Vesicular Stomatitis In Horses

Last Updated on July 24, 2022

Vesicular stomatitis in horses is a contagious disease that can be very dangerous. Not only does it affect horses, but it also affects humans, livestock, and wildlife. It can be a very serious disease so it is important to take it seriously and make sure your horse gets the treatment they need.

Like most diseases, if you suspect your horse has vesicular stomatitis, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. A veterinarian will be able to diagnose your horse and provide them with the proper care they need. Though it is uncommon, outbreaks of vesicular stomatitis can happen.

What Is Vesicular Stomatitis In Horses?

Vesicular stomatitis or VS is a viral disease that affects horses. In addition, it can also affect cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, llamas, and alpacas. In rare cases, humans can also become infected with vesicular stomatitis when handling affected animals.

Vesicular stomatitis is only confirmed in the Western Hemisphere.  It is an endemic disease that affects the warmer regions of North, Central, and South America.  Outbreaks may also occur in other temperate geographic parts of the hemisphere on occasion.

States within Southwestern and Western America have experienced a number of vesicular stomatitis outbreaks. In 2015, the most recent and largest vesicular stomatitis outbreak occurred. Outbreaks generally happen during the warmer months. It is most common for outbreaks to occur along waterways.  Due to the risks that come with it and how quickly it can spread, vesicular stomatitis is a state-reportable disease.

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How Is Vesicular Stomatitis Transmitted?

It is believed that insects including biting flies and midges contribute to maintaining the virus. Black flies, sand flies, and midges are also known to transmit it. However, many researchers also believe that there are other insect vectors to spread the disease that has not yet been identified.

In addition to insects, vesicular stomatitis also can be transmitted from horse to horse through saliva or fluid from ruptured blisters. In addition, physical contact among horses along with contact with shared items such as buckets, equipment, housing, trailers, feed, and bedding by an infected horse can also spread it.

The time from exposure od the virus to the onset of clinical signs is two to eight days. Horses must generally isolate for 21 days from other horses after being diagnosed.

Symptoms Of Vesicular Stomatitis In Horses

Horses with vesicular stomatitis will often develop blister-like lesions on the tongue, mouth lining, nose, or lips. Horses will also generally have excessive drooling, a fever, trouble eating, lameness, and have inflammation and erosions at the coronary band of the hoof. In the Southwestern United States, crusting lesions of the muzzle, lower abdomen, penis, and udder are also typical symptoms as well.

Symptoms Of Vesicular Stomatitis

Diagnosis – Vesicular Stomatitis In Horses

If you suspect your horse has vesicular stomatitis you should contact your veterinarian immediately.  A veterinarian will be able to diagnose if your horse has vesicular stomatitis and will instruct you on what to do to isolate your horse from others.

Treating Vesicular Stomatitis In Horses

In most cases, the disease will just run its course within two weeks. However, a horse with vesicular stomatitis may be given soft feeds to reduce mouth discomfort. In addition, anti-inflammatory medications can be given for supportive care to help reduce swelling and pain, allowing the horse to eat and drink.

Intravenous fluids may be given if a horse becomes dehydrated from not drinking enough water. Another concern with vesicular stomatitis is a secondary bacterial infection of ulcerated areas is another concern. Antibiotics can be given in the case of fever, swelling, inflammation, or pus developing around the sores.

Using dilute antiseptic solutions, such as chlorhexidine in water, can help reduce the chance of secondary bacterial contamination. Besides that, pretty much the only thing to do is wait for the disease to run its course.


If a horse is diagnosed with vesicular stomatitis, it should be quarantined for two weeks. In addition, other horses on the property that could have been possibly exposed should not leave the property for two weeks.

Ways To Prevent Vesicular Stomatitis

To help prevent the spread of vesicular stomatitis, new horses arriving at your property should be quarantined for 21 days. In addition, make sure you have a good fly control program and reduce any areas where bugs could breed. In addition, be sure to regularly clean any shared troughs, tack, or equipment.

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Is There A Vaccine For Vesicular Stomatitis?

Though there are experimental vaccines to help combat vesicular stomatitis, there is no FDA-approved vaccine for horses. The period of protection from the vaccine is fairly limited. The best way to manage it is to avoid spreading it by quarantining exposed horses.

Vesicular Stomatitis In Horses

Vesicular stomatitis is a fast-spreading viral disease in horses that can cause mass outbreaks. Its symptoms include blister-like lesions on the tongue, mouth lining, nose, or lips. In addition, horses will also often have a fever, trouble eating and inflammation, and erosions at the coronary band of the hoof.

Do you have any questions regarding vesicular stomatitis in horses? If so, please ask any questions regarding the cause, spread, and symptoms of vesicular stomatitis.


What Does Vesicular Stomatitis Look Like?

Horses with vesicular stomatitis will often have blister-like lesions on the tongue, mouth lining, nose or lips. In addition, horses will also often drool.

What Causes Vesicular Stomatitis in Horses?

Insects such as black flies, sand flies and midges are known to transmit vesicular stomatitis. In addition, the disease can also spread from contact from horse to horse.

How Do You Prevent Vesicular Stomatitis in Horses?

To prevent vesicular stomatitis, make sure to quartine any new horses to your property and if a horse ever gets sick, quartine the horse along with any horses that may have been exposed. In addition, practice good fly control and regularly clean equipment.

What is the Incubation Period for Vesicular Stomatitis?

The incubation period for vesicular stomatitis is generally two to eight days. A horse with vesicular stomatitis should be quarantined for two weeks and the disease will normally run its course in that time.