Authorities investigate 10 sudden mysterious equine deaths within weeks

  • Australian authorities are working with vets to investigate multiple sudden equine deaths on separate premises this month.

    Since 4 July, 10 horses’ deaths have been confirmed, on separate properties, on the Mornington Peninsula, Melbourne, and Victoria. The state’s chief veterinary officer Graeme Cook said an investigation is under way.

    “The investigation is in the early stages. It is not yet known what has caused these deaths and to date common links are not evident,” Dr Cooke said.

    It is understood that all the horses died quickly after “short-term non-specific signs of illness”.

    There have been reports of more affected properties on social media, and Agriculture Victoria is asking any owners who have not reported death to do so, to help the investigation.

    “While we do not yet have any clear indication of the cause, early testing for some known diseases in horses has been negative,” Dr Cooke said.

    “Comprehensive testing for a range of disease, and importantly, non-disease causes, is under way. I thank those owners and veterinarians who have been affected for their assistance in providing information to date.”

    A spokesman for Agriculture Victoria said owners should monitor horses and report any illness or deaths to their vets, Agriculture Victoria or the emergency animal disease hotline, 1800 675 888.

    “As this is early days, every report will help us understand the situation and assist our investigation into finding the cause. Early assessment and collection of a range of samples is important to this type of investigation,” Dr Cooke said.

    “We know this is a difficult time for horse owners, that’s why we are working with veterinarians and a range of experts to find answers. Please do not share unconfirmed information online or on social media.”

    The Agriculture Victoria spokesman added that multiple horse deaths on a single property are uncommon but when they do occur, “investigations prioritise infectious causes and ingestion of toxins, however it is not always possible to definitively identify a cause”.

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