Treatment

There is no specific treatment for equine herpesvirus.

For horses with respiratory disease (1,2) :
- rest and nursing care are recommended to decrease chances of a secondary bacterial infection
- antipyretics (drugs to bring down a fever) are recommended if the temperature is over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit)
- antibiotics may be used if a secondary bacterial infection is suspected
Prognosis: Should recover in 2-5 days.

For horses with neurological disease (3) :
- urinary catheterization - may be necessary if the horse is incontinent
- correction of dehydration - fluids should be given intravenously if necessary
- nutrition - feeding through a nasogastric tube or intravenously should be done if necessary
- anti-inflammatories
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Banamine or Bute are often used
- steroids like dexamethasone may be used as anti-inflammatories, although they should be used with care as they may cause immunosuppression
- DMSO may be given with fluids to decrease inflammation, although its real benefits are debatable
- anti-viral treatments
- acyclovir is often used, although it has been shown to be poorly active versus the virus in culture (4) - in particular, it has been shown that oral acyclovir does not reach high enough concentrations to be therapeutic (5), and intravenous acyclovir is reserved for extremely valuable horses (it costs about $100 per dose) (3)
- penciclovir and cidofovir have been shown to be potent inhibitors of the virus in culture (4)
- antibiotics
- may be given to decrease the risk of a secondary bacterial infection or of a bladder infection from the urinary catheter

Prognosis: Fair to good. Many horses stablilize within 48 hours, although months may pass before recovery from neurologic                         symptoms is complete. Prognosis is much worse if the horse is unable to rise.

For young foals with septicemia (1) :
- these foals need to be treated aggressively with antibiotics and supportive care that may include intravenous fluids and stomach tube or intravenous nutrition
- acyclovir may be used (see above)
Prognosis: Fatal in most cases.


Home