Green Grass and Laminitis

Green Grass and Laminitis

Tuesdays with Tony

Teanie and I have been watching the Winter Olympics nightly. I have even been inspired to try my hand at luge down the hallway at the Clinic. It looks like napping because there’s no slope, but I’m hard at work practicing proper technique. In the morning when my trusty staff arrives, I go outside to enjoy Florida Winter. While enjoying the sun and 60’s the other morning I noticed something: green grass. Oh boy, I thought, here comes the fun. And by fun, I mean not fun (because I’m a cat), and by not fun I mean the laminitis cases that come with the first green grass. I really should have written this blog a month ago so you humans could be better prepared, but it’s hard to believe green grass is around the corner when there’s ice falling from the sky (that was a HORRIBLE day). Here we are though. Florida. Mid-February. Mid-80s. Green Grass.

Ahh, the Green Grass Buffet!

Beautiful, horrible, green grass

Let’s start with how awesome it is to have grass in February. Grass means less hay to feed, and, a highlight for my Docs, fewer colics. However, baby grass is very high in sugar which is why it tastes delicious. We also are likely to experience at least a few more days of cold mornings which will make that baby grass concentrate it’s sugar even more. You know how baby vegetables taste better than the big versions? Grass is the same way.

You mean my horse can’t eat the grass?

That’s not quite what I mean. Certain horses need to be monitored very closely this time of year to be sure they can handle high-sugar grasses. Have you found it easy to put weight on your horse, but hard to take it off? Have you noticed bumps on either side of the base of the tail, or behind the shoulders? Those bumps are fat. That fat is the really bad kind of fat, too. This fat releases all sorts of hormones that tell the body to get mad at everything (the Docs get fancy and call this a pro-inflammatory state), and they tell the pancreas to make lots and lots of insulin while telling the cells to ignore the fact that glucose is around. This leads to what’s known as metabolic syndrome, or insulin resistance.  And that’s a bad syndrome to have.

Horses with metabolic syndrome don’t respond correctly to insulin.  Normally, you eat some food, your brain says “Oh, that was sugar,” your pancreas says, “Release the insulin,” the insulin runs to the cells and tells them to grab the sugar. When this goes wrong, the cells stop listening to the insulin, the pancreas releases more insulin to try to make them listen, the sugar level goes up in the blood, and then some not-great stuff happens. The most common thing horse owners see go wrong is laminitis.

Why does sugar cause laminitis?

There are two main places in the horse that absolutely require sugar to work: the feet, and the brain. There are some long-term effects that are seen in the brain (mostly Cushings), but for this blog the most important immediate effect of high sugar is laminitis.

Laminitis happens because the cells that hold the hoof to the body need sugar to keep working. When the cells can’t absorb sugar because they’re busy ignoring insulin, they end up letting go of the hoof. In the worst cases, those cells even die. As those cells let go, the coffin bone rotates in the hoof capsule leading to what you guys call laminitis.

But my horse loves grass!

Never fear, my intrepid Docs are here! Through the wonders of diet, exercise, and, (when needed) medicines, your metabolic syndrome horse can eat grass, just not all the grass he wants. Here’s my simple plan for success:

  1. Start with a low-starch diet. Don’t know if you’re on one? Talk to Beth in the Clinic. She’s a whiz with feed!
  2. Exercise your horse for 10-15 minutes three times per week.
  3. Talk to my Docs about blood testing and X-rays. Not saying your horse needs this, but a conversation with my Docs is always packed full of information you can use!

I’m not just a pretty face when it comes to metabolic problems. Due to my extreme love of food, hatred of exercise, and bad genes, I’m diabetic. My staff has worked on my diet and exercise, and added in a little medicine, and I’m able to practice my luge technique daily! Oh, and monitor all horse trailers and delivery drivers who come to the Clinic, along with the house next door. If I can do it, you can too!!

Now be a good human: scroll down a little farther and subscribe to my blog. That way you won’t miss out if Facebook decides not to show it to you. 

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Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

Equine Genetics

Equine Genetics

Tuesdays with Tony

Equine Genetics

Boy, did I get schooled on Thursday when Dr. Brooks came to speak at our Genetics Seminar! I always considered myself a pretty smart cat, but I may have been knocked off my pedestal by that presentation. The information Dr. Brooks shared with us was not only mind boggling, but also fascinating. I’ll do my best to re-cap, but really, you should sign up for her online class at UF to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth (pun intended).

Science and stuff: The Basics

Every species has its own genome. That’s basically a map of genes, which are made up of DNA, that determines everything about an individual (hair color, height, weight, conformation, intelligence, athletic ability, personality, etc.) Alleles are different forms of a gene that are responsible for heritable traits. Horses (and humans) inherit one allele from their mother and one allele from their father for each trait.

