Infections In Horses

Infection in horses results in inflammation along with a rise in temperature either locally or throughout the body (fever). Good nursing care is more important than anything else we can do medically. Treatment should always be based on an accurate determination of the cause of infection.
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Infections mean that a foreign agent has invaded the body. This can be bacteria, virus, parasite, fungus or toxins. In response, the body mounts a defense using its’ immune system which is very complex. In fact, how it actually works is way beyond me because it is all microscopic.

But I can say this. You and your horses’ bodies are constantly under attack. Think of it this way. If it’s not supposed to be inside your body, it will be escorted out. This is why I LOVE an abscess. This is your body’s way of escorting out the bad guys.

We all have had a splinter get under our skin. If left, our body first walls it off so it doesn’t get further into the body. Then it softens the skin above it and it dissolves the splinter with white blood cells causing puss to fill the forming abscess. Finally, the splinter is pushed out of the body. Absolutely beautiful because we didn’t have to do anything include think.

Did you know that there is a tube running through your body? It starts at your mouth and ends at your anus. What is INSIDE the tube is OUTSIDE the body. The food we place into this tube needs to be broken down to molecules and it is those molecules that are transported across the gut wall. This process falls under the definition of something outside the body trying to get in. Sure enough, an inflammatory response is started but luckily, most molecules are recognized by our immune system and the foreign substance is allowed in. But there is a cost if the food is not “normal” because energy is spent and and there is not enough energy left to utilize the food. Instead, the food is stored as fat in the belly. This is why in lab studies, rats kept on a low energy diet live longer.

Here are a few things to remember about infections:

  • Infections are fought off every second of the day using an incredibly effective immune system located in our saliva, tears, lungs, gut wall, and skin. Every port of entry is covered.
  • Antibiotics help kill bacteria only.
  • Antifungals kill fungi only.
  • There are no antivirals per sey
  • The 3 hour rule means clean the wound thoroughly before 3 hours passes to prevent the bacteria from grabbing a hold and creating a stubborn infection. Wash wounds immediately with soap and water.

Future topics to be covered

  • Strangles
  • Lice
  • Equine Herpes Virus (EHV)
  • Influenza
  • Salmonella
  • and more



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