EQUINE NEWS

New Online Tools Help Calculate Risk, Control Infection in HorsesNovember 2008



Horse owners will be able to determine the risk of their animals catching an infectious disease and gather information about infection control thanks to two new online initiatives from the University of Guelph.

The first is an online calculator that allows horse owners to punch in their management practices and learn their animals' risk levels. The second initiative is a blog by Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) researchers that provides information about various equine infectious diseases, along with practical tips on disease prevention and control.

The Biosecurity Risk Calculator will be launched this week at the Ontario Equestrian Federation Conference. Developed by Equine Guelph in partnership with Vétoquinol Canada, the online tool measures both risk and prevention.

"The calculator gives horse owners a good starting point by showing the potential risks currently present on their farm and the most practical ways to decrease that risk," said Gayle Ecker, senior manager of Equine Guelph. Having a biosecurity protocol is important to reducing the risk of spreading infectious disease on any horse farm, added Caroline Desforges, biosecurity and equine product manager with Vétoquinol Canada.

The calculator will be available through the Equine Guelph website. Founded in 2003, Equine Guelph is the horse owner's centre at U of G. Supported and overseen by equine industry groups, it's dedicated to improving the health and well-being of horses and helps connect members of the equine industry with expertise at OVC.

Meanwhile, "EQUIDBLOG" aims to provide information and insight about equine infectious diseases to horse owners and veterinarians. The site is co-ordinated by Prof. Scott Weese and Maureen Anderson of OVC's Department of Pathobiology. They are specialists in large-animal internal medicine with expertise in infectious diseases and infection control.

Infectious diseases are prevalent in equine medicine, Weese said. "The average horse owner commonly encounters infectious disease questions and problems, ranging from decisions about vaccination and deworming to serious illnesses in their horses," he said.

"We wanted to design a website where we could provide balanced and unbiased information in various forms, ranging from short updates about current issues to detailed information sheets about diseases or descriptions of infection control protocols. "

Weese and Anderson create blog posts every few days about timely topics related to infectious disease topics, including items in the news, outbreaks that are occurring internationally and general commentary about infectious diseases and infection control. Recent posts have included diverse topics ranging from vaccination and deworming to equine herpesvirus in the United States to the use of honey for treating infections. All the information is written and reviewed by experts in the field.

Last spring, Weese and Anderson started a similar blog, "Worms and Germs", to educate people about zoonotic diseases — those that can be transmitted between animals and humans — as well as to provide general information about topics related to animal health and pet care.