The constant threat of tetanus

By Connie Orcutt • Published: August 1st, 2016
Category: Animal Airwaves

Tetanus has killed horses for hundreds of years, and it remains a threat today. The big difference is that nowadays horses can be protected against tetanus by a safe and effective vaccine.

The bacteria responsible for tetanus produce a toxin that attacks nerves. Because these bacteria can survive indefinitely in the environment, horses—and people—are always at risk of infection.

Tetanus isn’t contagious—that is, it can’t spread from horse to horse. Instead, it’s caused by environmental contamination of wounds. In horses, the most vulnerable sites are punctures—especially in the feet or deep muscles—cuts and surgical incisions. Other tissues at risk are the umbilicus in foals or reproductive tissues in mares.

Once tetanus strikes, horses very rarely recover. That’s why protection by vaccination is the obvious choice.