LOUISIANA (KLFY) — A botulism outbreak in quarter horses in Vermilion Parish has left 12 of 15 infected horses dead.

Botulism is a disease caused by toxic bacteria attacking the nervous system which can cause death. In horses, this can cause paralysis resulting in a horse not being able to move, eat or breathe.

Dr. Rose Baker with LSU Veterinary Medicine said horses can contract botulism in different ways. The most common, consuming contaminated food.

She said botulism is not contagious, but it is a difficult disease to treat.

“Treatment especially in a full-size horse is quite difficult, and that’s because of the complication of managing a horse of this size,” Baker said.

With botulism cases reported in other states like New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas, the FDA has put out a recall for Top of the Rock alfalfa cubes, warning owners not to feed their animals select lots of the feed.

A billion-dollar industry in Louisiana, quarter horse racing, can see a negative impact if botulism cases rise. Baker said most of the horses that died were pregnant and came from one breeding farm in vermillion parish.

“The direct effects that we are seeing on this is that this outbreak has occurred on one of our breeding farms that we have and it’s a very well supported breeding farm that we have and unfortunately we have lost a number of mares that are pregnant,” Baker said.

Although the disease is difficult to treat, it is not impossible. Baker said once a horse is diagnosed with botulism, they are administered an anti-toxin followed by supportive care.

“It’s mainly aimed at supportive care mechanisms so it’s making sure that they stay well hydrated and able to stand up so that if they can’t stand up try and keep them as comfortable as possible,” Baker said.

If anyone suspects their horse has been affected by the outbreak, seek medical attention and reach out to the FDA to report the case.