The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought to the public’s attention of a number of different strains of coronavirus that exist in the animal world, including a strain that affects equines, called Betacoronavirus genus, also known as the Equine coronavirus, or ECoV. The equine version of the coronavirus often, although not always, creates symptoms of colic, including gastrointestinal distress and the horses refusing to eat. This virus is passed through fecal manner (not bodily fluids as with COVID-19). In addition, this strain of the virus has shown no indication that it will jump from one species to another, so it is not communicable to humans.
The virus can affect both foals and adult horses, although it is rarely fatal, and usually only because it triggers a secondary effect, such as colic (although not all horses exhibit colic symptoms). Contrary to COVID-19, which often can create respiratory distress, horses rarely show respiratory issues. Miniature horses are especially susceptible to the Equine coronavirus, but adult full-grown horses often resolve their symptoms within a few days. Foals who are diagnosed with the coronavirus often are found to have other infections as well.
Just like with COVID-19, horses can be asymptomatic and can pass the Equine coronavirus onto other horses through the horses eating fecal manner. In one study done between 2012-2018, 95% of the horses who tested positive were at a public stable (Berryhill, Magdesian, Aleman & Pusterla, 2019). Therefore, one of the best ways to prevent horses from contracting the virus is to ensure that common areas in a stable are kept free of manure, paddocks with multiple horses should be routinely cleaned, and all manure should be stored or disposed of in a way that it cannot contaminate drinking water. Quarantined horses should have separate manure rakes in order to help prevent the spread of the virus to other horses.
Long story short, feel free to hug your horse. In these trying times, it’s nice to know that your equine friend is still a safe haven from the craziness of the world.
Berryhill, E., Magdesian, K., Aleman, M., & Pusterla, N. (2019). Clinical presentation, diagnostic findings, and outcome of adult horses with equine coronavirus infection at a veterinary teaching hospital: 33 cases (2012–2018). The Veterinary Journal, 248, 95–100. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2019.05.001
Slovis, N. M., Elam, J., Estrada, M., & Leutenegger, C. M. (2013). Infectious agents associated with diarrhoea in neonatal foals in central Kentucky: A comprehensive molecular study. Equine Veterinary Journal, 46(3), 311–316. doi: 10.1111/evj.12119
Click to access DiseaseFactsheet_Coronavirus.pdf