What are Nocardiosis?
The bacteria are found in the soil and are inhaled or enter through a break in the skin. Usually this is a disease that is uncommon in animals. If your horse does get nocardiosis, it may be related to an immune condition that has weakened your horse’s immune system and the bacteria have found a way to enter and take advantage of this condition.
An increased respiration rate and nasal discharge are two signs of the condition; a subcutaneous infection that can become serious has been documented to accompany other symptoms. Painless nodules that can evolve to oozing lesions can result from this bacterial disease. Differential diagnosis that your veterinarian will need to rule out can include cutaneous neoplasia, fungal pneumonia and pulmonary parasites.
Surgical drainage of the skin infection and antibiotic therapy may be required. In some cases, the course of antibiotics will be necessary for several months in order to prevent a relapse of the condition. Prognosis will vary depending on the severity of the illness and the health of the horse at time of infection.
Nocardiosis in horses has been recognised as an opportunistic bacterial infection which can take advantage of an immune disorder.
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Symptoms of Nocardiosis in Horses
- Laboured breathing and a cough
- Organ compromise showing abscesses developing
- Lesions may have a grey or white discharge
- Mycetomas – a cutaneous infection
- Severe pneumonia
- Enlarge lymph nodes
- Cutaneous lesions
Causes of Nocardiosis in Horses
- Nocardiosis affects most animals such as dogs, cats, cattle and horses
- The bacteria can affect humans as well
- Similar symptoms are prevalent in people as in animals
- Inhalation seems to be the common entry point
- An infectious disease caused by the Nocardia spp bacteria
- These are found in the soil
- Inhalation of the bacteria from the soil
- Uncommon in horses
Diagnosis of Nocardiosis in Horses
If your horse is exhibiting symptoms of respiratory laboring, or if you see lesions on the skin, an evaluation by an equine veterinarian is essential. As with any health condition, a delay in treatment can lead to consequences that may be impossible to reverse.
The veterinarian will give your horse a thorough examination, listening in depth to the heart and lungs. Blood tests may be ordered to assess the overall status of your horse’s immune system. The veterinarian will also take a sample of the lesions present on your horse for investigation under the microscope. Testing within the laboratory will disclose typically filamentous organisms that display a pattern of fragmentation.
Hypersensitivity tests have been suggested to diagnose nocardiosis in animals. Often, diagnosis is based on epidemiologic findings. Samples from the skin may show the bacteria development. Oral nocardiosis can cause face and jaw swelling in horses. There are now molecular techniques of diagnosing this condition that save time and provide a reliable diagnosis. Although the bacteria are present in many countries around the world, nocardiosis remains a difficult condition to diagnose and treat.
Treatment of Nocardiosis in Horses
Treatment consists of drug therapy with cefotaxime and ceftriaxone which have been found to be useful and effective for nocardiosis therapy in animals. Alternative therapy treatments such as erythromycin and minocycline are available. Studies show promise with the use of amoxicillin clavulanate and other cephalosporins. Combined treatments using amikacin with sulphonamides has been suggested as a possible treatment. Long term therapy from 1 to 6 months is advised because of clinical relapses.
Surgical removal and debridement of any growth or lesions may be necessary to prevent further growth development. After removal of abrasions or lesions, keep the wound area washed with an antiseptic solution to avoid any infection. During summer months using a light cover on your horse after the removal of a lesion will protect the site from annoying flies.
Recovery of Nocardiosis in Horses
Much depends on the extent of infection that your horse has endured as to the recovery and management. Confinement, if surgical removal was required, and for medication treatment is advised. For the wound site, the usual care of applying topical antiseptic creams, washing with antibacterial solutions, and keeping the area clean is best. Using a light cover on your horse will keep pesky insects at bay, and protect your horse from further infections. Keeping the pasture turned and clean is the best prevention, and in the case of pasture sharing between cows and horses, ensure the pastures are not overgrazed and the animals are moved often to keep the grazing area clean and healthy. The water supply should be checked to ensure there is no stagnancy.