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Horses

The Swedish horse population included 355.500 horses at the last count in 2016 (the Swedish Board of Agriculture), or 36 horses per 1000 residents. The decrease since the count in 2010 (2%) is not statistically significant. This is still considered high compared to most other European countries. About 76.800 farms held horses and the mean number per farm was 4.6. The horses were mainly sport- or companion horses. About 100 years ago there were over 700 000 horses in Sweden and mainly military- and draft horses.

In Sweden there are mainly sport- och companion horses. Photo: Bengt Ekberg/SVA

The health status of horses in Sweden concerning infectious diseases is favourable and the Swedish listed epizootic diseases (vesicular stomatitis, rabies, African horse sickness, viral encephalitis and encephalomyelitis, anthrax, brucellosis and tuberculosis) have either never been diagnosed or not been reported in many years (the Swedish Board of Agriculture, animal health).

Of the endemic, notifiable infectious diseases the most commonly reported is strangles, according to statistics from the Swedish Board of Agriculture, animal health. Yearly figures of strangle have altered between 22 and 94 outbreaks between 2010 and 2015. Other occurring notifiable diseases are abortion due to Equine Herpes virus type 1 (yearly 24 - 13 outbreaks, 2010 - 2015) and infection with methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (yearly 2 - 9 outbreaks, 2010 – 2016). Many horses are vaccinated against Equine influenza, and the incidences are few, although a peak of 15 outbreaks were reported in 2011. Some other of, in Sweden notifiable infectious diseases found in Europe, are of low numbers in Sweden. For example, sporadic domestic cases of salmonella and equine theileriosis in imported horses occur. No case of West Nile fever or infectious anaemia has been reported. Though, the latter was endemic in the country about 60 years ago. Only the first case in an outbreak is reported, which means that there are no figures of total cases, only outbreaks.

To maintain the favourable health status, SVA offers competence and diagnostic service for the species concerned. Samples from horses and other animals are analysed for microorganisms and toxins. Furthermore, doping tests are carried out and essential trace elements in the blood are measured. Autopsies are performed and biopsies from e.g. skin lesions and tumours are examined. Separate cremation is an option.

Equine specialists at the SVA discuss on daily basis sampling techniques, interpretation of test results, spread of infectious disease, antibiotic resistance and other issues with clinicians around the country. SVA also perform scientific research to generate knowledge of current horse diseases. SVA collaborates with the horse industry, other governmental agencies, researchers and universities. Risk assessments are written at request from other governmental agencies. The specialists are also lecturers, organizers of courses and seminars, and design information material about horses and equine research.

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