Inquiring Minds Want to Know More About Biosecurity


Inquiring Minds Want to Know More About Biosecurity

Guelph, ON – Spring consists of more than just cleaning.  There is much to do, planning ahead to maximize time spent with your horse and working towards your goals for the impending sunny months.  Regardless of riding discipline; everyone wants their equine partner to be healthy and performing at its best.  In the last offering of Equine Guelph’s online Biosecurity short course, the discussions moved beyond giving everything a quick cleaning to help facilitate just that.

Guest speaker, Dr. Alison Moore, Lead Veterinarian, Animal Health & Welfare at Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, provided a wealth of information to the participants of the biosecurity short course.  With each answer, Moore revealed biosecurity is more about diligence than difficulty.  The simple changes that help protect horses from getting sick were discussed in great depth so horse owners can deploy an effective biosecurity plan.

There’s Cleaning, then there is Disinfecting – the right tools for the job

Dr. Moore advises the best way to clean and disinfect is to have a surface that one can truly clean and disinfect.  This means wood surfaces should be sealed.  Stable surfaces should be non-porous.  Flooring is not dirt but one that has been sealed on installation.

For a thorough cleaning, before stall occupancy changes or other occasions when disinfection is warranted, all bedding, feed and water should be removed.  One usually wants to clean with a detergent prior to using a disinfectant.  Moore says, “the nice thing about Virkon or Accell (accelerated hydrogen peroxide) is they have detergent properties so one doesn’t have to use a separate detergent first but the organic debris should be removed.”

Depending on the barn and barn materials, one can remove organic debris (urine/manure) from the inside of the stall using water and a brush or a hose then spray with Virkon or Accell – contact time will vary slightly depending on why one is disinfecting (as a precaution or because an infectious organism was diagnosed).  Most contact times will vary between 10 and 30 minutes (with 10 minutes being more common). One can use a large garden sprayer with the appropriately diluted form of Virkon or Accell, or you can wipe it on using a sponge.

Moore cautions against the use of pressure sprayers as they can aerosolize certain viruses. Squeegee any excess disinfectant off the floor. If there are rubber mats, remove them, clean with water and brush, and disinfect both sides before placing them back in the stall.   Feed and water buckets should also be cleaned and disinfected, making sure to rinse well before their next use.  Wash stalls are another area that should be cleaned and disinfected with regularity.

Moore pointed out some of the downsides of using bleach as a disinfectant, including the fact the fumes can irritate your animal’s airways.  Bleach can inactivate certain organisms but it is deactivated by organic material and particularly in the presence of urine, so one has to clean the stall REALLY well with a detergent first. The detergent must be rinsed and the area dried before the bleach is applied.

Are you ready for flu season and fly season?

Unlike their human counterparts, horses tend to receive their first influenza shots of the year in the springtime in anticipation of outings and increased exposure to pathogens.  Horses that travel for more than one season will often opt for multiple boosters to promote a healthy immunity.  When planning your horse’s vaccinations, your veterinarian should be consulted to find out what diseases are endemic to your area and discuss where you plan to travel with them in the upcoming months.

Beyond vaccinations for diseases such as eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile, there are more precautions to help deter the spread of diseases transmitted via insects.  Removing breeding grounds can be accomplished by eliminating standing water (e.g. old water feeders, tires around the property) and getting rid of puddles by improving drainage.

Keeping manure storage as far away from the barn as possible but accessible for staff is helpful.  Fly zappers and tapes can be beneficial. There are also products that can be fed to horses to interrupt the development of fly larvae in the horse’s manure (feed through fly control). Fly bait can also be useful but should be used with caution if dogs and cats are around. Other options to control flies and mosquitoes include insecticide impregnated blankets/sheets and the traditional fly sprays.

What is in the trailer with my horse?

If you are lucky enough to own a horse trailer, you can perform the same level of care as recommended above for cleaning and disinfecting stables.  When you use a commercial shipper you are putting your horse’s health in their hands so there are a few questions you should ask in order to be comfortable with the services they are providing.

First of all, find out what biosecurity procedures they perform between loads of horses. You could also ask what other types of horses will be on the trailer with your horses. Moore suggests, “Ideally horses of similar cohorts should be together. For example, if the transporter is picking up yearlings from a sale and bringing them home you may not want to get on that load or if there are racehorses being shipped between tracks you can make the decision if that’s the right load for your horse.”

You should also be comfortable with other management practices of the transporter. Some transporters have climate controlled stalls and food and water available at all times, whereas others have more traditional trailers and don’t stop to feed or water (depending on the length of the journey). It is important, therefore, that you ensure your horse is healthy enough for the trip particularly if it’s a long one – meaning that the horse is well hydrated and in good flesh. A horse that begins the journey in a healthy state is more apt to finish it in a healthy state.

You should make sure your horses are appropriately vaccinated for the place to which the horse is travelling.  Avoid vaccinating too close to shipping. Moore recommends, “Depending on the vaccine used, you want to be at least 2-4 weeks) out from the shipping date when you vaccinate.”  There are some products called immunomodulators that can support the immune system when shipping as well that can be beneficial. On arrival to the barn (or receiving a shipped horse), the horse should ideally be separated from the resident horses in a quarantine barn/stall or separated from the other horses in the barn by a stall. Temperatures should be monitored twice daily for at least 7 days (preferably 14 days) and fevers reported to your veterinarian.

Put the Equine Guelph Biosecurity short course on your Spring Checklist

Many interesting questions came up in the last Equine Guelph Biosecurity short course, while exploring Canada’s new Biosecurity standard.  Topics such as: how to disinfect items purchased at tack swaps, precautions to take when entering a drug testing stall, procedures vets and horse owners follow when confronted with a diagnosis of disease such as EHM or EHV-1.

Dr. Alison Moore was a contributor to the new National Farm-Level Biosecurity standard for the Equine Sector. Moore stresses the importance of having a biosecurity plan and being able to communicate it clearly with every member of the barn community.  Dr. Moore will be a guest speaker once again in the next online offering of ‘Equine Biosecurity – Canada’s standard’ April 10 – 28

Bring your questions and register at