Tetanus, a bacterial disease that affect horses and also humans, is an often fatal bacterial toxin that affects the nervous system, causing progressively worsening muscle contractions. Usually associated with the spasms of the jaw and neck (hence its common name of “lockjaw”), the horse will be unable to eat or drink. But it is important to remember that all muscles can be affected; including those that control breathing. This is why death can occur due to respiratory failure (leading to cardiac arrest).
The bacteria are present in soil and droppings, therefore tetanus can be easily picked up from puncture wounds, open cuts, or the umbilici of foals. However, it can be easily prevented with a vaccine! This is why it should form part of your horse’s core vaccination schedule. Tetanus can be treated but reports state that 80% of horses die once recumbent, so if your horse is unvaccinated, prompt veterinary attention can mean the difference between life and death.