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Vesicular Stomatitis Virus in Horses – Common Questions

The Vesicular stomatitis virus is caused by a rhabdovirus and can afflict livestock, horses and occasionally humans. It is contagious and while generally not life-threatening, it can have a serious economic impact on the equine industry. It is a reportable disease and if your veterinarian suspects your horse is infected with Vesicular stomatitis, he will be obligated to contact animal health agencies within the state and federal government. If the disease is confirmed, you can expect a quarantine of your property which usually lasts about thirty days after the last case has been resolved.

Signs and Diagnosis

The Vesicular stomatitis virus in your horse can cause blisters on the lining of the mouth, tongue, lips and nose. Occasionally, these lesions will also be on the sheath or udder. To make a diagnosis, blood is tested for the viral antibodies. While symptoms are similar to hoof and mouth disease, the two should not be confused – hoof and mouth does not appear in horses.

After exposure to the virus, symptoms begin to appear within one week. The first sign is fever followed by the development of the blistering lesions. Your horse may exhibit drooling once the blisters burst and ulcerations are left within the mouth. The tongue may slough; feed intake may decrease with secondary weight loss as a result of the painful ulcers.


If your horse does develop this disease, talk to your veterinarian concerning how to best reduce inflammation and pain to encourage your horse to continue eating, and drinking. The affected areas will need to be closely monitored for signs of infection and treated appropriately. A diet consisting of soft foods may help with the discomfort in the mouth.


These guidelines can help you in preventing Vesicular Stomatitis from occurring in your horses.

  • Keep your horse as healthy as possible with good nutrition, adequate water and exercise and routine vet care.
  • High quality horse feed and hay is one of the best means of prevention.
  • New horses should be isolated for a minimum of three weeks before bringing them into contact with your herd.
  • If your horse begins to display signs of VS, isolate him immediately.
  • Use individual feeders.
  • Keep your horses surroundings regularly disinfected and as clean as possible.
  • Take measures to keep insect populations controlled.


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