Vesicular Stomatitis Virus

Photos courtesy of The Horse

Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) is a viral disease that primarily affects horses and cattle but can also affect swine, sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas. Excessive salivation is often the first noticeable symptom, followed by blister-like lesions around the nose, lips, tongue, gums, teats, sheath, or coronary bands. When these blisters burst they can leave behind painful ulcerations causing animals to be reluctant to eat or drink; lameness and severe weight loss may soon follow.

Clinical signs can present similar to (although generally less severe than) those of foot-and-mouth disease and swine vesicular disease. The only way to tell these diseases apart is through laboratory tests (i.e. blood, oral swabs, or tissue samples.) Since VSV is a reportable disease, if it is suspected on any level, contact your veterinarian who may then contact State and/or Federal animal health authorities.

Photos courtesy of The Horse

Specific treatment is usually not warranted unless an animal is not eating and drinking sufficiently in which oral or intravenous fluids can be given. There is currently no USDA-approved vaccines for VSV. Your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs as the lesions can be quite painful. Oral lesions can be rinsed and cleaned with a mild antiseptic to prevent secondary bacterial infections. If your animal continues to have trouble eating, softening their grain can help encourage consumption.

How the disease is spread is not fully known, although due to the seasonality of the disease, biting insects (i.e. black flies, sand flies, and midges) are believed to be a big factor. Strict fly control and manure management can greatly reduce transmission of VSV. Animal-to-animal contact as well as mechanical transmission through buckets, trailers, and water troughs are also suspected vectors. To prevent further spread of the disease, affected animals should be quarantined and all equipment that they may have come in contact with, sanitized. Always handle healthy animals before sick animals, wash and sanitize hands and boots after handling affected animals, and if possible change clothes. Although rare, VSV can be transmitted to humans, causing flu-like symptoms and oral ulcerations, therefore it is important to wear protective clothing, such as latex gloves when handling suspect animals.

Practicing good sanitation and insect control can help contain and prevent the spread of the disease all together. Healthy animals are more resistant to the disease; adequate nutrition and routine veterinary care will aid in prevention of the disease. If you suspect VSV, immediately quarantine affected animals and contact your veterinarian.

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