Equis ISSN 2398-2977

Lightning strike

Contributor(s): Frank Andrews

Introduction

  • Lightning strike and man-made electricity produce an electric shock which is defined as the effects of the passage of an electric current through any part of the body.
  • Signs: usually fatal and horse found dead following thunderstorm in appropriate place, eg field under lone tree, near ungrounded wire fence, in stable unprotected by lightning rods. In the case of electrocution, an uninsulated live wire may be observed.
  • Diagnosis: history of storm and appearance of horse. Singe marks may be seen on the legs and are pathognomonic for lightning strike.
  • Treatment: horses surviving lightning strike/electrocution show nervous signs of varying duration and severity. Good nursing and supportive care is essential.
  • Prognosis: usually fatal. Horses surviving take from minutes to months to recover.

Pathogenesis

Etiology

  • Lightning may strike a horse in an open field, but strike is more likely under a lone tree, near an ungrounded wire fence or in a stable unprotected by lightning rods.
  • Electrocution occurs in the stable due to contact with live, uninsulated wire, perhaps due to horse rubbing/chewing the insulating material.
  • Low hanging high tension wires and electric fences powered by improperly constructed fence chargers are also sources of electric shock.

Pathophysiology

  • The destructive power of electricity is due to a high amperage, horses can withstand high voltages.
  • Lightning is electricity at very high voltages, estimated at 1,000,000 V.
  • Electricity to most stables is of the region of 15-30 A and 110 V. This is sufficient to kill a well-grounded horse.
  • Animal bodies are generally assumed to be poor conductors of electricity, with the exception of the nervous system, which is an excellent conductor.
  • Death is due to a neuroparalysis   →   respiratory and circulatory arrest.

Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Williams J B (2001)Survival of lightning strike and its sequelae in a native pony.Equine Vet Educ13(1), 25-28 VetMedResource.
  • Williams M A (2000)Lightning strike in horses.Comp Contin Educ Pract Vet22(9), 860-867 VetMedResource.


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