Let’s look at eye color as an example. At one site on a gene (or locus) there are 2 different alleles for eye color, we’ll call them B and b. B confers brown eye color, while b confers blue eye color. B is dominant over b. If the sire and the dam both have brown eyes with genotype Bb, their offspring will theoretically be 25% BB, 50% Bb, and 25% bb. Since B is dominant, the foal will have a 75% chance of having brown eyes, and a 25% chance of having blue eyes. In reality, it is not quite this simple, as there are multiple genes that affect eye color. Also, I’m not a cat geneticist.

Genetics of coat color

Horse coat color is multifactorial (determined by several different genes) but we do have the knowledge to predict the possible coat colors we could get based on the genotypes of both parents. About 5,000 years ago, all horses were Black or Bay. How boring, right? But then a spontaneous mutation in a gene named KIT occurred, which resulted in cool white spotting patterns. Humans, being attracted to new and unique things, thought this was pretty neat so we kept it. That is, our ancestors collected the mutant white-spotted horses and bred them, resulting in more white patterned horses. This is how Sabino, Roan, and Tobiano coat patterns all came about.

The next question I asked Dr. Brooks was ‘OK, so how did Dr. Lacher get a Chestnut foal out of 2 Bay parents?’ I know Bay (Black allele “E”) is dominant and Chestnut (Red allele “e”) is recessive. She explained that just like in our eye color example above, the possibilities for a foal of two Ee parents would be 25% EE, 50% Ee, and 25% ee. Since E is dominant, the foal will have a 75% chance of being Bay and a 25% chance of being Chestnut. Now that makes a lot of sense!

Even with all of our current knowledge, and despite knowing the genotype and phenotype of both parents, it is still impossible to predict coat color 100%. That’s because spontaneous mutations, like the ones that occur on the KIT gene, can occur at any time. Coat color genetics will certainly keep you on your toes!

Genetics of disease

Learning how to identify diseases—and thus how to prevent and treat them— is the focus of most current research in equine genetics. Ever since it was discovered that HYPP was a heritable genetic disease found in Quarter Horses descended from the stallion Impressive, it has been a focus of the AQHA and its members to eliminate this disease from the population. Knowing the genetic mechanisms of other diseases can help us to selectively breed them out of horses as well. Similarly, knowing which genes are affected in a certain disease can help in developing treatments targeted at the specific proteins or pathways affected by those genes.

Did you know that there are dozens of tests available for equine genetic diseases? Did you know that most equine genetic testing only requires a sample of hair from your horse’s mane or tail? Did you know that your breed registry may offer discounts on genetic testing for its members? Well, now you do! You’re welcome.

Amongst her many research projects, Dr. Brooks is doing a study on Anhidrosis (non-sweaters) with some interesting early results. If you own a non-sweater, please consider enrolling your horse in her study. You could be a part of the first effective treatment for Anhidrosis! Call our clinic for more information on this.

That’s the extent of what I recall from Dr. Brooks’ brilliant and informative seminar, but this is only a fraction of the information she presented. In case you missed it, head on over to my YouTube channel where you can re-play the live video. Also, check out my next See-Tony event, the Deworming Seminar to be held here on March 8th at 6:30 pm!

Until next week,

Tony

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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21st Century Horse Shoes

21st Century Horse Shoes

Tuesdays with Tony

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: every few months my Docs and a bunch of farriers get together and spend a few hours learning from each other about the wild, weird world of horse shoes and feet. I think this is a great idea since I get an extra evening of humans entertaining me. I have also found exploring farrier trucks and trailers to be an enjoyable pastime. What I have learned from these evenings is: 1. Horses seem to have a lot of problems with their feet, 2. There are a whole bunch of ways to deal with said problems, 3. The problems encountered in Number 1 are best approached by a veterinary/farrier team. In my ongoing efforts to educate you humans about your horses, this week we’re going to talk about horse shoes.

Understanding the problem

In the realm of things done strangely, the equine foot takes the cake. While most of us have a foot made up of 4-5 different finger type things, the horse has to be different. They go with one finger, surround it with fingernail, and land on the tip. I’m not surprised problems happen. I am surprised at how diverse those problems can be. I’m also surprised at how much basic physics are involved in those problems. A little push here, a degree or two off there, add a bit of rotation to it, and Viola! You have one screwed-up foot.

A deeper understanding of the problem

Putting the veterinarian and the farrier in the same location at the same time while watching the horse move lets them talk about what each one sees. The veterinarian may have found that the horse improves when the heels are blocked with lidocaine. The farrier noticed that the horse puts a whole lot of wear on the outside branch of the shoe. Looking at an x-ray of the foot together, the veterinarian sees some arthritis developing, and both of them notice that the joint space isn’t even across the coffin joint. Between the two of them, they can now talk about what may work to address the problem. Even better, when the Docs and the farriers work together, an x-ray can be taken during the shoeing process to make sure the shoe is exactly where it needs to be.

