Wildfires Awareness Week

March 31 – April 4, 2014 is Arizona Wildfire Awareness Week.

Herding cattle away from Milford Flat Fire in Utah


2013 was a devastating year for destruction and loss of life from wildfires.  Because of the enduring drought conditions and large volumes of fuel for wildfires, 2014 could be even worse.  Already, two wildfires are occurring near Flagstaff and Prescott.  For current warnings and fire information, go to the Arizona Interagency Wildfire Prevention web site (click on link).

This is a reminder to plan ahead for the possible impacts wildfires can have on your family, your property and your animals.  There are several questions to ask at this time.  Where would I go if a wildfire were approaching my home?  Do I have what I need to move my animals out of danger?  Who could I ask for help?  Guidelines for developing your own wildfire emergency plan can be found on the Ready!Set!Go! web site sponsored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

Livestock are also at risk during wildfire season.  During the 2011 Arizona wildfire season, 18,000 beef cows and calves were displaced from grazing grounds on the range.  In 2012, several states reported hundreds of cattle killed in wildfires.  Wildfires can damage the grazing areas requiring ranchers to find feeding alternatives or sell off their herd.

Stay aware throughout the wildfire season. Emergency information can be found at the AZ Emergency Information Network.  Or you can receive daily updates on conditions and warnings around Arizona by subscribing to the WildlandfireAZ twitter feed (https://twitter.com/wildlandfireAZ).

County evacuation plans should include resources to help move pets, horses and livestock.  Evacuation delays can make the firefighters’ work even more difficult.  For assistance in identifying emergency animal response teams in your community, contact the State Veterinarian’s office at 602-542-4293.

At The Barn

How many of you have your critters at someone else’s barn? Have you discussed the subject and written clear simple plans as to what is to be done in an emergency? Do you have such a plan for your own (big or little) operation at home?

I’m not specifically addressing medical issues, but I don’t want you to ignore those either. Like who makes the decision to call the vet if you can’t be reached? And is there an agreement on how the bill gets paid? Situations and friendships can go downhill in a hurry when times get tough. Think ahead.

Think about other matters too. Fire. Wind. Flash floods. How do you evacuate? Who grabs what? What’s the agreed upon out-bound route. Where do you meet up? Do you really think the cellular network won’t be overwhelmed?

I could sit here and write a bunch of questions. But instead of you reading those right now, why don’t you sit down and write out a short paragraph of how you envision your responses; what you would do, or those who care for your animals should do if you or they see fire within a few miles of your barn. Literally write yourself a short story and find all the holes now rather than in a real world event.

Then use that story as your blueprint for building contingency plans – supplies, contact points, specified roles and designated persons. There are probably several folks around the barn at any given time. Be the basis of a solution before you need one and share the load.

Gotta run. Enjoy the ride.

Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA)

EIA also known as swamp fever is an infectious and potentially fatal viral disease of horses.  No vaccine or treatment exists for this disease.  Clinical signs of EIA include fever, weight loss, icterus, (yellowing of body tissues), anemia, swelling in the limbs and weakness.  However, not all equids infected with the virus will show signs of illness.

The virus is usually transmitted from horse to horse by blood sucking insects such as horseflies or deerflies.  When the flies feeding is interrupted (a swish of the tail), the fly may move to another horse (second host) to complete the feeding.  In this manner, any infective material from the blood of the first host that is present in the mouthparts of the flies can be transmitted to the second host.

Needles and equipment contaminated with blood from an infected horse can also spread the virus when used on unexposed horses.

The Coggins test screens the horses blood for exposure to the virus causing EIA.  Testing in the United States utilizing the Coggins test began in 1972, developed by Dr. Leroy Coggins.  The Coggins name is specific to the agar-gel immunodiffusion (AGID) laboratory test.  Newer tests are available, and often are referred to as Coggins, but they are likely enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) tests.

The ELISA has an increased sensitivity, but decreased specificity.  That means that a horse may test positive on ELISA but negative on AGID.  To be a confirmed positive reactor a horse must test positive for EIA at an official laboratory and be confirmed by the AGID or other approved reference laboratory tests, pursuant to the EIA Uniform Methods and Rules 2007.

The incidence of EIA in the United States in 1972 was nearly 4%.  It has dramatically decreased to less than 0.01%.  Arizona had nearly 10,000 EIA tests performed for horses that reside in Arizona in 2013.  There were no horses identified as positive.

Most states require that horses moving interstate have an EIA test (Coggins/AGID or ELISA) annually – some states are every six months, so check with your veterinarian.

Serving Arizonans…One Animal at a Time

Equine Herpes Virus (EHV)

A few weeks back we (state vet’s office staffers) were discussing that the equine show season was about to hit full swing as the Arabian Show in West World was just around the corner.

The conversation quickly turned to how many calls we’d get and stories we would hear about various horse diseases afterwards. It’s a point of fact, whenever people or animals get stressed and congregate together, there will be some disease. (Anybody out there recall the first few months of your kids being in day care?)

That’s my introduction to a few things I want to bring to the public’s attention. One is that yep – we’ve started getting “those” calls. Or more precisely rumors and rumor-mongering of X or Y or Z disease at so-and-so’s place. Strangles is always a common one – and true to form we’ve heard such stories. So are rhino/flu (rhinopneumonitis and influenza) problems. But we do also have confirmed disease as well as rumors.

I really like the way Dr. Corley puts it in “Protecting Your Horses from Disease Outbreaks” on the AAEP’s website when referring to “social diseases” – common infectious diseases including the respiratory viruses such as influenza (flu) and rhinopneumonitis (rhino) and bacterial pathogens such as Streptococcus equi (strangles). These are very contagious diseases transmitted via horse-to-horse contact or by sharing intimate items such as water or feed buckets, dose syringes or the same air space. (emphasis added)

Does anyone recognize a show stalling situation???

I like to tell folks, “All God’s creatures got herpes” (poor grammar aside.) It’s a ubiquitous virus that has a nasty habit of laying dormant in nerve cells until the animal’s immune system gets dampen. Then Wah Lah! – another respiratory outbreak, abortion storm, cold sore on your lip (or other places!) or maybe a neuro-case. (Sometimes the herpes virus winds up in the horses brain causing a nasty inflammation with neurological damage.)

It’s been reported that the respiratory strain (of EHV) is the most common virus found in horses. It’s even been found in dead horse’s tissues in situations where the horse died from totally separate cause.

Arizona has no rules mandating reporting or quarantine of these diseases. Before reacting to that statement with a “government should do something” response, think about how common these bugs are. Ultimately everyone might be under quarantine and little commerce or entertainment would be allowed. Yes, that’s an extreme conjecture. But given the frequency of these diseases, it’s probably not far-fetched.

So what can we do? 1 – become informed, knowledgeable about the subject. 2 – BIOSECURITY!! The folks in CA produced some excellent materials a few years back on this very subject. The Biosecurity Toolkit for Equine Events – it contains 3 sections ranging from basic to heavy-duty. Implementing recommendations contained within the Toolkit would be an excellent thing to do.

The title of this one was “EHV” but as you can see many points are applicable to several common problems in the horse world. Call it efficiency in educational outreach. But remember it’s only effective when you put bio-security measures into practice.