The summer drought that ravaged Missouri’s crop harvest this year has caused a large spike in a bacterial infection in horses across the state according to equine veterinarian Philip Johnson, B.V.Sc. (hons), M.S., M.R.C.V.S., professor of equine medicine and surgery at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis can cause painful swelling, abscesses and inflammation of the legs, chest and abdominal cavities according to a release by the university.
“Under normal conditions, this disease is uncommon in Missouri,” Johnson says. “However, likely because of the extremely dry weather Missouri has experienced in the last six months, we have seen an abnormally large number of cases pop up throughout the state. The disease is contracted through abrasions in the skin, as well as by bites from flies and ticks.”
Besides physical clinical signs, Johnson says horse owners should watch for behavioral signs of sickness such as lethargy, depression and loss of appetite. Prompt medical attention is necessary as the infection left unattended could result in lameness and possible death once the infection moves into internal organs.
Johnson recommends that infected horses be quarantined as draining abscesses can spread the disease to healthy horses.