Biosecurity – Tackling Ringworm

Whether you are regularly competing up and down the country, based on a large livery yard or just a single horse owner with your own stables, it is important that you try and protect your horse from infectious diseases.

Biosecurity is just that. A simple routine of preventative measures to help protect against bacteria, viruses, spores, vector carriers and fungi, such as ringworm.

If you regularly compete and stay over at shows have you ever thought about the infectious diseases that your horse could pick up? When buying a new horse and bringing it home, do you really know where it has come from and if it carries any infectious diseases? Do you really know of everything that lives on your livery yard?

What is ringworm?

Ringworm is a skin infection caused by a dermatophyte, a skin ‘loving’ fungus that is highly contagious. The fungi which cause ringworm in horses include the Microsporum and Trichophyton species, which can infect not only horses but other animal species, including humans.

ringworm_lo-resThe skin lesions usually start as small raised spots from which the hair is lost. These spots spread and usually become scurfy or a thick dry crumbly scab may form. Sometimes the lesions are sore and often itchy. In many cases there may only be a couple of lesions but if left untreated and especially if they are spread by grooming, the condition can become extensive.

How does it occur?

Ringworm is transmitted from horse to horse by direct contact between horses, tack, grooming equipment, clothing, and contact with infested stables or horseboxes. The fungi are quite resistant to environmental factors and can remain on fence railings and timber structures for up to 10 years. The most common method of spread is on tack such as bridles, boots, girths and grooming equipment.

The fungi can remain on the skin for up to three weeks before the lesions develop so the disease can be spread before there are signs of infection. By the time the first horse breaks out, it is possible that most horses will be carriers and will break out in the near future, this creates a difficult situation as all areas touched by all horses, staff and equipment in the previous weeks are now likely to be contagious. Younger animals are more likely to be affected than older ones, although all are susceptible.

Difficult to eradicate?

Many people see ringworm as difficult to eradicate but it is actually very easy to kill. It is usually an oversight of something untreated that creates the impression that it will not die, or the fact that by the time the initial horse breaks out, others are already infected and so in spite of disinfecting, others will still break out.

Once a horse carries ringworm it will potentially infect other horses before it is even spotted, either by direct contact or indirect through communal head collars, wagons, tie up areas, and horse walkers. To help stop an on-going scenario all areas used or used by staff, horses and visitors should be thoroughly disinfected.

Top Tips for eradicating Ringworm:

  • If you have a horse on a busy livery yard, check what measures are already in place for biosecurity.
  • Use Protek Envirocair Veterinary disinfectant on every surface on the yard and in the horsebox to ensure ringworm does not spread. Include all areas that any horses, staff or visitors have been in contact with for the few preceding weeks to the outbreak.
  • Don’t forget stables and every exposed area including horse walkers, wash boxes, solariums, treadmills, stocks etc. Pay particular attention to disinfecting door catches where the fungi can easily hide.
  • Bedding is also susceptible to recontamination and should be sprayed.
  • Tack rooms, storage rooms and feed rooms. It is a good idea that each horse has their own head collars, tack, grooming brushes and buckets including feed and water buckets. These should be disinfected too including tack cleaning sponges, twitch and chiffneys if you have them.
  • Haynets, buckets, mucking out equipment, brushes and wheelbarrows will need to be disinfected. Pay particular attention to any handles, almost all staff when mucking out a stable give the horse a pat having held mucking out tools!
  • All exterior rider clothing and footwear including whips and gloves will need to be treated.
  • The Protek shampoo allows horses to be cleaned and disinfected, and leaves the horses really soft. It is great on sensitive skin.
  • All rugs including fly rugs and masks, turnouts, summer and coolers, travel rugs and boots.
  • Pay particular attention to tie up areas and window frames in horseboxes and all lorry equipment and buckets.
  • When travelling to shows use Protek Envirocair Veterinary disinfectant spray on stabling and horseboxes to help protect your horse when away from home.
  • Paddock fencing, gates and rubbing posts such as trees and water troughs will need to be treated.
  • Clipper blades and associated accessories will also need disinfecting.
  • All staff, blacksmiths, vets and visitors should use a hand gel to stop cross contaminations, remember they can be contagious before they show signs by which time a groom may have patted every other horse on the yard.

For further information please contact HAYGAIN hay steamers on 0333 200 5233 or www.haygain.com

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