‘Devastated’ owners say deaths could have been prevented

CaptureTalk radio plays in the background of a barn, a rooster crows and ducks quack. But the sound of Newfoundland ponies clomping across the floor is gone.

In Winterton, Canada two owners are mourning the sudden loss of their two ponies, which are believed to have died from botulism, a highly fatal, neurologic disease often acquired through the ingestion of spoiled feeds and contaminated soil.

Bella the goat is also feeling the loss keenly, according to her owner, George Walker.

“Wherever the horses went, she was. If I took mine home in the fall, she’d be bawling her head off out there, following me so far.”

Walker was the owner of Nova, a female pony who died in June at the age of 19. Her death came just a week after her nine-year-old foal, Spirit, died.

Both deaths were sudden. Walker was the one who discovered the foal’s body.

“I came over around 10 o’clock  in the morning, to give them a couple of carrots. I gave the rabbit a carrot and I came around the corner and … Spirit was dead on the ground. We don’t know how long,” Walker said in a recent article.

“I found him [Spirit’s owner] coming up the road in his backhoe. I told him and he was devastated. Couldn’t believe it. Because the night before, she was all right.”

When Spirit’s mother stopped eating, Walker said he assumed it was grief. He didn’t know she was sick too.

“It just happened — she came out of the barn and she just started shaking and then she just dropped down,” Walker said.

“The vet told me what to do with her. I tried my best to do what I could with her and she just went down. The vert told me to try to hold her up but I couldn’t, she was just too heavy for that. I tried to, but I couldn’t. And then she just went down and she slowly died.”

The veterinarian believes the ponies ate grass contaminated with botulism, a rare illness caused by botulinum toxin, a substance produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Botulism can be found in spoiled feeds and contaminated soil and can quickly kill horses.

Walker said he had no indication that the ponies’ deaths could have been prevented with a simple vaccine and is now urging others to make sure their animals are vaccinated.

“Hindsight now, if we would have known this we would have had it years ago. They would have had it years ago,”  Walker said in the article.

Walker said his animals have since been vaccinated for botulism, and he wants other owners to know about the risks.

“It should be out there that everyone that has an animal that can get that [vaccine], should have it. We didn’t know about it.”

For more information, click here.

Neogen manufactures BotVax B, the only USDA-approved vaccine for the prevention of equine botulism Type B due to Clostridium botulinum in healthy horses. Horses are extremely sensitive to botulinum toxins, which can have devastating neurological effects. When it comes to protecting your horse, prevention is your best defense. For more information, click here.

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