Before Traveling, Take Horse-Health Precautions

Biosecurity measures and immunomodulators can help limit the risk of upper respiratory disease.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Zoetis

Events are prime places for horses to spread infectious diseases. It’s common to hear reports of disease outbreaks at horse shows. If you go on the road, taking simple measures to help protect your horse could mean the difference between coming home with a blue ribbon or coming home with a sick horse.

Contagious diseases endanger the well-being of horses, posing financial risk and creating anxiety for the horse owner. Horses that travel are sometimes exposed to less-than-ideal conditions, such as enclosed spaces, poor ventilation, fluctuating temperature and co-mingling with other horses. That’s on top of the stress of travel, which can weaken a horse’s immune system and can increase the risk of equine herpesvirus infection.

Equine herpesvirus Type 1 (EHV-1) and Type 4 (EHV-4) are associated with four different EHV syndromes. EHV-4 is predominantly associated with respiratory disease, while EHV-1 can cause respiratory disease, as well, and lead to abortion, neonatal foal death and the more serious and sometimes fatal neurologic syndrome.

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To help guard your horse against a potentially fatal disease, check out the biosecurity poster from Zoetis and take proper measures when stabling your horse at a public event, including:

    • Strip out old bedding and clean stalls with a detergent and disinfectant.
    • Limit contact with other horses or humans by putting a drape over the front of the horse’s stall or barn breezeway.
    • Don’t allow horses to touch noses.
    • Make sure handlers use a hand sanitizer each time they handle a horse.
    • Instruct visitors not to touch or feed the horse.
    • Don’t share tack or equipment.

Biosecurity doesn’t stop there. Before leaving the show grounds, clean and disinfect tack, boots, equipment and grooming supplies. Once at home, change your clothes and boots prior to handling resident horses. Isolate any returning horses from your resident horses for 14 days and monitor for clinical signs of an infectious disease.

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Before you and your horse go into these high-risk settings, consider using an immunomodulator to help boost your horse’s innate immune system. Typically, an adaptive immune system response takes seven to 14 days to produce antibodies against the infectious agent.1-3 But since an immunomodulator activates an innate immune system response - a response that is rapid, short-lived and nonspecific - it helps limit the severity of disease until the adaptive immune system has time to target infectious agents.1-3

ZYLEXIS?, an inactivated (killed) Parapox ovis virus, can help stimulate your horse’s immune response prior to stressful events, aiding in the reduction of equine upper respiratory disease associated with EHV-1 and/or EHV-4 infections. ZYLEXIS is recommended as a course of three single-dose intramuscular injections on days 1, 2 and 9, with the first dose administered shortly before your horse is in a stressful situation (such as traveling, showing and boarding) or during subsequent disease episodes.

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Additionally, be sure your horses are current on their vaccinations, whether you are traveling or at home. Vaccines, including WEST NILE-INNOVATOR®, FLUVAC INNOVATOR®, PINNACLE® I.N. and PNEUMABORT-K®, are available to help protect your horses against disease. Be sure to talk with your veterinarian before starting any vaccination or immunomodulator program.

You can’t always prevent horses from contracting upper respiratory disease, but you can help their chance of staying well by taking biosecurity measures and administering an immunomodulator to help support their immune system. After you’ve invested time and money preparing for that big event, don’t let your stressed horse become a sick horse.

Learn more about ZYLEXIS at Find helpful resources on horses with the EQStable™ app on Learn more about Zoetis by visiting Follow us on Facebook® at

1 Mayr A. Development of a non-immunising, paraspecific vaccine from attenuated pox viruses: a new type of vaccine. New Microbiol 2003;26(1):7–12.
2 Weber O, Siegling A, Friebe A, et al. Inactivated parapoxvirus ovis (Orf virus) has antiviral activity against hepatitis B virus and herpes simplex virus. J Gen Virol 2003;84(Pt 7):1843-1852.
3 Friebe A, et al. Immunomodulatory effects of inactivated parapoxvirus ovis (Orf virus) on human peripheral immune cells: induction of cytokine secretion in monocytes and Th1-like cells. J Virol 2004;78(17):9400-9411.

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Before you and your horse go into these high-risk settings, consider using an immunomodulator to help boost your horse’s innate immune system.