Clinical findings and response to treatment of 17 cases of tetanus in horses (2012–2021)


Clostridium tetani, hyperesthesia, tetanus antitoxin, tetanospasmin.

How to Cite

de Melo, U. P., & Ferreira, C. (2022). Clinical findings and response to treatment of 17 cases of tetanus in horses (2012–2021). Brazilian Journal of Veterinary Medicine, 44, e005321.


Tetanus is a distressing and often fatal disease caused by exotoxins released by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. Clostridium tetani is a commensal of the gastrointestinal tract of humans and domestic animals, and its spores are highly resistant to environmental changes, acid, and alkali and may persist in the soil for many years. The disease is characterized by generalized muscular rigidity and spasms, hyperesthesia, convulsions, respiratory arrest, and death. Horses are the most susceptible domestic animals. Treatment is typically directed towards elimination of the source of the toxin, neutralization of any unbound toxin, establishment of antitoxin immunity, control of neuromuscular derangements, and relief of pain. This study described the clinical findings and therapeutic protocols of 17 horses with tetanus, treated between March 2012 and December 2021. The diagnosis of tetanus was based on the history and clinical examination findings of the animals. All horses received a treatment pattern composed of the administration of tetanus serum (50,000 UI, intravenously, followed by three injections of the same dose at 48-h intervals), procaine penicillin (25,000 UI kg, intramuscularly, BID, for 10 days), and muscle relaxant (acepromazine 0.02–0.05 mg/kg, intramuscularly, BID, for 8 days). Support therapy based on hydroelectrolytic replacements, feeding via a nasogastric tube, and assistance in the maintenance of the quadrupedal position were performed when needed. The mortality rate observed in this report was 23.52%. Early diagnosis associated with the instituted treatment contributed the most to the animal recovery.


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