Put a shoe on it (or maybe not)

I have learned that doing the basics well is sooo important. That’s a free life lesson from Tony, right there. With feet that means a good trim. See several previous excellent blogs I’ve written about what a good trim looks like. Horses being horses, sometimes they need more than a good trim can offer. That’s where shoes come in. Shoes help protect areas from getting worn down too much. For example, a club-footed horse wears off their toe very quickly, which makes the club foot worse. A simple shoe protecting the toe can do wonders for these horses. Shoes can add support where it’s needed. For example, a horse who toes out will push their inside hoof wall under the foot. By setting the shoe a little bit to the outside of that inside wall, we keep that weight bearing where it’s supposed to be.

New and Exciting stuff

Now for the exciting part of shoes! There are shoes available that help treat specific issues your horse may have. These shoes are based on how tendons, ligaments, joints, and bones interact in the leg. Then a dash of physics (ok, way more than a dash) is applied. This leads to a shoe with wide parts in some areas, skinny parts in other areas, and all kinds of odd looking things that all have a role to play. My Docs brought in an expert on these shoeing principles for one of these farrier parties. It was so fascinating! I never imagined horseshoeing could be so enthralling.

Want to be sure you’re doing all you can for your horse’s feet? My Docs are more than happy to talk feet with you ANYTIME!! And now I’m off to nap on a good book about equine anatomy.

Until next week,

Tony

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Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

Breeding and Foaling

Breeding and Foaling

Tuesdays with Tony

Breeding & Foaling

Thank you to everyone who came out to my Breeding Seminar last Thursday. You didn’t see me because I was inside. In my bed. Where it was warm. Obviously. Why would I go out in the freezing cold to huddle around a space heater just to learn about how baby horses are made? I did, however, lay on the computer while the docs were working on their powerpoint presentation, so I am intimately familiar with the information they presented. Oh, you want a recap you say? Well, I’m happy to oblige!

Where do baby horses come from?

Well kids, when a daddy horse and a mommy horse love each other very much…their owners run genetic tests to make sure they don’t have any heritable diseases, pay lots of money to have semen collected, ship it cross-country, time the mare’s ovulation, artificially inseminate the mare, patiently wait 14 days, confirm the presence of ONE embryo, monitor the pregnancy with at least 4 more ultrasounds and Rhinopneumonitis vaccines, measure the mare’s milk pH to determine when she’s going to foal, and voila! That’s where baby horses come from.

It may sound simple, but a problem at any of these steps has the potential to create a roadblock to your hopes and dreams of having the perfect foal. Let’s start at the beginning: choosing the parents. Stallions may look sexy in their ads, but remember to look at their offspring’s conformation and performance records, their First Heat Conception Rate (a marker of fertility), and make sure they are free from any breed-associated genetic disorders, such as HYPP, PSSM, HERDA, OLWS, or SCID. If you want to know what these letters stand for, or if your breed of horse is at risk for them, ask one of the docs. I’m just a cat; you’re lucky I know the letters. If you are the stallion owner, it’s time to think about training him to the phantom, and scheduling a blow-out collection and semen evaluation prior to breeding season.

The next roadblock usually comes from FedEx. We here at Springhill have a love/hate relationship with FedEx. Most stallions are collected on Monday/Wednesday/Friday. Unfortunately, those Friday collections require overnight shipping on a weekend. Semen doesn’t live very long in a box with an ice pack. That means any shipping delays on the stallion end translate to a missed breeding opportunity on the mare end, and we have to wait another 2-3 weeks before trying again on her next heat cycle.

Even once the docs have gotten the semen into the mare, there is a chance her body will have an inflammatory reaction to the semen and excrete fluid in her uterus (really, it is a wonder these things ever successfully reproduce in the wild). Barring that scenario, you still have to make sure there is one and ONLY one embryo at the 14-day check. If there are twins, the docs have between Day 14 and Day 16 to pinch one of them while keeping the other alive (this is much easier said than done).

What do I do with my preggo mare?

Now that you have worked so hard to get that beautiful 14-day-old baby embryo, you may as well put in the work to make sure she keeps it. On your part, that means making sure to schedule her 30-day, 60-day, 90-day, and 7-month ultrasounds, as well as Rhinopneumonitis (a.k.a. Pneumabort) vaccines at 3, 5, 7, and 9 months of pregnancy. You may think this is just my way of seeing you more often in the hopes that you might give me snacks; but in actuality these are all aimed at making sure your mare doesn’t drop/slip/abort/lose or otherwise spit out her foal before it’s due date!

Even if you ate a tub of Ben & Jerry’s single-handedly every night of your pregnancy, this does NOT mean you need to fatten up your mare just because she has a baby on board. In fact, depending on her weight and body condition score when she became pregnant, you may not need to increase her plane of nutrition at all until the last few months of her pregnancy. The true calorie demand will come while she is nursing her foal, but that’s a topic for another day.

When is the stork coming?

