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Key Facts About Tetanus

To ensure your horse’s health is maintained it is important to vaccinate your horse against tetanus. Below are the answers to some of the frequently asked questions about equine tetanus.

How is tetanus spread?

Tetanus is a disease caused by a bacteria (Clostridium tetani) which is found in the soil. The bacteria enter the body through wounds, with punctures of the sole being a common route of infection. The bacteria then cause disease by producing toxins that affect the nervous system.

Tetanus is not contagious and therefore cannot be passed from one horse to another.

The bacteria are found in the soil, with a punctured sole being a common cause of infection.
The bacteria are found in the soil, with a punctured sole being a common cause of infection.

What are the signs of equine tetanus?

Signs of equine tetanus include:

  • Muscle stiffness resulting in a ‘rocking horse’ stance and ‘lock-jaw’
  • Difficulty moving and eating
  • Protrusion of the third eyelid
  • Seizures
  • Horses with a tetanus infection become seriously ill very quickly and in many cases the disease is fatal despite all attempts at treatment.

Can my horse die of tetanus?

Unfortunately in the majority of cases the disease proves to be fatal.

How is tetanus treated?

Treatment involves administering large repeated doses of tetanus antitoxin to help bind the circulating toxins and large doses of penicillin. Other treatments are largely supportive and involve the use of sedatives, muscle relaxants, fluid replacement, wound debridement and slings.

Treatment is expensive, labour intensive and often unrewarding and affected horses are often euthanised on welfare grounds.

How do I stop my horse getting tetanus?

Fully vaccinated horses are able to neutralise the toxin before it can cause ill effects and thus disease is prevented. Please contact your vet to discuss vaccination of your horse.


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