spavin (RS) and/or lameness after flexion test of the tarsus. The horse owners were interviewed by telephone. The owners were asked if the horses were still used for riding and if not, they were regarded as culled. The owners were then asked when and why the horses were culled. During the 5 years, 98 horses had been culled, 151 had been withdrawn (sold or selected for breeding) and 259 were still used for riding. Hind limb lameness (HLL) was the most common reason for culling (n = 42). The rate of culling was low up to the age of 11 years, when it rose to 0.05 for horses with RS. The risk ratio for culling was twice as high for horses with RS compared with horses without RS and 5.5 times higher for culling because of HLL. The risk of culling (prognostic value) was highest for the combination of RS with lameness after flexion test, next highest for RS and lowest for lameness after flexion test as the only finding.
It was concluded that bone spavin affects the duration of use of Icelandic horses and is the most common cause of culling due to disease of riding horses in the age range of 7–17 years.
Icelandic horses; bone spavin osteoarthroses; survival analysis; questionnaire
African horse sickness is an economically highly important non-contagious but infectious Orbivirus disease that is transmitted by various species of Culicoides midges. The equids most severely affected by the virus are horses, ponies, and European donkeys; mules are somewhat less susceptible, and African donkeys and zebra are refractory to the devastating consequences of infection. In recent years, Bluetongue virus, an Orbivirus similar to African horse sickness, which also utilises Culicoides spp. as its vector, has drastically increased its range into previously unaffected regions in northern Europe, utilising indigenous vector species, and causing widespread economic damage to the agricultural sector. Considering these events, the current review outlines the history of African horse sickness, including information concerning virus structure, transmission, viraemia, overwintering ability, and the potential implications that an outbreak would have for Ireland. While the current risk for the introduction of African horse sickness to Ireland is considered at worst ‘very low’, it is important to note that prior to the 2006 outbreak of Bluetongue in northern Europe, both diseases were considered to be of equal risk to the United Kingdom (‘medium-risk’). It is therefore likely that any outbreak of this disease would have serious socio-economic consequences for Ireland due to the high density of vulnerable equids and the prevalence of Culicoides species, potentially capable of vectoring the virus.
African horse sickness; Culicoides spp.; Epizootic disease; Ireland
The immunological mechanisms explaining development of an allergy in some individuals and not in others remain incompletely understood. Insect bite hypersensitivity (IBH) is a common, seasonal, IgE-mediated, pruritic skin disorder that affects considerable proportions of horses of different breeds, which is caused by bites of the insect Culicoides obsoletus (C. obsoletus). We investigated the allergen-specific immune status of individual horses that had either been diagnosed to be healthy or to suffer of IBH. Following intradermal allergen injection, skin biopsies were taken of IBH-affected and healthy ponies and cytokine expression was determined by RT-PCR. In addition, allergen-specific antibody titers were measured and cytokine expression of in vitro stimulated, allergen-specific CD4 T-cells was determined. 24 hrs after allergen injection, a significant increase in mRNA expression of the type-2 cytokine IL-4 was observed in the skin of IBH-affected Shetland ponies. In the skin of healthy ponies, however, an increase in IFNγ mRNA expression was found. Analysis of allergen-specific antibody titers revealed that all animals produced allergen-specific antibodies, and allergen-specific stimulation of CD4 T-cells revealed a significant higher percentage of IFNγ-expressing CD4 T-cells in healthy ponies compared to IBH-affected ponies. These data indicate that horses not affected by IBH, in contrast to the so far established dogma, are not immunologically ignorant but have a Th1-skewed allergen-specific immune response that appears to protect against IBH-associated symptoms. To our knowledge this is the first demonstration of a natural situation, in which an allergen-specific immune skewing is protective in an allergic disorder.
Records from road transport of horses from Perth to Sydney over a two year period were analysed to explore the incidence of transport related issues and identify risk factors. Transportation resulted in health problems in 2.8% of the transported horses, and in fatalities in 0.24%. Journey duration and season were risk factors for the development of transport related health problems, while breed, sex and age did not predict disease or injury risk. Overall, this study provides statistics to inform policy development for the equine transport industry and enhance management of the transported horse.
