Equine Rotavirus

foal running in a pasture

What is equine rotavirus?

Equine rotavirus damages the lining of the intestines, inhibiting digestion and absorption of food. It is one of the most common causes of diarrhea in foals less than six months of age. Foals become infected when they ingest materials or lick surfaces contaminated with infected feces.

What are the clinical signs of equine rotavirus?

Clinical signs of equine rotavirus infection can include diarrhea, lethargy, anorexia, reluctance to nurse, and distended abdomens. Infected foals may shed the virus in their feces for up to 10 days, and asymptomatic horses are capable of shedding the virus for up to 8 months.

How is equine rotavirus diagnosed?

A diagnosis of equine rotavirus is made by virus identification through enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assays.

How is equine rotavirus treated?

Treatment for equine rotavirus is primarily supportive and may include intravenous (IV) fluids, gastrointestinal protectants, and probiotics.

What is the prognosis for equine rotavirus?

Early detection and treatment of affected foals often lead to rapid recovery.

How can equine rotavirus be prevented?

To prevent infection, pregnant mares can be vaccinated to increase foals’ antibodies to the virus.

Sick foals are highly contagious and should be separated from other foals on the property. Staff that handle infected foals should adhere to strict biosecurity protocols. Since the virus can persist in the environment, do not spread manure from infected horses on pastures.

For more information

UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine PCR Laboratory

American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Infectious Disease Guidelines: Rotavirus

*This article may not be reproduced without the written consent of the UC Davis Center for Equine Health. Please email requests to cehadmin@ucdavis.edu