It’s undeniable that the results of climate change have negative impacts on the health of horses, according to studies done by animal experts and veterinarians.
All breathing creatures on the earth have to adapt to the changing environment, and horses are no exception. With rising temperature, there’s the risk for horses to experience heat exhaustion during hot summer days. Horses will need more fresh water to hydrate. There’s also the supply shortage of good quality grasses and plants to forage.
During the cold months, the days may be too cold for the horses to go outside. They would prefer to stay in the shed, away from the cold. The horses will not be able to forage naturally. They’ll be totally dependent on their owner for their daily food. To keep the horses’ sustainable body temperature during winter, they must be given a diet that’s high in both calories and fiber.
The changes in the weather patterns are somewhat alarming in regard to the health of horses. A hotter environment is a great contributor to the birth of new diseases. The pathogens that cause diseases will be able to replicate themselves rapidly. In turn, new strains that are more deadly are generated.
Both existing and new diseases will be contagious. These diseases will be transferred easily and quickly from one horse to another. This will then result in outbreaks of diseases that will endanger the horse population.
Some of the diseases that might adapt to the change in the weather, and will be more deadly to horses, are West Nile Virus, Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever Virus, and African Horse Sickness Virus. There are available vaccines for these viruses, but if they have mutated to new strains, then new vaccines will have to be developed.
One of the results of climate change is the longer and hotter summer months which will lead to droughts. Droughts are dangerous to horses. Fresh forage will be limited, or there will be none at all. Horse owners must import hays from other places. These hays will sometimes become the carrier of various diseases that will endanger the health of the horses.
Rabies infection is also triggered by drought. Since there’s a shortage of water supply, wild animals that are rabies carriers will be attracted to the water in the horses’ troughs in the fields. This will expose the horses to the danger of rabies.
There are instances when, after a drought, disease outbreaks occur, especially after the first significant rains. It has been observed that the presence of salmonella and corynebacterium in adult horses increases following the rains after a drought.
It’s important that horse owners are prepared to protect their horses from the dangers brought about by the different environmental factors brought on by climate change.
Extended and excessively wet conditions can lead to rain rot (or rain scald), caused by bacteria that take hold when a horse’s skin is constantly wet. It’s important to keep a horse’s skin dry, or at least to dry the skin as soon as possible when it does get wet.