Vesicular Stomatitis in Horses and Cattle

March 31, 2005 (published) | December 7, 2015 (revised)

Vesicular stomatitis was in the news again this year. It is a viral disease that affects primarily horses and cattle, and it causes blisters and sores on the tongue, lips, muzzle, nose, hooves, and teats. The major concern with this disease is not the damage it causes but that the sores and lesions resemble foot and mouth disease, a serious foreign animal disease. In mid-May of 2015, three horses in Texas's Pecos County, about 30 miles north of Fort Stockton, Texas, were found to be infected with vesicular stomatitis. Samples were sent to the veterinary lab in Ames, Iowa, and they confirmed the diagnosis. In most cases, vesicular stomatitis is not a serious disease as most animals recover with supportive care. However, the disease is quite contagious and consequently in Texas and some other states affected animals are required to be quarantined as it can be readily transmitted by flies or direct contact.

The disease commonly occurs in the warmer months of the year and is not uncommon in the south and west Texas area, as it seems we see a few cases every couple of years. Vesicular stomatitis can also affect people and can cause flu-like symptoms of fever, weakness, and muscle aches. The first case this year of vesicular stomatitis was found in late April in New Mexico. Since quarantine is involved, this can have an effect on movement of animals into and out of quarantined areas and states; before moving any animals, be sure to contact your local veterinarian for advice and a health certificate. Again, the major concern with vesicular stomatitis is not the disease itself but that it can cause similar symptoms to foot and mouth disease, which is very serious and could cause the diagnosis to be missed.

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