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Tetanus in Horses

Tetanus in Horses

Tetanus is a dangerous disease that can negatively affect your horse's health. Today our Mount Vernon vets explain tetanus and what can be done to prevent it.

About Tetanus in Horses

Tetanus is a bacterial disease that can affect most animals and humans. Horses are particularly susceptible because of their environment and tendency to suffer injuries. 

Tetanus is a potentially fatal disease characterized by muscular spasms caused by a neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. These organisms, and their spores, are found in the intestinal tract of horses and are abundant in the soil, where they can survive for many years.

The spores can enter open wounds, particularly puncture wounds, where they proliferate under the right conditions. When the spores die, they release the tetanospasmin neurotoxin that is responsible for clinical signs. The size of the wound does not correlate to the risk of developing tetanus. Even smaller, non-threatening-looking wounds have been associated with clinical cases.

Signs & Symptoms:

Tetanus attacks the nerves controlling the muscles in your horse's body. This will cause progressively worsening muscular stiffness and spasm. 

You will notice that your horse will have difficulty moving around and eating. 

You will notice that your horse's eyelids will start to protrude.

You may notice your horse sweating far more than normal and it has become very skittish when approached or startled.


Puncture wounds on the sole are the most common sites of infection in horses. Infection can be acquired via the intestines, after eating contaminated soil or poop, through gastric or intestinal ulcers.

In foals, an infection can occur via the umbilicus (navel).


Tetanus, if caught early can be treated with antibiotics. Your horse will need to be put in a stall that is kept quiet and dark. Padding walls may be needed to decrease the likelihood of injury.

Tetanus is potentially fatal to all horses that come in contact with it, so treatment options are very limited. If you suspect your horse has tetanus please contact your Northwest Veterinary Clinic of Mount Vernon vets right away.


The good news about the potentially deadly disease, it is completely preventable. As long as your horse is up to date with its vaccinations, tetanus should not be a problem because it is included in your horse's core vaccinations.

If you're concerned about your horse, please contact our Mount Vernon vets today for more information.

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Northwest Veterinary Clinic of Mount Vernon is accepting new patients! Our vets are passionate about the health of Mount Vernon cats, dogs, and horses. Get in touch today to book your animal's first appointment.

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