Botulism

Botulism

Shaker Foal Syndrome

Botulism is caused by neurotoxin produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacterium. Horses are particularly sensitive to botulism. The bacterium itself is widely found in soils and the intestinal tract of animals. When exposed to the right environmental conditions, the bacterium sporulated and releases the botulin toxin. Once the toxin is released in the intestinal tract it quickly moves into the bloodstream and targets nerve cells, causing a neuromuscular blockade that leads to generalized weakness and eventual paralysis.

The most common cause of botulism toxicity in horses is the ingestion of contaminated hay.

The second most common cause is known as shaker foal syndrome. Shaker foal syndrome affects young foals that are 10 days old or younger. During the first few days of the foal`s life, it ingests a bit of soil that contains the bacterium Clostridium botulinum type B. once in the intestinal tract, the bacteria proceed to colonize and grow, releasing toxins that are readily transferred into the bloodstream. Affected foals develop central nervous system symptoms such as an inability to swallow. Milk may be seen dripping from their nostrils as they nurse, and they may cough repeatedly, trying to clear the milk from their trachea. Drooling is often present. Other symptoms include muscle tremors (shaker foal), poor tongue and tail tone, abnormal gait, and progressive weakness. This disease progresses rapidly in foals and often results in death.

The best way to avoid shaker foal syndrome is to vaccinate the mare prior to foaling so she can pass a level of immunity on to her unborn foal.

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