Barr: Icelandic Broodmare

“People think that because they don’t live in a high-risk area their horse isn’t going to get botulism,” says Bonnie Barr VMD, Dipl. ACVIM. “That’s not necessarily true, especially if your horse travels around. Especially if you buy hay and feed from the local feed store, where the hay could come from Ky or come from an area where there is a high risk of botulism.”

An owner in the southern part of Kentucky hadn’t heard of botulism, that is until one of her Icelandic pony broodmares was diagnosed with the disease. The broodmare was weak and unable to swallow, so they sent her to Rood & Riddle Veterinary Hospital in Lexington, Ky., where Barr treated her for botulism.

Unfortunately, the mare died, but the happy ending was the fact that veterinarians were able to do a cesarean section on the mare and were able to save her foal because she was that far along in gestation.

“So she wasn’t able to save her mare, but she was able to save the foal from the mare,” recalls Barr. “(After that) she started vaccinating her horses for botulism.”

Botulism is not an easy disease to diagnose. “One thing some people will say is they have never heard of botulism, so they don’t know a whole lot about this disease,” says Barr. “We really don’t know how prevalent it is. The clinical signs are not specific for botulism. We’ve talked about how there are other diseases that can present similarly to botulism. So I do wonder if sometimes there are those horses that might die from colic or something like it, and it wasn’t diagnosed as botulism.”

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