When the docs tell you your mare’s ESTIMATED due date, that’s exactly what it is- an estimate based on 340 days past her date of conception. In real life, she can foal anywhere from 320-360 days of gestation, and it’s not unusual for a mare to carry over a year! So, how do you know when your cute little bundle of joy is going to hit the ground?

In our opinion, the best way to tell when your mare is going to foal is by measuring the pH of her milk once a day until it reaches a magic number. Here’s what you need to know: If her pH is >6.4, there is a 99% chance she is NOT going to foal that night. If her pH is <6.4, there is a 97% chance she WILL foal within the next 3 nights. And now you know when to start sleeping in the barn aisle/watching cameras/checking your mare every hour, or whatever it is you are doing to make sure you don’t miss the big event.

If I haven’t talked you out of breeding your horse yet, remember that I offer Breeding Packages at a very reasonable set price per cycle. And if you buy your package before Valentine’s Day, you will receive 1 free night of board for your mare…our little secret! We also perform stallion collection, semen evaluation, phantom training, and semen shipment right here at the clinic. I quite enjoy the extra company around breeding season.

Happy baby making!

-Tony

 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Let’s Get Ready For Foals!

Let’s Get Ready For Foals!

Tuesdays with Tony

Foal season is almost here!!! There, I pretended baby horses excite me. They don’t. Everyone brings in pictures of the babies after their Well Baby Checks. Then there is oohh-ing and ahh-ing over them. And “Oh look at the chrome!” and “Wowza, that hip!!” and I’m left wondering why my chin isn’t getting scratched. However, if the babies are going to come anyway, I may as well do my best to get you humans ready.

The Best Offense is a Good Defense

You might think I said that wrong, but I got it right. Start your foal off on the right foot. Vaccinations for Encephalitis, Tetanus, West Nile, Flu, and Rabies should be given to mares about 4-6 weeks before they are due to foal. This gets their immune system churning out protective antibodies. Those antibodies are then dumped into the all-important first milk, colostrum. The foal’s intestines absorb the antibodies and Viola! we have our immune system for the first few weeks of life. Without those all-important antibodies, foals can’t fight off pathogens like bacteria and viruses until their own immune system kicks in at about 3 months of age. In other words, colostrum is your foal’s best defense against the harsh world.

Scissors and Towels

These are the two most important things to have on hand for the actual foaling. There are a few other things: thermometer, Fleet Enema, hay string (because really, when isn’t hay string necessary?), Bute or Banamine for mom, and a small notebook and a pen. An extra human is a nice thing to have on had as well if you have one available.

Let’s discuss the use of each of these items.

Scissors: A very clean, very sharp pair of scissors should be near your foaling area. These will be used if a red bag delivery happens. A red bag is just what it sounds like: a red bag-looking thing comes out the vulva instead of the normal white. If that happens, it is an absolute emergency! You don’t have time for one of my Docs to come to you. You must cut the bag open and help delivery the foal. The red bag is the placenta separating from the uterus before it should. The foal can’t break through the placenta like it can the amnion (the normal white tissue), so you have to cut it for foaling to continue. This is where the extra human comes in handy. They can call 352-474-5007 and talk with one of my fine Docs while you are cutting the placenta.

Towels: Just plain useful to have around. If it’s chilly out when your foal decides to be born, you can dry them off. After she has bonding time with the foal, you can use them to start cleaning up your mare’s legs. You can use them to wipe the tears of joy from your eyes, or the sweat off your brow.

Thermometer: Used for the obvious thing: to get a temperature. This can be very important information on both mom and baby if things aren’t going quite as expected. An extra human is also useful here since foals can be incredibly squirmy about getting their temperatures taken.

Fleet Enema: Foals should have a dark, tarry first stool called meconium within about an hour or two following birth. If they don’t or they are experiencing constipation, we recommend 1 (ONE ONLY) Fleet Enema. If that doesn’t fix it, call 352-474-5007. You’re going to want to at least talk with one of my docs. Oh, and if you thought they squirmed for their temperature, you’re really going to want that extra human for enema administration.

Hay String: Extremely useful for tying up the placenta while you are waiting for it to drop. DON’T EVER EVEN THINK ABOUT PULLING ON THE PLACENTA! Ideally, mom shouldn’t step on it, either. As an aside, the placenta should be fully passed by three hours post-foaling. Once it passes, put it in a bucket of water so my Docs can check it later. If it doesn’t pass by three hours, guess what number you should call? Yep 352-474-5007. Not necessarily an OMG emergency, but the Docs are going to want to know.

Bute or Banamine for mom: Good to have on hand. DO NOT give without talking with one of the Docs first. If foaling was rough, or your mare is not handling full, painful udders well, these anti-inflammatories can help. They can also mask important pain signs, which is why my Docs like to know if you’re giving it.

Notebook and pen: Once foaling starts you will be sure it is taking approximately 7,382 hours to happen. By writing down the times things start to happen, you can keep yourself honest about how long things are actually taking. Also useful for writing down questions to ask the Docs later.

