Equine coronavirus infections result in high morbidity and low mortality, meaning many horses may be affected but few will die. Horses generally recover from the infection within three to seven days, but some (very few) will develop complications and deterioration that warrant euthanasia.
Coronavirus infection in horses is very different to COVID-19 in humans. At this time, there is no evidence that domestic animals, including horses, dogs and cats, can spread COVID-19 to humans. For this reason, diagnostic testing of animals for COVID-19 is not recommended, and additionally, we need to save diagnostic test supplies for humans.
Coronavirus infections are highly contagious and in horses, at risk populations include horses in breeding facilities, ranch work/farming environments, the Midwest, and draft breeds.
The most common clinical signs of equine coronavirus infections include a decreased appetite, fever (101.5-106.0°F), and lethargy. Other signs include those associated with mild colic (lying down frequently, flank watching) or changes in fecal consistency (soft or watery). A veterinary examination and diagnostic tests such as routine bloodwork (complete blood count and biochemical profile) often reveal abnormalities consistent with dehydration, decreased white blood cell count, and decreased blood protein status. Rarely, horses will display neurological abnormalities such as a wobbly gait (ataxia) or head pressing.
Proactively protecting your horse’s immune system with routine practices will ensure your horse is in peak health and able to better fight infections and perform.