Horse Diseases, Symptoms and Causes

Learn about common horse ailments and diseases such as navicular disease, lameness, DJD, diseases of respiratory system (COPD), diseases of alimentary tract (equine colic), parasite control, ulcers, EPM, neurological diseases (Equine Wobbler Syndrome), laminitis, sweet itch (SSRD), equine tetanus etc.

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Navicular Disease

Navicular disease - the most common cause of chronic front foot lameness - is a corrosive ulcer on the navicular bone in the foot. It may be caused by a variety of things including improper shoeing or extensive work on hard ground. The symptoms are a tendency to "point" one foot and then the other in the stable, a narrowing of the foot and turning in of the toes, lameness when the horse first leaves the stable and heat in the foot after use. More About Navicular Disease [...]


The front legs of a horse carrying a rider or jumping take tremendous pressure. The blood in the legs of a horse circulates slowly. If the horse be galloped as soon as he is brought out from his stable, the walls of the blood vessels and the sensitive tissue will be injured and the horse will develop laminitis - a painful disease when tissues are permanently damaged. Horses suffering from a bad case of laminitis will groan and sweat and refuse to stand.

Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)

Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), or arthritis, is a form of rheumatism which permanently damages the bone leaving a rough surface and causing great pain and incurable lameness. It can develop in one or more of a horse's joints without causing any visible symptoms which can be detected using X rays. This is a progressive, incurable disease.
More About Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) [...]

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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) results in development of the small airway in the horse's lungs and is caused by an allergic reaction to the fungal spores found on hay and straw. It may cause laryngal paralysis, often associated with the "roaring" noise heard when the horse breathes in.

Equine Colic

Colic is a group of symptoms rather than a disease in itself, and refers to abdominal pain, the external signs of which is uneasiness, sweating, biting at the flanks and other signs of pain. The horse gets up and lies down again. It is caused by bad feeding, overfeeding, poisonous weeds, or/and overexercising. Very acute colic may be caused by a twisted gut and generally requires surgery. Studies show that colic may result from congenital (present at birth) malformation of the large colon, enteroliths (pathological formations of mineral concentrations) which cause colonic obstruction, and equine gastric ulcers .

Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM)

Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM) is a progressive neurologic disease of horses which affects the brain, brainstem, spinal cord or any combination of these three areas of the central nervous system (CNS). EPM can affect a horse of any age, breed, or sex. The signs may include weakness, malposition of a limb, muscle atrophy, wobbling, head tilt, lameness. A severely EPM-affected horse may be unable to rise.There is no vaccine currently available. All neurologic disease in horses is not EPM and a complete work-up by your veterinarian is needed in many cases to arrive at a specific diagnosis of the problem.

Equine Wobbler Syndrome

Wobbler Syndrome in horses refers to a number of diseases. The most common is Cervical Vertebral Malformation (CVM) and is characterized by malformation or compression of the spinal cord which leads to spasticity (persistent spasms, or sudden contraction of a muscle or group of muscles), ataxia (loss of ability to coordinate muscular movements), lesions (infected or diseased patches of skin). The exact cause of the CVM is unknown. It is believed that several factors may cause it: genetic predisposition, nutritional imbalances or physical trauma. In some cases nutritional management and controlled exercise can be effective, in other cases drug therapy and surgery are used to treat this syndrome.


Tetanus, or "lockjaw", is an acute, often fatal disease characterized by spasmodic contraction of muscles, especially those of the neck and jaw. It is caused by the bacteria found in soil and is ingested by the horse with grass. If the germ enters a deep wound and the wound closes too soon, the horse may easily contract the infection through his blood stream. The earliest symptom of tetanus is extreme sensitivity. The horse jumps violently on being touched. A horse that receives a bad wound, particularly if there is known to be tetanus inthe area, should at once receive the anti-tetanus vaccine which will prevent the disease. More about Tetanus[...]

Summer Seasonal Recurrent Dermatitis (SSRD) - Sweet Itch

Summer Seasonal Recurrent Dermatitis (SSRD), commonly referred to as Sweet Itch, is considered to be caused by an allergic reaction to the saliva of Culicoides flies (also called midges and "no-see-ums"). The fly bites form blisters, which can weep, causing crusting, scabs and scaling. Prolonged rubbing and biting results in hair loss and damage to the skin, with sometimes bleeding open sores. The affected areas are usually the mane and tail regions of the horse. The allergy becomes a chronic condition and requires costant treatment.

Equine Infectious Anemia

Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA) or "swamp fever" is a virus disease of horses causing intermittent fever, anemia, emaciation ( extreme weight loss) and death. It can be transmitted by mechanical transfer of blood by biting insects and occurs typically in low-lying swampy areas.  More about Equine Infectious Anemia [...]

Foal Pneumonia

Foal Pneumonia is primarily caused by bacterial, viral or parasitic infections and most commonly occurs in foals between 1 and 6 months of age, who frequently present with lower airway infection. Pneumonia was found to be the primary cause of disease and death in foals aged between 32 and 180 days.  More about Foal Pneumonia [...]

Equine Herpesvirus Upper Respiratory Tract Disease

Equine upper respiratory tract disease (URTD), caused by equine herpesvirus is a disease commonly seen in young horses. It is believed that 80% of horses get infected by 2 years of age. The infection is transmitted by contact with another infected horse and its respiratory discharge. Diagnosis of herpesvirus respiratory disease in horses is performed through laboratory tests. Vaccination of young horses does not prevent the infection, but diminishes the intensity of the disease. More about Equine Herpesvirus Upper Respiratory Tract Disease [...]

Eye Diseases

Corneal ulcers and Uveitis are the most common eye diseases in horses. Corneal ulcers usually respond well to treatment. Glaucoma needs immediate and aggressive treatment with medications to prevent optic nerve damage and blindness.

Corneal Ulcers, Equine Recurrent Uveitis (ERU)

Glaucoma in Horses [...]

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