Holistic Treatment Options for EHV-1

When faced with an outbreak of a serious disease such as the equine herpes virus, you can take some comfort in knowing you have a holistic horse health program in place. I am not saying you should let your guard down or ignore the facts, but you can trust that you have tools to support you horse’s immune system.
About EHV-1
Here is what the American Association of Equine Practitioners is saying about the outbreak:
“Currently, there are numerous reports of equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM) affecting horses and farms across the U.S. and Canada. This outbreak appears related to initial cases at a cutting horse show in Ogden Utah, which was held from April 29 – May 8.  Horses at that event may have been exposed to this virus and subsequently spread the infection to other horses. While the true extent of this disease outbreak is uncertain, there is clearly a very significant elevated risk of EHM cases at this time. At this time control of the outbreak is critically dependent on biosecurity.
“The EHV-1 organism spreads quickly from horse to horse but typically only causes neurological disease sporadically. However, in an outbreak of EHV-1 neurologic such as we are experiencing now, the disease can reach high morbidity and case fatality rates. The incubation period of EHV-1 infection is typically 1-2-days, with clinical signs of fever then occurring, often in a biphasic fever, over the following 10 days. When neurological disease occurs it is typically 8-12 days after the primary infection, starting often after the second fever spike.  In horses infected with the neurologic strain of EHV-1, clinical signs may include: nasal discharge, incoordination, hind end weakness, recumbency, lethargy, urine dribbling and diminished tail tone. Prognosis depends on severity of signs and the period of recumbency. There is no specific treatment for EHV-1, although antiviral drugs (i.e. valacyclovire) may have some value before neurological signs occur. Non-specific treatment may include intravenous fluids, and other appropriate supportive therapy; the use of anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is strongly recommended. Currently, there is no equine vaccine that has a label claim for protection against the neurological strain of the virus.
Horse-to-horse contact, aerosol transmission, and contaminated hands, equipment, tack, and feed all play a role in disease spread. However, horses with severe clinical signs of neurological EHV-1 infection are thought to have large viral loads in their blood and nasal secretions and therefore, present the greatest danger for spreading the disease. Immediate separation and isolation of identified suspect cases and implementation of appropriate biosecurity measures are key elements for disease control.”
Holistic Options for Treating EHV-1
While there are no conventional treatments for the disease, those of us who practice holistic horse health care have a few options should our horses start showing signs of infection. An immune support supplement that has a form of beta-glucan  can help trigger the immune system of the horse to be on high alert. I take this product myself at the first sign of a cold sore or respiratory infection. The dose for a person for immune support is one capsule a day. For a horse, two capsules per day works well. I double the dose if the infection has already progressed.
Vitamin C is also helpful for immune support in the face of viral infection. I like Citrus C/Q as a natural source of vitamin C. The tinctures of Lemon Balm and Scullcap can help fight the virus.  Homeopathic remedies to keep in mind for acute neurological symptoms include aconite and belladonna. Body work such as network chiropractic, Bowen, or equine touch can be helpful. Acupuncture is an option if a horse has symptoms and it is safe to be close to him. A quiet, low stress environment is also important.
As always, the best defense is a good offense. Educate yourself and stay up on the latest information, don’t travel with your horse or bring in new horses without ensuring that there is a low chance of infection, support your horse’s immune system, and have a plan in place if the worst happens and your horse becomes infected. Pray for all the horses currently affected that they may recover quickly and this outbreak will end. Madalyn

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