How to Prevent Shipping Fever (Horses)

Three Parts:Planning the JourneyDuring the Week Prior to ShippingShipping the Horse

Shipping fever is a nasty type of pulmonary disorder that horses can contract during long transportation, and are especially prone to it if you don't take steps to prevent it. Preventing shipping fever can be done by only shipping healthy horses, decreasing inhaled debris, dust, and bacteria, and making smart choices about travel plans.

Shipping fever is also known as travel sickness, and its technical name is Pleuropneumonia.

Part 1
Planning the Journey

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    If your horse will be hauled in a trailer:
    • Pick a route that has safe places to stop along the route. Ideally, you should stop to check the horse and offer water every 4 hours.
    • Consider a night journey. Traveling in the evening will avoid excess outside temperature fluctuations, likely avoid bad traffic (stops and starts aren't good for a horse), and the horse might be more relaxed. If this is what you choose, make sure the driver has slept well prior to the haul. Though night journeys have their benefits, this may not be a wise choice for an area with lots of deer near the road.
    • Check the stats. Journeys of over 500 miles (800 km) or 3 hours are associated with shipping fever. Stops should be made every 4 hours, in which the horse is let free to move about and also offered water. Transportation should be 12 hours maximum per day. At the end of the day, the horse should be comfortably stabled and rest for a minimum of 8 hours.
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    If your horse will be transported by plane:
    • Choose the quickest flight available, with the length of ground stops minimized. Usually ground stops are where the worst air is, and also where the temperature and humidity can fluctuate much more.
    • Maintain good air ventilation by using auxiliary ventilation systems. This is very important.

Part 2
During the Week Prior to Shipping

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    Only ship healthy horses. If your horse isn't feeling well (for any reason), delay the shipping for later. Even if the horse seems healthy and happy, it's a good idea to check the temperature, respiratory rate, and other basic health-checks.
    • Horses with respiratory problems, nasal discharge, or a fever should especially not be shipped. There's a well-known saying when it comes to hauling horses, and it rings true: Sick horse on, sicker horse off.
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    Make a basic first-aid kit for your horse. This should include sports wrap, packaged cotton, gauze, non-stick pads, and sport tape. Put these in some sort of container and place in an easy-access spot in your trailer.
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    Avoid any unnecessary medication. Tranquilization by a vet should also be avoided.
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    During the days leading up to the shipping, ensure that the horse is drinking plenty of water. As long as the horse is, and doesn't have a history of dehydration, electrolyte usage should be minimized or not used at all.
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    Weigh the horse before shipping. Because horses can lose from 0.45 – 0.55% of their total body weight during shipping, you'll want a weight baseline for comparison, helping to know how long the horse takes to recover from the shipping. Healthy horses will usually regain their weight within 3 – 7 days after shipping, but horses shipped internationally or that have shipping fever can take longer to recover.

Part 3
Shipping the Horse

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    Well-ventilate the trailer by opening every window. This is very important. Even when it's cool, having fresh air will be much better for your horse.
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    Soak hay for 5-10 minutes in water before offering it in a hay net or bag. Alternatively, if it's a short haul, don't provide feed at all.
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    Stop every 4 hours for 60 minutes. This gives the horse time to rest its leg muscles, relax, drink water, and maybe doze off a bit.
    • Offer the horse water at the beginning and end of the stop. Don't freak out if your horse won't drink for the first few hours; these horses will usually drink water later in the day. However, if your horse hasn't offered to drink any water at all, it's urgent to increase the water intake. One way to do this is to offer them grain with some table salt stirred in. The salt will usually induce horses to drink using thirstiness.
    • Lengthen the horse's lead rope when stopped (but don't lengthen it too much). Studies have shown that having a horse's head in an upright position for an extended period can be detrimental to the horse's health. Don't lengthen it too much if your horse is new to trailering or likes to paw and may get a leg over the rope.
    • Generally it's easiest for both parties if you leave the horse in the trailer during each stop.
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    Check on the horse during the haul. If the horse gets injured, take immediate action with the first aid kit, and call your vet. Keep in mind that most first-aid wound solutions should not be used on the wound if you think it may require stitches.
    • If you notice that the horse's urine is more brown than usual, that's probably due to dehydration. Call your vet if your horse doesn't drink within 6 hours.[citation needed]
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    Keep the bedding clean. This is important for long, all-day or multiple-day hauls. During stops, remove any piles or wet spots, and add more bedding if needed. When horse urine is left for a length of time it will start releasing ammonia. This is harmful and can cause respiratory problems for the horse.
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    Upon reaching the destination, give the horse 3 – 7 days to recuperate. Hold off any big plans for later. This will also allow time to treat any health problems that occurred during shipping.
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