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Equine Salmonella Overview
Diagnosing horse ailments requires a vet. (Click here for a list of Florida veterinarians by county)
Equine Salmonella is disease-causing agent and is the same pathogen known as Salmonella. Salmonella is a genus of rod-shaped, predominantly motile (free-swimming) enterobacteria (a distinct genus created for Salmonella and Escherichia coli. Bacteria) with diameters around 0.7 to 1.5 microns (a micron is equal to 1/125 000th of an inch!) Salmonella are closely related to the Escherichia genus and are found worldwide in warm and cold blooded animals, in humans, and in nonliving habitats. They cause illnesses in humans and many animals, such as typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever, and the food borne illness Samonellosis. Salmonella bacteria are extremely common, widespread and long-lasting. In fact, laboratory samples of salmonella in dried feces have survived six years! In addition, some strains of salmonella bacteria have developed drug resistance to certain antibiotics, making them difficult to treat.
Salmonella Transmission: Salmonella infections are zoonotic which means that they can be transmitted by humans to animals and vice versa. Infection via food is also possible. Salmonella can survive for weeks outside a living body. They have been found viable in dried excrement after over 2.5 years. Ultraviolet radiation and heat accelerate their demise; they perish after being heated to 55 °C (131 °F) for one hour, or to 60 °C (140 °F) for half an hour. To protect against Salmonella infection, it is recommended that food be heated for at least ten minutes at 75 °C (167 °F) so that the center of the food reaches this temperature. Salmonella is not destroyed by freezing.
Sources of Salmonella Infection: Excretions from either sick or infected but apparently clinically healthy people and animals (especially endangered are caregivers and animals),
Polluted surface water and standing water (such as in shower hoses or unused water dispensers),
Salmonella Transmission: Salmonella spreads through the feces of an infected animal. Animals typically around a barn that can have it include birds, rodents, goats, cows, dogs, cats, llamas, even humans. When infected feces drop, they can infect pastures, feed, water, or any other surface that a horse might lick. Humans can contract salmonella as well from barn environments. A major contributor to infection is stress. A non-stressed horse can ingest the bacteria but suffer no ill effects (other than becoming a shedder to other animals), while horses that event, show, ship frequently or train rigorously will be much more susceptible to a major outbreak after coming in contact with salmonella.
Salmonella Symptoms: Symptoms include diarrhea, elevated temperature, loss of appetite, colic and depression. A horse may not have all symptoms but a combination of them. Colic with elevated temperature is not typical colic but a possible salmonella infection. Have your vet send several manure samples for a culture as one sample alone may not reveal the infection.
Salmonella Treatment: It is important to treat salmonella right away with veterinary assistance, as the toxins from the bacteria can cause far worse problems, such as laminitis and septicemia (overall infection of the body that can be fatal).
If caught early, mild cases of salmonella should be fairly easy to treat. Isolation in a regularly disinfected stall, rest, relief from stress, and plenty of water and loose minerals are typical treatments. Severe cases of diarrhea require more monitoring, such as replacement of fluids through IV and medication. Infection usually lasts 7-10 days, but will shed in the infected animal’s manure for months afterward. Repeated feces testing will let you know when the animal is no longer shedding. Strenuous disinfecting and complete isolation will be necessary to prevent the spread of the bacteria to other healthy animals, including yourself. Rubber gloves, separate feed/water tubs, separate manure forks, and other strict hygiene methods will need to be observed. After disinfecting, realize that any porous surface (such as wood or concrete) can still harbor these resistant bacteria, so sealant or new coats of paint are a good idea.
Note- While many disinfect with a 10% bleach solution, bleach is not effective on organic surfaces. Instead, use Stall Safe; which is potent but organic, biodegradable, and safe for use around animals.
Salmonella Prevention: Unfortunately, there is no vaccination for salmonella. Guarding against infection is the only alternative. Here are some tips for preventing salmonella: