VETERINARY CHARITY’S NEW STUDY AIMS TO MINIMISE THE GLOBAL THREAT OF EQUINE DISEASE
AHT Call to Horse Owners – Act Now to Help Prevent Disease Outbreak
Infectious diseases, and their spread worldwide, are not only a human concern, but are a threat to our equines too. Last year the Animal Health Trust (AHT), reported 22 outbreaks of equine influenza and almost 3,000 laboratory samples tested positive for the respiratory disease Strangles, in the UK alone, but that is only a snapshot of the true status of disease, with many more cases being unreported or undiagnosed.
The Animal Health Trust, a Newmarket-based veterinary charity, is committed to the diagnosis and surveillance of many infectious diseases affecting horses, ponies and donkeys in the UK and overseas. Their new research project, collaborating with the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and the University of Nottingham, plans to help owners protect their horses, ponies and donkeys from infectious disease through increasing awareness, with the ultimate aim of improving nationwide horse health.
This three-year study, generously funded by The Horse Trust, hopes to improve the accessibility of guidelines available for horse owners to use in the control of infectious disease, as current published advice can seem complicated to follow, and may not always be realistic for individual equestrian premises and owners to undertake.
The study, conducted by veterinary surgeon Dr Caroline Hodgkinson during her PhD research, will work closely with vets and owners in Britain to produce recommendations that will be practical, effective and able to be tailored to individual requirements. Caroline not only has a professional but also a personal interest in horse health, as a previous horse owner and breeder of Suffolk Punches. “I developed a special interest in preventive medicine whilst studying for my veterinary degree and when this research opportunity arose, I had to get involved,” says Caroline “I believe owners and their horses are part of a wider equine community and therefore everyone can help to maintain equine health locally, nationally and even internationally. The spread of disease can occur rapidly and it is easy to be caught off guard, so we hope the results of our study can help give owners the best chance and the tools they need to be able to protect their own and other horses’ health.”
The first stage of the study requires owners of horses, ponies and donkeys to complete a detailed questionnaire about their management practices and yard environment, as well as their own experience of infectious disease control. In order to get a representative sample of horse owners, Caroline is aiming to receive at least 1,000 completed questionnaires. Veterinary practices participating in this new research study will be inviting their clients to sign up for the survey. Licensed riding schools and equestrian premises throughout Britain will also be invited to take part. All horse owners are eligible to participate, whether or not they have experience of infectious disease, and all information provided will be vital for the future control of these diseases.
To play your part in reducing the threat of equine infectious diseases, visit: http://www.aht.org.uk/protectionthroughpartnership