Vet checks vital before traveling with animals

The news that cases of vesicular stomatitis have been confirmed in Colorado might make some livestock owners nervous, but Tyler Karney, of Ordway Feedyard, said it's mostly business as usual.

"If we're taking horses anywhere, we'll just have a vet come and do a health inspection on the animal," Karney told the La Junta Tribune-Democrat.

"Then we don't let new horses into the yard unless they have health papers and they've been checked by a vet."

Sometimes the guys at Ordway Feeders like to take their horses to ranch rodeos and like events, Karney said. Whenever they are planning to travel with their horses, they have to have inspections done and get temporary paperwork that clears their livestock for travel.

"(The veterinarian) does a visual inspection, and then every six months they take a blood test," he said.

"It's good for six months, they draw blood and send it to the lab and make sure that they are negative. It's normal protocol to do that.”

Karney said that when procedures aren’t properly followed, outbreaks are more likely to occur.

The protocol is similar to another measure livestock owners take to prevent Equine Infectious Anemia, called the Coggins Test.

Coggins Test results are also only viable for six months, Karney explained. Assuming test results are negative, the livestock owner will receive a card that verifies the animal is healthy and free of EIA.

"That's when you're traveling, you have to have a negative Coggins and health papers. The health papers are only good for a week and your Coggins is good for six months," said Karney.

Bruce Fickenscher, of the Rocky Ford CSU Extension office, told the Ag Journal that mitigating contact between livestock and VSV comes down to what he calls biosecurity.

"It essentially boils down to not letting your animals share equipment with other animals," said Fickenscher.

Especially as fair season approaches, ranchers and livestock owners should be proactive about getting their animals medical inspections.

"They just need to call the vet and they can come out and do a health certificate-type deal," Fickenscher said. "I think most of the bigger shows require a health certificate anyway. At the Arkansas Valley Fair, we don't require a health certificate. It goes back to biosecurity."

As of July 12, there were 26 confirmed cases of VSV in Colorado, in Weld, Larimer and La Plata counties, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

A total of 16 premises across those counties have been confirmed for VSV. Twelve cases have been reported in New Mexico in four counties, and Texas is dealing with nine cases across five counties.

Vesicular stomatitis is a viral disease that primarily affects horses and cattle, and occasionally swine, sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas. The transmission process of VSV is not completely understood, but includes insect vectors, such as black flies, sand flies, and biting midges.

The incubation period ranges from 2-8 days. Clinical signs include vesicles, erosions and sloughing of the skin on the muzzle, tongue, ears, teats and coronary bands.

Often, excessive salivation is the first sign of disease, along with a reluctance to eat or drink. Lameness and weight loss may follow.

Humans may become infected when handling affected animals, but this is a rare event. To avoid human exposure, individuals should use personal protective measures when handling affected animals.

There is no vaccination for VSV; the best prevention is strict fly control.