OMG It’s time!!

Once it’s time, things happen fast in horses. Things should be progressing very quickly from the moment you see water break, until the entire foal is out. Foaling in horses often takes as little as 15 minutes. Longer than 30 and you better call (you know the number now) 352-474-5007. Because things happen so fast in horses, there is little room for error. If you have any questions about how foaling is going, call us. My Docs would rather talk to you 100 times for something that isn’t a big deal, than have you not call for the time it is.

1-2-3 Rule

There is now a foal laying down, having just been born, and a mare laying down thinking Whew that was a lot of work! and you watching it all thinking What now? Never fear: we have a rule for this. By 1 hour after foaling, your foal should be standing, by 2 hours the foal should be nursing, and by 3 hours the placenta should be passed. If any of these things don’t happen, guess what? Call 352-474-5007. While waiting for the standing, the nursing, and placenta passing, I recommend posting lots of pictures on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat or whatever new fun thing you humans are doing these days.

Last step?

Call the Clinic in the morning to schedule your Well Baby Check. If you haven’t done it by now, take a minute and put the number in your phone so you’ll have it when you need it: 352-472-1620. On the second phone number line, put in the emergency number so you can get the doc in the middle of the night: 352-474-5007. Oh, and you’ll also want a phone charger in the barn. Trust me.

Until next week,

Tony

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Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

Thrush

Thrush

Tuesdays with Tony

I found a hoof pick in the Clinic the other day. Upon inquiry to my humans, I learned what this odd thing was for. Apparently not only do horses not groom themselves, they also require you humans to clean their feet. Seriously, clean their feet!?!? I don’t understand why you humans put up with these crazy critters who can’t even clean their own feet. I clean my own feet several times daily, and do my own nails! This discussion about cleaning horse feet led to a discussion about thrush. I love thrush! They’re such tasty little birds. Ah, scratch that. I’ve just been informed we aren’t talking about birds. We are talking about an infection in horse’s feet. I learned a lot about thrush in horses today. Read on for my take on the situation.

Thrush: Well, that’s a funny name

Thrush is caused by a bacteria called fusobacterium necrophorum. Sometimes other bacteria come along for the ride too, but fusobacterium is the main culprit. Fusobacterium likes warm, moist places with little air movement, and some organic material to feed on. What does the bottom of your horse’s foot look like? A warm, moist place with some nice organic poop to feast on. The bacteria move on to the hoof itself after they eat the organic material, and that’s when the problems start.

Deep Canyons

Most people think of gooey feet when they think thrush. This is the most common presentation of thrush in the sulci down the sides of the frog. However, thrush can also get into the central sulcus and here is where it likes to make horses sore. Thrush can present here without all the goo. Typically it just appears as a very deep central sulcus. The problem with that really deep central sulcus is it feels like walking on a hangnail. You humans usually want your horses to perform in some way, and walking on a hangnail is not conducive to performance. At the bottom of that deep sulcus, the thrush can eat into the delicate soft tissues there creating a wound.

Make the thrush go away

Finally, the answers you’ve been seeking. There are several great, easy ways to treat thrush. Generally, my Docs first step is cleaning the foot daily and applying Durasole to any areas that appear a little deep. If the thrush is out of control, or there is a very deep central sulcus, they go to the cattle mastitis ointments called Today or Tomorrow. Either one seems to work great, and they come with a convenient applicator tip that goes right into those deep crevices. A little bit applied three to four times per week will clear up the thrush in no time. Every once in a while my Docs get a really bad case of thrush that requires treatment with antibiotics under bandages, but those are pretty rare.

Make the thrush stay away

What do wild horses do? This is a common question about all things horse. The answer for wild horses in this case: They don’t live in a stall. Standing around helps stuff pack into the crevices, giving fusobacterium a lovely place to live. Lots of turnout time and exercise help hooves flex and move which works to keep them clean and healthy. Equally important to turnout time is a good farrier. A good quality trim will keep the frog open and flexible. A good trim will also keep the heel height appropriate which is the key to a healthy frog.

I hear there’s an old saying that goes something like, without a foot, you don’t have a horse. Got questions about your horse’s hoof health? My Docs have answers! Now I’m off to clean my own feet.

Until next week,

— Tony

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Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

New Years Resolutions and Horses

New Years Resolutions and Horses

Tuesdays with Tony

 Ahh a new year, another chance to make your dreams come true! 2018 offers us each the opportunity to start fresh, to turn over a new leaf. I know you horse-crazy cats pretty well by now, and I bet I can guess some of your New Years resolutions. For some of you, it might be to make it to Pony Finals. For others, it might be to get in the money in the 2D. Some of you might even have the goal of riding your horse for the first time in several years. Whatever your competition goals this year, Springhill Equine can help you achieve them. My docs are well versed in getting your horse to where he needs to be to make your wildest dreams a reality. I need to find someone to help me with that… cats have dreams too, you know!

