Tetanus

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Tetanus

Lockjail

Tetanus, also referred to as "lockjaw", is a highly fatal disease in horses. The disease is caused by Clostridium tetani, a highly toxic bacterial organism that releases a toxin that affects the horse's nervous system. C. tetani are commonly found in around the barn environment--anywhere horses are kept. This is because the organism naturally inhabits even a healthy horse's bowels and thus, manure.

Since the tetanus bacteria is frequently found within the horse's normal environment, it puts horses at a high risk of developing tetanus if they get hurt. Any open wounds, especially puncture wounds in the foot, provide an open pathway for the bacteria to enter the horse's body and cause tetanus. It is because of this high risk, that horses are routinely vaccinated against tetanus--by receiving the tetanus vaccine or toxoid which contains the inactivated tetanus toxin. Once injected into the horse, within 2-3 weeks, their immune system will develop antibodies to protect themselves against the toxin. The effects of one vaccine will usually protect a horse for about a year, where they will need to be re-vaccinated for the next year, and ongoing.

Incubation Period
The incubation period is typically 1 to 3 weeks but can take up to several months.

The severity of the symptoms and rate of the progression of the disease depends on the age and size of the horse and the dose of toxin. Tetanus is expensive to treat and has a high mortality rate; therefore all horses should be actively immunized using tetanus toxoid as part of the core vaccination program.

Symptoms

Sudden onset of stiff gait
Hypersensitivity
84%
Prolapse of the third eyelid
79%
Difficulty opening the mouth
79%
Flared nostrils
79%
Elevated heart rate
77%
Rapid breathing
71%
Elevated tail-head
58%
Presence of wounds
45%
Ears erect and stiff
37%
Elevated body temperature
29%

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Clinical Signs
  • Physical exam
  • Laboratory tests

Treatment

TherapiesDetails
Tetanus antitoxin injection
Control of muscle spasm
General supportive care

Prevention

Prognosis

Poor, is almost always fatal

Scientific Research

General Overviews

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Risk Factors

  • Not receiving the vaccine
  • Poor manure management or lack of picking manure out of mud areas of paddocks
  • Horses with any wounds, especially puncture wounds (such as from a nail)
  • Poor wound management

Causative agent