So there ya have it folks: our horses have equine influenza. NOT strangles, and not EHV. I didn't even know horses got the flu, but yep, they do - and it happens to be highly contagious and spreads quite rapidly. (To recap: 9 sick out of 30 horses in six days; 3/4 herds affected)
This viral infection is characterized by fevers from 103-106*F, a dry harsh-sounding cough, clear nasal and eye discharge, swollen lymph nodes, lethargy and loss of appetite. Blood tests and nasal swabs can confirm the diagnosis. It has a relatively short incubation period - tho reports vary on this. My research found sources claiming the incubation is only 1-5 days, but our vet says it can take as long as 2 weeks. Thus the 2 week quarantine.
The virus itself isn't particularly alarming - except that it damages the respiratory tract, including lung tissue and the windpipe. This makes the horse susceptible to secondary bacterial infections, which explains why antibiotics helped the horses in recovery even tho the primary infection was viral. These secondary infections ARE worrisome, as the risk for developing pneumonia is high without proper precautions.
Treatment is rest and support. The rule of thumb is one week of rest for every day of fever, with a three week minimum. This period of rest allows for the respiratory tissue to repair itself - a process that can take up to 30 days. The return to work should be gradual - tho hand walking the sick horse is recommended to improve circulation.
Isabel's fever broke on the second day and her cough is almost gone - good signs, I think. She'll stay on stall rest through this week on vet's orders, then back out to the field 24/7. She's generally not one for a lot of play, so I'm not worried about her over doing it out there. Quarantine lasts one more week following that, and then we'll start back under saddle - giving her exactly three weeks of rest. The rides will start with light arena work to assess how she's doing, then short and sweet trails - gradually building up to include more hills. I will probably aim for frequent rides - maybe 5-6 days a week - but very low intensity.
We will see how she does - and what the vet thinks of her condition when she's cleared for turnout. I'm hoping her general fitness (even tho she wasn't exactly in peak condition) will make getting back to full work fairly straight forward - so long as we don't stress her lungs. She IS an arab after all, tho - and they're fairly famous for their massive and powerful lungs. Fingers crossed this serves us well in her recovery! Have you ever worked with a horse with a compromised respiratory system? Any insights on getting them going again?