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Botulism

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  • Botulism

    Over the past few years, there have been quite a few (I'm guessing at least 8) deaths from botulism in our county. They mainly occur towards the end of winter. The horses have all been at different locations, and have been fed feed from different sources.

    I live in the high desert, so our winters are wetter than the rest of the year. Horses are usually being fed hay this time of year, sometimes in corrals on the ground.

    I know that dead animals in the hay when baled can be a source, as can feeds like silage. What other things should you look out for? I know there is also a vaccine, but it only covers certain varieties. Is it something that might be a good idea to do anyways? Are there any risks associated with the vaccine?

    I'd be willing to vaccinate my horses, if there's a chance it might help... but I'm also looking for other management methods to help reduce my risk. Should I not feed them on the ground?

  • #2
    Botulism is an anaerobic bacteria, so it thrives in moist, dark conditions. If your horse is eating dry, fluffy hay, this is not a botulism friendly environment.

    The vaccine does have a higher risk of side-effects because of its adjuvent. Or however you spell that word. I looked into the vaccine this year, but after talking to my vet, who works hard to stay well-informed, I decided it was not necessary as conditions at our farm are not conducive to the growth of the bacteria.
    Life doesn't have perfect footing.

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    • #3
      You're right that the vaccine is only effective against Botulism C - carcass-type.

      I would guess that you see a higher incidence towards the end of a wet Winter because horses may be nibbling on hay that has been laying on the wet ground for long enough, maybe buried for a bit, then resurfaces..
      ______________________________
      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

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      • Original Poster

        #4
        Can the soils be the source?

        Last year one of the ranches sent in hay samples, and they were not able to detect any sign of botulism in those samples. I understand that it is really difficult to test for, and that the problem feed may already have been fed... so that doesn't necessarily rule it out.

        It seems that the beginning of the thaw is when there are cases reported... I'm just trying to figure out what can be done to reduce the chance of horses contracting it.

        My hay has always been good... but now I'm a little hesitant to feed "bottom bales" that have had some damage and just the outside of the bales. These are the 1200 pound rectangular bales that are more common than small bales in this area.

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        • #5
          My vet explained that it can also be found in ground water that bubbles up during a thaw like at the end of winter.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by JB View Post
            You're right that the vaccine is only effective against Botulism C - carcass-type.
            That is not correct. The vaccine is for Type B only...the type that causes Shaker Foal Syndrome. The primary use for the vaccine is for broodmares before foaling to protect the foal through the colostrum.

            Type C is the most likely variety for an adult horse to get. As horses mature, they acquire some immunity from Type B. Most often the vaccine is only used for adult horses (other than broodmares) in areas with a high rate of Type B botulism spores in the soil.

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            • Original Poster

              #7
              hmmmm... some reading I did on The Horse says that type A is the most common type in the Northwest... and it's typically found in contaminated forages.

              A lot of horses out here eat hay year round, that's why it's a little suspicious to me that we're only seeing cases in the late winter/early spring.

              Very scary stuff!

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              • #8
                Originally posted by quarters n paints View Post
                Can the soils be the source?
                Botulism spores are everywhere in soil


                My hay has always been good... but now I'm a little hesitant to feed "bottom bales" that have had some damage and just the outside of the bales. These are the 1200 pound rectangular bales that are more common than small bales in this area.
                I wouldn't feed a bale that had been sitting on dirt. That's a better setup for botulism to form

                Originally posted by Daydream Believer View Post
                That is not correct. The vaccine is for Type B only...the type that causes Shaker Foal Syndrome. The primary use for the vaccine is for broodmares before foaling to protect the foal through the colostrum.
                You're right, I knew that, I don't know why I used C!
                ______________________________
                The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

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                • #9
                  Fwiw, the only vac i have ever had a neurological reaction to was a botulism vac.
                  "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                  ---
                  The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by JB View Post
                    You're right, I knew that, I don't know why I used C!
                    No worries..I figured it was just a mistake.

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