Are you up-to-date on your Tetanus shot?? Humans need to get a booster every 10 years, but horses need it every year. You may have been told to be careful around rusty nails because you can get tetanus. The rusty part isn’t what causes tetanus, but a toxin produced by bacteria called Clostridium tetani does. Get it, “tetani”, “tetanus”??!!
This bacterium is found in the soil, dust, and POOP. So the rule of thumb is DON’T get stabbed by anything DIRTY, which includes a rusty nail! The bacteria enter the body through a break in the skin, most commonly as a puncture wound. The bacteria multiply and release a strong neurotoxin. Neuro has to do with the nerves in the body, which helps transmit information to and from the brain about pain, touch, and muscle contractions to walk and move. This toxin affects these nerves causing muscles to contract and become stiff as a board. It is a very scary and painful disease.
Some warning signs of tetanus are:
- Stiffness of the jaw, neck, and hind limbs
- Muscle contractions and spasms that are extremely painful
- Inability to chew (“lockjaw”)
- Stiff ears and tail
- Dilated nostrils
- Sunken third eyelid
- Inability to move
There is no cure for tetanus except to wait for your body to fight it off. Supportive care such as fluids, antibiotics, and an antitoxin medication will help your horse battle the toxin. Unfortunately, most cases result in death, but with annual vaccination, it is easy to avoid.
Luckily, I just got my annual booster. Are YOU and YOUR HORSE protected?? Want to learn more about vaccines? Luckily for you, we created a simple vaccination kit that includes disease information cards and posters on the vaccine schedules for adult horses! We also have a separate poster for foals and weanlings, too! The kit is only $12 and the posters can be purchased for $3 each. That’s a bargain! These kits are great tools for any experienced horse owner as well as young horse enthusiasts
Photo credit: Nail – Scott Robinson, source: Flickr; Sawhorse – Merck Vet Manual