There are five strains of Equine Herpes Virus (EHV), EHV-1 and EHV-4 being the most notable. Initial symptoms include coughing and other signs of respiratory distress often leading to significant respiratory tract disease. In advanced stages horses may exhibit neurological symptoms, such as ataxia: weakness, shakiness and wobbliness and abortions in mares have been observed.
EHV follows the characteristic markers of the herpes virus in that it has the potential to go into a dormant stage and remain in the body throughout the life of your horse.
Mainly young and immune compromised horses are at risk. The virus is spread through the respiratory tract, infective nasal discharge, placental fluids and aborted foetuses.
Can Equissage help?
As there has been no specific study into whether Equissage can help or not, there is no clear answer. The main difficulty with the herpes family of viruses is that they have an ability to evade the immune system - they produce substances that decrease the immune response against them. They also possess latency i.e. the ability to lie dormant, and during the periods of latency the virus produces very few proteins further reducing opposition from the immune system.
Logical reasoning suggests that use of Equissage will help with regard to effects on the respiratory tract and coughing due to its ability of open up the airways. However, as affected horses usually have raised temperatures, then until this is normalised, using Equissage is not recommended.
If the EHV-1 strain develops to the extent that neurological signs become evident, then again use of Equissage must be guarded due to in-coordination, the inability to pass urine or faeces (thus requiring the need for a catheter), etc. Once the horse is on the road to recovery, then obviously Equissage can be used as part of that process.
The EHV-4 strain typically causes respiratory disease (which can lead to abortion in mares) preceded by an increase in temperature.
As there is no specific veterinary treatment for Equine Herpes other than the provision of anti-inflammatories for the fever, then there is no definitive answer as to how Equissage should be applied for maximum benefit of the horse.
However for the less affected horse, once the high temperature has been addressed, then Equissage can be used to help clear the airways and eliminate mucus etc.
For the more severely affected horse, once the vet is satisfied that associated neurological symptoms have eased, then Equissage should become part of the daily routine to promote the circulatory systems, ease muscles, etc. Some patients actually become recumbent and unfortunately the chances of recovery are very slight.
As the virus can evade the immune system then whether or not Equissage has any benefit in this respect is open to question but it is one of those instances where its use can only do good and most certainly cannot do any harm.