Resolution #1: Get my horse on a Wellness Plan

   First, let’s start with the basics. In order for your horse to get back in the game and stay there, you will need to make sure his healthcare needs are taken care of. The easiest way to do that is with one of my all-inclusive Wellness Plans. Not only do they cover all of your horse’s routine medical care like vaccines, dentals, and Coggins, but they also offer peace of mind in the form of No Emergency Fees should your horse meet with an unexpected illness or injury this year.

    Whether your goal is trail riding or racing, or somewhere in between, your horse can’t be expected to do his best if he isn’t feeling well. Each Wellness Plan comes with 2 complete physical exams each year to catch the little problems before they become a big deal. These visits are also a great opportunity to check in with one of our vets, and discuss any concerns you may have with your horse’s performance. If there is an underlying medical problem, you will certainly need to get that taken care of before you can move up to the next level in your sport. I realize that this advice would have more clout coming from someone who actually participated in sports, which I decidedly do not.

Resolution #2: Have that nagging, super-minor, only-sometimes, usually-works-out-of-it lameness checked out

  Just because a judge wouldn’t necessarily notice it in the show ring doesn’t mean it’s not there. If you feel your horse is off, even if it’s only a little hitch when he comes around that 3rd barrel and it only happens when he’s tired, you should really have one of my amazing vets look into it.
    There are a few reasons you should have a mild lameness worked up sooner rather than later. First, even a minor lameness could be a sign of a serious injury, and continuing to work your horse could make the injury worse. Second, the lameness could be an early sign of a disease that can be prevented. For example, if your horse is diagnosed with early arthritis, there are medications you could start him on now that are proven to protect his joints from further damage. Third, and most importantly, that nagging, barely-there lameness could be affecting your horse’s performance, and getting it properly treated could make the difference between first and last place at your next competition. Wouldn’t you love to know if something as simple as a shoeing change could make him feel—and thus perform—10 times better?

Resolution #3: Achieve my competition goals

   Once you have your horse’s health in order, this third step will be easy! With the help of my splendid team of vets, techs, and staff, your horse will be looking and feeling his best. I like to offer our clients the total package – from nutrition to dentistry, from farriers to trainers, rest assured someone at Springhill can point you in the right direction. Remember, a healthy horse is a happy horse, and happy horses win prizes!
    I’m afraid the only competition I have to look forward to this year is the occasional cat fight between myself and Teanie over someone’s tuna sandwich. So, I must live vicariously through all of you and your horses. Your New Years resolutions are truly important to me, and I want to see you stick to all of them!
     WishIng you and your horse the best of luck and a Happy New Year!!!!
      -Tony

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Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

The Curse Of Knowledge

The Curse Of Knowledge

Tuesdays with Tony

My humans have been worrying about the future a lot this week. The weather people say it’s going to get cold (no one seems to remember how often they’re wrong), and with cold weather comes colicky horses. That got me thinking, so this week I asked Kayla, Nancy, Beth, and MJ what they worry about more now that they’ve worked here and seen all the things horses really can do to themselves. After all, they see hundreds of horse problems every year, so they have plenty to worry about with their own horses. We call that the Curse of Knowledge. Here’s their Top 5 list.

#1 Eye ulcers

Maybe you’ve had the Docs come out and put some of that fluorescent green dye in the eye. Then they tell you to use a few ointments 4 times per day, give some Bute or Banamine, and they come back out to check it again in a few days. Lots of eyes heal perfectly well this way. The ones that don’t, however, are the ones my team worries about. My minions have all had the joy of treating ulcers in eyes. They say what makes this one Number 1 on their list is that everything can be done absolutely perfectly, and things can still go bad. These ulcers are also very expensive and extremely time consuming. Treatment very quickly goes into the thousands of dollars, and is a minimum of 4 weeks. My minions also agree eye problems are a great reason to have major medical insurance on your horse!

#2 Very specific lacerations

Last year we had a weanling come in with a very small cut over her hock. She was an extremely well-bred barrel horse. Turns out that small cut went into the hock joint. It looked like no big deal, but because of the location, it was life-threatening. That’s right: life-threatening. Wounds in joints can very easily lead to infections in joints, and infections in joints are extremely difficult to clear in horses. Luckily, with about $5,000 in treatments, my Docs were able to get this one cleared up. MJ was horrified at how small the wound was, how easy it was to overlook, and how bad it all could have ended up. She says she’ll never take a wound for granted again! We all know horses are incredibly fragile, but MJ was amazed to see it action. Also, yet another reason to have major medical insurance on these crazy horses.

#3 Colic

This one had to be on the list. However, my minions said they view colic very differently than they did before working here. All colics used to scare them. Now it’s the colics that don’t respond quickly to drugs. Then they go into full on panic. You see, most colics get some sedation and a little pain relief, a whole lot of water and electrolytes, and off they go. It’s the ones that get painful again very quickly that scare my minions. Too often those are surgical colics. Even if they aren’t surgical, they do require lots of fluids, pain meds, and care. These colics are always touch and go for a bit. And yet another reason to insure horses!

