A closer look: Tyzzer’s Disease in Horses
Tyzzer's disease is an emergency, and although it is very rare, putting preventative measures in place is recommended. Tyzzer’s is a highly fatal disease for foals, usually affecting those between 5 days and 6 weeks old.
Tyzzer’s may also result in coma.
Adults, although potential carries for the bacteria, are immune. Higher occurrences of Tyzzer’s have been observed during high rainfall months in the spring, particularly April to June.
Tyzzer’s is caused by the bacteria Clostridium piliforme. It is most commonly ingested from the feces of adult nursing mares, but is present in the environment as well.
Testing and diagnosis
Early diagnosis is vital considering the severity of Tyzzer’s disease. Diagnostic procedures include a physical examination, bloodwork, biopsy of the liver, and diagnostic imaging such as ultrasound and X-rays.
Steps to Recovery
There have been very few cases where treatment has been effective, and in these cases it was achieved with aggressive supportive care. This includes: IV fluids, parenteral nutrition, antibiotics, antimicrobials, anti-inflammatories, and anti-seizure medication. Due to the low success rate of treatment, it is suggested to focus on prevention.
Farms that have a case of Tyzzer’s disease often have sporadic cases every year, and close monitoring of foals is recommended.
Symptoms of Tyzzer’s disease appear between 4-7 days and last between 2 hours and 2 days past onset, but it is commonly asymptomatic. Treatment has not been found to be effective in most cases and many foals die within 24 hours, resulting in a grave prognosis.
As Clostridium piliforme is present in the environment as well as in the intestines of adults, it is difficult to avoid infection. At room temperature bacteria spores can live longer than a year in soiled bedding, so regular cleaning is suggested.
Prevention consists of ensuring that foals receive enough high quality colostrum and reducing factors that increase stress or immunosuppression. Factors that cause stress include overcrowding, poor sanitation, shipping, and capture. It is also recommended to maintain a high quality diet for nursing mares and foals, and to reduce compounds in the diet that are high in protein and nitrogen such as legumes or soybean meal.
Tyzzer's disease is not highly contagious, although presence of the bacteria and common predisposing factors affect all foals in an environment.
Tyzzer’s also affects a number of different species including other domestic animals such as cats, dogs, calves, rabbits, rats, and some birds.
Is Tyzzer’s Disease in Horses common?
Tyzzer's disease is very rare in horses.
Supportive care which includes:
- IV fluids
- Parenteral nutrition
- Anti-seizure medication