Wet weather is contributing to deadly disease in horses

A Grand Strand veterinarian is reporting an alarming increase this summer in a disease that's deadly to horses.

Dr. Karen Bolten of the Myrtle Beach Equine Clinic says she believes the outbreak of Eastern Equine Encephalitis may be weather-related.

Bolten says many horses in the area have not been vaccinated for the disease or they've only been vaccinated once, when she recommends at least two shots per year.

Bolten says EEE, also called sleeping sickness, is a disease that attacks the brain and kills about 90 percent of the horses that get it.

"In terms of treatment, it's mainly supportive. Fluids, anti-inflammatories, a lot of hospitalization to make sure they don't hurt themselves," Bolten said. "Unfortunately, there's no specific treatment for the disease, there's no antidote to it."

So far this year, Bolten has had to euthanize four horses with EEE and she's closely watching another.

Bolten says a horse with the disease can look normal one day and be near death the next. The symptoms come on very quickly.

"It ranges anywhere from just a little bit strange acting, not wanting to move very much, neurologic signs, stumbling, to being completely down," she said.

Since the disease is spread by mosquitoes, Bolten thinks this year's wet spring and summer contributed to the outbreak.

"I also noticed during the winter the mosquitoes just didn't die off like they have previous winters since I've lived here, so I was kind of wondering if that would play into it too, but it's definitely been wet and I'm sure that plays a big part in it."

Sadly, some of the horses Bolten had to put down were young foals just two to three months old, but she says adult horses can get it as well and all need to be vaccinated.

Dr. Bolten is offering a low-cost vaccination clinic for horses Saturday, July 20. It will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at Vereens Turf Products on Highway 90 in Longs.

Bolten said horses can be vaccinated for Eastern and Western Equine Encephalitis, along with West Nile virus and rabies at the clinic.