An outbreak of equine flu has put the British horse racing industry on alert.
Four cases of the illness have been reported in the UK since January 2 - in Lincolnshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire and Essex - and horse owners are being urged to ensure their animals are vaccinated.
Cases of the virus have also been confirmed in France and Germany.
Gemma Dransfield, clinical director at Minster Veterinary Equine Clinic in York, said: “Horses that are not vaccinated are at serious risk if they come into direct contact with a horse suffering from the condition.
“However there is also an indirect risk. Many owners say they don’t have their horse vaccinated because they don’t take it away to shows or competitions, but if a horse shares a stable yard with other horses that are taken away, then there is a risk.”
Equine influenza is an airborne virus that can travel up to 50 metres.
Horses with underlying conditions such as immune problems or respiratory issues are at greater risk of getting the illness.
Mrs Dransfield added: “We don’t want to panic people, but owners should protect their horses by vaccinating against flu, keeping vaccinations up to date and ensuring their horses have their annual booster. Racehorse trainers are being advised to give a twice-yearly booster.”