PS on this one: coastal hay is the number one cause of colics. You can feed coastal to your horse, but please, please, please also feed some alfalfa or peanut hay!!

#4 Tendon Injuries

You pick up the trot one day and something doesn’t feel quite right. You wait a day or two and try again: still not right. My Docs come out and do a lameness evaluation, put some novocaine in different parts of the leg until the lameness goes away, and then do an ultrasound. You know you should be worried when the Doc gets “that look” on her face. She tells you it’s a proximal suspensory tear. Why do my minions fear this diagnosis so much? They know it’s a minimum of 6 months of rehab work before we even know if things are going to be back to normal. They know with some of these small tendons and ligaments (like the oblique sesamoidean) that it is nearly impossible to get the horses back to normal. They also know that the best shot for healing comes with extremely diligent physical therapy work, and most people don’t do so well at that part.

#5 Lay Tooth Floaters

I saved this one for last, but it should probably be higher on the list. There are lots of people out there who will “do your horse’s teeth” for not a lot of money. You get what you pay for. Unfortunately you also often get much, much less than you pay for. My minions have seen broken teeth, missed tumors, infections caused or made worse, and, simply put, really bad floats done. Even worse, many lay floaters sedate horses which is AGAINST THE LAW. My Docs went to school for a really long time to know all the things that can go wrong when they sedate a horse. They drive around with a truck full of stuff to manage problems if things do go wrong. My Docs have the knowledge to understand how that little thing they see can be an indicator of BIG problems. I can’t be any clearer: Lay floaters are not a good answer for your horse’s health. Dentistry should be done with bright lights, sedation, a speculum, and a doctor.

Want to know how to keep your horse safe in a scary world? Communicate! My Docs and minions are here to help you. Send pictures, call, email in questions. From abscesses to zoonoses, they’ve got you covered. Now I’m headed for a long winter’s nap.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Horse Tech

Horse Tech

Tuesdays with Tony

Let me begin by saying I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday. What more could a cat ask for than shiny things on a tree followed by empty boxes and wadded up paper? I realize you humans have lots of holidays, for lots of different things, but this one gets my vote as best.

Moving on to an actual topic: Horse Tech. Dr. Lacher has an obsession with technology. She may not have all of it she wants, but she sure researches the heck out of it. So without further idle chit-chat, I bring you a few of her favorite things.

FitBit for Horse

There are four or five companies working on slightly different versions of the fitbit for horses. Equisense, SeeHorse, Orscana, and Trackener are just a few. The main drawback they all have at the moment is they work on one part of your horse’s life. They either are designed for use during work, or while they are hanging out, but not really both. We all love our fitness trackers because they tell us about our entire day. It would be great to know you rode your horse for 3 miles, and he did another 7 in the pasture last night. For the record, there will never be a fitness tracker for cats for obvious reasons.

These trackers do have some pretty cool things that they track. They can tell you how “even” your horse moves from right to left, they can tell you how much time you spent at the walk, trot, and canter, how you did on take-off distances for jumpers, and even how your horse compares today to his “normal.” Using some of these features, they found that you humans are really bad at knowing how much work you’ve actually done on your horse. Humans underestimated the time they had spent on walk breaks by 50%. And you think cats lay around all the time!

Equilume

If you breed mares and want early babies, you know the struggle of mares under lights. You need them in the stall until 9:30 – 10pm every night, they think that’s stupid, and you wonder if the light is bright enough.

Enter Equilume. They did the work to prove that a blue light shining in one eye at a certain brightness for a certain amount of hours worked as well as being in a stall. Then they took that light and put it on a racehorse hood. Voila! Your mare can hang out in a field with her friends, with a light shining in one eye. Because that light is blue, and only on one eye, she can still see all she needs to see.

Bonus feature: just this year they found that mares wearing the hood who were due to foal early in the season had bigger, stronger, healthier babies than mares on the same farm not wearing the hood. Biggest downside of Equilume is the cost (around $500) for something that can only be used for one season. I imagine that like all tech it will improve and get cheaper as time goes on. I also know that some of you would pay a lot more than $500 to not have your mare in a stall.

Horsepal

Can’t decide how many clothes your horse wants to wear tonight? I’m going to tell you, it’s fewer than you think. I find you humans are always cold compared to those of us with a fur coat. I digress. Turns out there’s an App (and a sensor) for that. Horseware Ireland, being a manufacturer of some of the best blankets on the planet, found out that lots of people have that same question, so they made Horsepal.