Equine transportation is associated with a variety of serious health disorders causing economic losses. However; statistics on horse transport are limited and epidemiological data on transport related diseases are available only for horses transported to abattoirs for slaughter. This study analysed reports of transport related health problems identified by drivers and horse owners for 180 journeys of an Australian horse transport company transporting horses between Perth and Sydney (~4000 km) in 2013–2015. Records showed that 97.2% (1604/1650) of the horses arrived at their destination with no clinical signs of disease or injury. Based on the veterinary reports of the affected horses; the most common issues were respiratory problems (27%); gastrointestinal problems (27%); pyrexia (19%); traumatic injuries (15%); and death (12%). Journey duration and season had a significant effect on the distribution of transport related issues (p < 0.05); with a marked increase of the proportion of the most severe problems (i.e., gastrointestinal; respiratory problems and death) in spring and after 20 h in transit. Although not statistically significant; elevated disease rate predictions were seen for stallions/colts; horses aged over 10 years; and Thoroughbreds. Overall; the data demonstrate that long haul transportation is a risk for horse health and welfare and requires appropriate management to minimize transport stress.
transport; horse; journey duration; season; risk
Contingency planning for potential equine infectious disease outbreaks relies on accurate information on horse location and movements to estimate the risk of dissemination of disease(s). An online questionnaire was used to obtain unique information linking owner and horse location to characteristics of horse movements within and outwith Great Britain (GB).
This online survey yielded a strong response, providing more than four times the target number of respondents (1000 target respondents) living in all parts of GB. Key demographic findings of this study indicated that horses which were kept on livery yards and riding schools were likely to be found in urban environments, some distance away from the owner’s home and vaccinated against influenza and herpes virus. Survey respondents were likely to travel greater than 10 miles to attend activities such as eventing or endurance but were also likely to travel and return home within a single day (58.6%, 2063/3522). This may affect the geographical extent and speed of disease spread, if large numbers of people from disparate parts of the country are attending the same event and the disease agent is highly infectious or virulent. The greatest risk for disease introduction and spread may be represented by a small proportion of people who import or travel internationally with their horses. These respondents were likely to have foreign horse passports, which were not necessarily recorded in the National Equine Database (NED), making the location of these horses untraceable.
These results illustrate the difficulties which exist with national GB horse traceability despite the existence of the NED and the horse passport system. This study also demonstrates that an online approach could be adopted to obtain important demographic data on GB horse owners on a more routine and frequent basis to inform decisions or policy pertaining to equine disease control. This represents a reasonable alternative to collection of GB horse location and movement data given that the NED no longer exists and there is no immediate plan to replace it.
Equine movement; Location; Demography; Online questionnaire survey
Culicoides biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are important vectors of arboviruses in Africa. Culicoides oxystoma has been recently recorded in the Niayes region of Senegal (West Africa) and its high abundance on horses suggests a potential implication in the transmission of the African horse sickness virus in this region. This species is also suspected to transmit bluetongue virus to imported breeds of sheep. Little information is available on the biology and ecology of Culicoides in Africa. Therefore, understanding the circadian host-seeking activity of this putative vector is of primary importance to assess the risk of the transmission of Culicoides-borne pathogens. To achieve this objective, midges were collected using a sheep-baited trap over two consecutive 24-h periods during four seasons in 2012. A total of 441 Culicoides, belonging to nine species including 418 (94.8 %) specimens of C. oxystoma, were collected. C. oxystoma presented a bimodal circadian host-seeking activity at sunrise and sunset in July and was active 3 h after sunrise in April. Daily activity appeared mainly related to time periods. Morning activity increased with the increasing temperature up to about 27 °C and then decreased with the decreasing humidity, suggesting thermal limits for C. oxystoma activity. Evening activity increased with the increasing humidity and the decreasing temperature, comprised between 20 and 27 °C according to seasons. Interestingly, males were more abundant in our sampling sessions, with similar activity periods than females, suggesting potential animal host implication in the facilitation of reproduction. Finally, the low number of C. oxystoma collected render practical vector-control recommendations difficult to provide and highlight the lack of knowledge on the bio-ecology of this species of veterinary interest.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00436-015-4534-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Culicoides oxystoma; Host-seeking activity; Animal-baited trap; African horse sickness; Bluetongue; Senegal
Outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease of deer and of bluetongue began in British Columbia in August and October 1987 respectively and recrudescence of infection by both viruses was detected the following year in August. Weather records for up to 18 days before the initial outbreaks of disease, isolation of virus or seroconversion were examined to determine if the viruses could have been introduced by infected Culicoides carried on the wind. Data on temperature, rainfall, wind speed and direction and pressure together with backward trajectory analysis showed that there were suitable winds which could have introduced Culicoides infected with epizootic hemorrhagic disease of deer virus on 13 August 1987 (14 days before disease was observed), Culicoides infected with bluetongue virus on 1 October 1987 (7 days before virus was isolated and 13 days before disease in sheep) and Culicoides infected with bluetongue or epizootic hemorrhagic disease of deer viruses on 20 July 1988 (15 days before seroconversion was detected). The arrival on 13 August 1987 coincided with the passage of a cold front and rain and that on 1 October 1987 with a fall in temperature and calm winds. The source of the Culicoides before arrival could have been the Okanogan Valley as far south as the junction of the Okanogan and Columbia rivers in Washington, USA. Flight would have been at temperatures of 12.6 degrees C or higher and at heights up to 1.5 km.