Horse looking out of stable yard

Equine flu

There is currently an outbreak of equine flu in the UK (February 2019). Cases have now been confirmed in Essex, Suffolk, Derbyshire, Cheshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. Advice is that there is nothing to suggest that these particular cases are unusually serious, but implications for the wider horse population and horse movement are potentially serious.

Equine flu – or equine influenza - is a highly contagious viral disease of the respiratory tract. 

How does a horse get equine flu?

Horses become infected following inhalation of the airborne virus from other infected horses or by indirect transmission via, for example, the stable, equipment or grooms.

What are the symptoms of equine flu?

Veterinary diagnosis and treatment is essential. Signs of infection, which begin to develop a few days after exposure to the virus, include a husky cough and nasal discharge (which changes over a period of four to five days from thin to thick mucus), combined with general signs of ill health. 

Influenza debilitates the animal, leaving a horse susceptible to secondary infections. It may also develop into a more serious respiratory disorder.

What should I do if I think my horse has equine flu?

Because equine flu is highly contagious, every effort should be made to isolate an infected horse. Strict hygiene measures should be put in place to minimise the risk of infection spreading to other horses. With an incubation period of one to five days, it spreads rapidly.

Your vet will advise on suitable convalescent care. 

Recovery may take several weeks and your horse may take even longer to return to full health. 

Is there a vaccine for equine flu?

Prevention is better than cure and we strongly recommend horses are vaccinated routinely against the most common strains of equine influenza. 

Vaccination is compulsory for horses competing in most equestrian sports.

— Page last updated 13/02/2019

Did you find this helpful?

We provide free pet advice as every pet deserves to be well looked after. We treated around 35,000 sick injured and homeless pets last year. We're so glad we've been able to help these pets who are unable to help themselves, but there are thousands of sick and lonely pets still in need, so we need to ask for a small favour.

All of our work is funded entirely through donations. People like you are essential to our work. If everyone who benefits from our articles is able to give a little back, we can reach thousands more pets. For as little as £1 you can make a difference - do you have one minute? Thank you.