Territory Stories

Katherine rural review



Katherine rural review


Northern Territory. Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development


Katherine rural review; E-Journals; PublicationNT; Katherine rural review






Date:2005-02; Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).; This publication contains may contain links to external sites. These external sites may no longer be active.




Agriculture; Northern Territory; Katherine; Periodicals; Animal industry; Rural industries; Periodicals

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Northern Territory Government

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Katherine rural review


ed. 262

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

Copyright owner

Northern Territory Government



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2 Why Is My Horse Showing Nervous Signs and What Is Causing It? Sue Hourigan, Veterinary Officer, DBIRD Ph: 8973 9756 There are two main problems that cause nervous signs in horses in the Katherine region, viral infection and plant toxicity. Blood tests can be used confidently to differentiate between the two problems and even between different viruses. Blood should always be collected from horses showing any neurological symptoms in order to reach a definite diagnosis. This will also dictate the treatment for the animal. Nervous signs may include depression, altered behaviour, altered temperament, inco-ordination, staggering, stiffness, tremor, head tilt, head pressing, blindness, excitation, star-gazing, aimless wandering, paresis, paralysis, recumbent (downer animals), and convulsions. Sick horses may also show several other unrelated signs like faceswelling and persistent colic With the wet weather around, it is important to keep an eye on your horses for any sign of disease. Several viruses are known to cause disease in horses in the Katherine region in the past few years. Two of these viruses have been discovered and named; they are the Elsey and Florina viruses. To determine the distribution of the Elsey and Florina viruses, blood has been collected from both sick and healthy horses throughout the region. In the past 10 years, approximately 11% of horses that have been tested for Elsey virus have shown evidence of being exposed to it and the virus has been isolated from two cases. A study is currently being completed to determine whether there is an association between the Elsey virus infection and neurological syndromes. Viral Infection Blood can be tested for the presence of antibodies to a particular virus. When a horse is bitten by a mosquito or midge and infected with a virus, the horses body responds by producing antibodies to the virus, which circulate in the blood. The presence of these antibodies in the blood means that the horse has been exposed to the virus at some stage in its lifetime even if it does not show any signs of disease. Blood needs to be collected from the horse twice, first when it is sick and again two to three weeks later. The level of antibody in the blood is then measured and compared. It if has risen between the two bleeds, it is likely that the horse was infected with the virus recently. If the antibody level remained the same, it is likely that the horse was infected with the virus earlier in life and it is not the cause of its illness. Virus can also be isolated from tissues. If a horse is found dead and blood cant be collected, tissue samples may be used to determine whether the horse was infected with a virus. Plant toxicity Liver damage can also cause nervous signs. Toxic plants that affect liver function will prevent normal breakdown of waste products (like urea) that will be free to circulate and therefore affect the brain causing these signs. This is called hepatic encephalopathy and can be easily confused with viral diseases. GGT is an enzyme produced by the liver that can be measured in the blood. When horses eat toxic species of Crotalaria, the plant toxin causes damage to the liver cells and this will increase blood levels of this enzyme. This increase can be easily detected in the blood samples. In this region, toxic Crotalaria species are the most likely cause. The disease is also known as Walkabout disease, Crotalaria toxicity, Pyrrolizidine alkaloid toxicity and Kimberley horse disease. If you have a horse showing neurological symptoms, please report it to your local veterinarian, DBIRD Veterinary Officer or Stock Inspector on 8973 9739.

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