My horse has colic symptoms. Could it be Hendra Virus?


Hendra Virus is a  deadly disease with symptoms that mimic those commonly seen during a colic episode. Hendra Virus may be suspected if your horse is unvaccinated against the disease and extreme caution must be taken to minimise its spread.

 Many horse owners are already familiar with Hendra Virus, which is a highly infectious disease that is transferred from flying fox to horse, horse to horse and horse to human.

Since its discovery in 1994, Hendra Virus poses a 75% mortality rate to horses and 57% mortality rate to humans, however any horse infect with the virus is euthanised so mortality is 100% . As such, vaccination is the only means available to prevent Hendra Virus from affecting you, your horse and your loved ones.

Is it Colic or Hendra Virus?

For any horse that is unvaccinated against Hendra Virus, a sudden colic episode may be associated with the disease.

However, there are several other common signs of Hendra Virus. An afflicted horse may show one or more of these symptoms:

  • Acute onset of illness
  • Increased body temperature
  • Shifting of weight
  • Depression
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Nasal discharge (clear, white or blood stained)
  • Head tilting or circling
  • Muscle twitching
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Colic

If Hendra Virus is suspected and your horse is unvaccinated, a veterinarian may refuse to treat your horse.and euthanasia is required to prevent the disease spreading further.

Strict hygiene and quarantine controls must be adhered to when coming into contact with a horse that may have contracted Hendra Virus. Personal protective equipment must be worn and the horse should be placed in quarantine immediately to protect others on the property.


  • Dr Louise Cosgrove

    The founder of Exclusively Equine Veterinary Services, Louise is driven to support horses in their recovery from injury or illness. A graduate of the University of Queensland, with international equin...

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