This is a small sensor that fits inside your horse’s blanket and checks temperature and humidity. Using that information, the Horsepal app tells you if your horse is likely too hot, too cold, or just right. The App links weather from your area and compiles past data for your horse so over time you can figure out which clothes will be best for what weather. Downside: it can’t send that data to you from the field, but it does store three days worth of data for you to download and review. I’m also not sure how useful this is in Florida, but I do think it gets cool points for helping you humans know how your horses are feeling in the field at 2 am.

KurtSystems

I’m including this one simply because it’s just so dang amazing! Seriously, when you humans put your mind to something, it’s unbelievable what you can do. The inventors of this system were trying to come up with a way to pre-train baby thoroughbreds. They looked at the research out there and found that if you could put babies through a build-up fitness program before you put a rider on them, you had fewer career (and even life) -ending injuries. But how do you do that?

Their solution certainly isn’t cheap, but it is pretty spectacular. The KurtSystem is basically a big monorail system for horses. They use this to start training horses on a track-size area (so way bigger than a roundpen) with no weight. The horses start with slow speeds and short distances and work up over 6 months to faster speeds (still not racing fast), longer distances, and even a bit of weight (around 70 pounds). The goal is to create horses who have some level of fitness, and an understanding of how to do their job before adding a floppy human to the whole system. It seems balancing you humans is really hard work! While I’m certain this won’t be a feature in every barn, it’s cool to geek out on it and to see someone trying so hard to prevent injuries in young thoroughbreds.

What’s your horse tech dream for 2018? My tech dream is a button I push to open the door. Although, I’ll admit, it is fun to watch my staff open and close and open and close it for me. Now scroll a little further down the page, enter your email, and subscribe to my blog. It will make you a better human.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Eye Injuries

Eye Injuries

Tuesdays with Tony

As we get into the Christmas spirit, it seems horses can sense the strain on your wallet from all that shopping. As a cat I’m a little more conscientious about such things, of course, but horses get some sort of evil pleasure from making their owners squirm.

 Every Eye Injury is an Emergency

If you are a horse, one easy way to rack up a big vet bill in a short amount of time is by poking something in your eye. Remember that eye injuries are always an emergency, and the more time that passes before the right medication is initiated, the more expensive they can be to treat.

Corneal Ulcer

This is the most common eye injury in horses, but it can be just the tip of the iceberg. The cornea is the clear outermost layer of the eye that you see through. Puncture wounds, abrasions, and other forms of trauma can cause a break in this layer. Usually these “simple” ulcers will heal just with a few days of triple antibiotic ointment. However, any break in this protective outer layer creates the opportunity for infection. Uh-oh.

Stromal Abscess

When a corneal ulcer gets infected by any of the bacteria or fungus that exists in our lovely Florida soil, it becomes a ‘complicated’ ulcer. What often happens at this stage is the outer layer of cornea heals over, trapping the infection beneath. This is called a stromal abscess, which takes on average 8 weeks of medicating the eye 4 times a day to heal! No fun. A Stromal abscess can often be prevented by early treatment of a Corneal Ulcer. That’s why all eye injuries are an emergency! That, and….

 Iris Prolapse

Certain types of fungus that can infect corneal ulcers actually cause the cornea to ‘melt.’ The fancy medical term for this is keratomalacia, which would be great to use in a game of Scrabble! Melting corneal ulcers are the worst of the worst. If left untreated, they can cause iris prolapse, or rupture of the eye. It is every bit as gross as it sounds. Basically, the ooey gooey insides of the eye leak out through the hole in the cornea, until the iris (the part that gives the eye it’s color) blocks the hole. This requires emergency conjunctival graft surgery or enucleation (removal of the eye) to treat. This is definitely not something you want to make your horse endure due to your inaction.

An Ounce of Prevention

You can’t really protect your horse 100% from everything, because they’re a lot like cats in their ability to find a way to cause mischief. However, you can go a long way towards preventing eye injuries (injuries in general, really) by doing a few simple things. First, make sure they don’t have something sharp to scratch on. Check your stalls and fences regularly for nails and broken boards. Broken tree branches are another favorite scratching point. Also, don’t put your horses out with things like rusted-out car bodies, tractor implements, falling-down structures, and things like that. Just because your neighbor’s horse made it in that type of environment for 20 years is no guarantee that yours will.

A quality fly mask can also prevent many eye injuries. Gnats and flies are a major cause of itchy eyes, so keeping them away is a huge help. The mask itself will also keep most scratching sessions from becoming eye injuries. It’s a lot cheaper to buy a new fly mask every year than it is to treat an eye injury. Do your horse (and yourself) a favor, and cover it up!

The moral of the story

If your horse has a squinty, tearing, swollen, or otherwise weird-looking eye, don’t waste any time getting one of our amazing docs to check it out! Quick treatment can make a huge difference in whether or not your horse loses an eye, and it can also be the difference between hundreds of dollars and thousands of dollars. I’m a professional risk-taking cat, and I’m here to tell you: Don’t take risks with your horse’s eyes! There’s nothing to gain, and everything to lose.

Until next week,

-Tony

 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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