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Tackling Equine Disease Surveillance

Published: December 13, 2016 2:06 pm ET

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Equestrian Canada (EC), in collaboration with the newly formed Canadian Animal Health Surveillance System (CAHSS), is working with equine industry government stakeholders, health professionals and provincial representatives on the important topic of equine disease surveillance.

In November, participants, including representation from Standardbred Canada, took part in a two-day workshop that primarily addressed the need for national communication of equine disease issues. The first of its kind in Canada, the workshop included representatives from coast to coast.

“An active equine health surveillance system is absolutely necessary in this day and age,” said Dr. Ashley Whitehead, Chair, Clinical Skills Program and Assistant Professor, Equine Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, at the University of Calgary. “This workshop took a giant first step towards developing health surveillance in Canada by bringing together equine industries, academia and government. I was impressed that all participants at the workshop demonstrated a strong passion for horses and shared a common goal to protect our horses from diseases and outbreaks."

All horses are affected by disease, no matter the sector. Therefore, by working together, the equine industry as a whole can benefit. This workshop was a first step in that direction. Disease is the great equalizer in any species, and with the assistance of CAHSS, the poultry, swine and dairy industries are well on their way to establishing industry-wide surveillance for their species.

“This workshop was the first of its kind for the horse industry, and I was very proud to be part of an organization that supported this initiative unquestioningly – both financially and otherwise,” said Dr. Melanie Barham, Co-Chair of the EC Health and Welfare Committee. “Horse health and welfare must be at the forefront of sport, industry, and indeed all initiatives to do with equines. This is one very tangible step forward for horse health in Canada. Thank you CAHSS and EC and to all leaders countrywide who joined us. Everyone has a role to play in the future of the horse industry, and rapid, accurate sharing of disease information is a cornerstone.”

Following two days of collaboration, the workshop attendees created a purpose statement and mapped out a timeline for action, which included:

  • Creating an extensive contact list for disease surveillance across Canada

  • Defining key projects and initiatives

  • Identifying diseases of interest and case definitions

  • Delivering a national map of equine disease outbreaks

"Equine surveillance is an issue that sometimes doesn't get the attention it deserves. The opportunity to discuss the topic with equine professionals from across the country brought to light some important steps that the industry can take to help monitor and prevent the spread of disease among horses," said Darryl Kaplan, Manager of Industry Communications at Standardbred Canada.

“The workshop was great,” commented Ann Britton, Veterinary Pathologist, Animal Health Centre, for the BC Ministry of Agriculture. “We had a frank and in-depth discussion of the issues leading to a mission statement and a clear plan of action moving forward.”

Thanks to the wide variety of expertise and desire to collaborate that the participants brought to the workshop, the outcomes were extensive – as was the sense of urgency to proceed with equine disease surveillance across Canada.

For more information on disease surveillance in Canada, please visit the CAHSS website at Additional details on equine health and welfare can be found at

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