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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Can horses get diseases from deer?

Q: Do you know if horses can get any diseases from deer? With the amount of snow we had this winter, the deer are eating hay out of the round bale feeder.

A: Unlike cattle and bison, which can contract tuberculosis (TB) from deer, horses seem to be less susceptible. I have never personally seen a case of TB in a horse in approximately 20 years as a practicing veterinarian. The risk exists, but is very low. There have been extremely rare reports of meningeal worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis); a parasite in deer feces that can migrate into the central nervous system of animals grazing contaminated pastures. Meningeal worm is a significant problem for sheep, goats, and camelids, but horses are minimally susceptible.

Some horse owners do prefer to fence the deer out of hay piles, which is basically impossible to do at a round bale feeder, unless horse access is also restricted. If the deer herd is large, fencing can reduce the economic impact of hay loss associate with deer feeding, which is likely of greater concern.

By Christie Ward, DVM, PhD, University of Minnesota

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