Wet Weather and Mushy Feet

Wet Weather and Mushy Feet

Tuesdays with Tony

We sure have been getting a lot of rain around here lately. As you know, we cats are not fond of rain, and now all my favorite sunbathing spots in the clinic parking lot have become puddles! Yeah, yeah we need the rain to grow grass, but the daily thunderstorms and high humidity can wreak havoc on your horse’s feet.

Horses evolved on dry, grassy steppes… not a lot of swampland or rain there, so their feet didn’t evolve a good water management system. The repeated wet-dry cycles (or sometimes just wet) we have here cause the tubules that make up the hoof wall to suck up water and swell. When they release that water, the tubules shrink again, leaving empty space between the inter-tubular material and the tubules. This repeated cycle causes hoof walls to crack and split, and the soles to erode away. If your horse has shoes on, it makes those pesky nails loosen way before the next scheduled farrier visit. Let’s talk about the various moisture-induced hoof conditions my docs are seeing a TON of lately, and what you can do about them.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Thrush

You know the smell. That rotting, nasty smell that you notice while picking your horse’s feet. You may also see some dark black or gray gunk oozing from your horse’s soft frog, or the deep sulci (clefts) around the frog. Thrush is caused by a mixture of several bacteria that love wet, oxygen-poor environments, like the deep grooves in your horse’s muddy feet. Horses aren’t usually very lame unless it gets really bad, but you’ll want to treat it before that happens. Luckily, with daily cleaning and application of a topical treatment, you can control thrush.

There are a variety of commercial products you can buy at the tack store to treat it. One of my doc’s favorite home-made treatments is a mixture of copper sulfate crystals and either wax or Desitin cream. My doc buys a toilet bowl wax ring from the hardware store (or Amazon) and uses bits of that mixed with the copper sulfate. It’s cheap, and it sticks to the foot like a cat to a tuna can. It’s important to pick out the feet so the treatment can contact the damaged tissue really well. Whatever product or treatment you’re using, apply it all over the frog and into the deep cleft in the center of the frog. Repeat once a day in the beginning, and as you get it under control, you can space it out.

Mushy Foot

This is a disorder that my docs see regularly here in Florida in times of wet weather. The entire sole gets soft, thin, and crumbly. You may see a depression just behind the toe where the sole compresses (it can even hold a small pocket of dirt). If you press the sole with your fingers, you may be able to slightly move it. Soles like that aren’t nearly strong enough to take the weight of a horse and protect the bones inside his foot. Mushy foot can be really painful for your horse and can look as bad as laminitis. 

During this season of frequent rainfall, your horse may need to spend some time every day in a dry area like a clean, bedded stall, to allow his feet some time off the moist grass. Remember that even if it’s not actively raining, a grassy pasture can keep the feet wet from the dew and rain it holds on to. You’ll want to pick your horse’s feet out every day.

The best topical treatment out there for “Mushy Foot” is daily application of Durasole (my docs carry it in their vehicles). Durasole contains drying and strengthening agents that thicken and harden the sole in a short period of time. Apply it every day until the sole is harder and the horse is more comfortable, then you should be able to decrease to 2-3 times a week. Work with your farrier to make sure your horse’s feet are trimmed on a 4-6 week schedule to promote healthy soles and hoof walls. If your horse is really sore, my doc may suggest he wear padded boots to temporarily cushion his feet until they start to improve. She won’t want him to stay in the boots for too long though, since the inside of a boot can be a moist environment as well.

Hoof Cracks and Abscesses

Another foot problem my docs see in this weather is cracked, crumbling hoof walls. As always, the first line of defense in keeping your horse’s hooves intact is regular trimming by a knowledgeable farrier. Too-long or unbalanced hoof walls put extra pressure on hooves that are already weakened by wet weather, and can cause those cracks to start or chunks to flake off.  Along with avoiding muddy pastures, be careful how often you wash your horse, as that’s just additional moisture he’s standing in.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Abscesses are also common this time of year since soft, mushy feet allow easier entry for bacteria. A sudden onset of severe lameness is the most common presentation, but since that could mean other problems too, you’ll want to have my docs out to examine your horse. Also check out their YouTube video on how to make a hoof bandage so you’re prepared to manage this common problem!

Proper Diagnosis, Proper Treatment

If you suspect your horse may have any of these foot problems, give one of my docs a call for an exam. There are more serious conditions (such as laminitis) that can masquerade as one of these conditions, and an expert evaluation is highly recommended. You can even come find me here at the clinic for a “Cat-Scan”… but if it’s raining, don’t expect me to greet you outside!

Until next week,

~ Tony

P.S. If you want more, the humans have a podcast called Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth, and they have several episodes on feet. I highly recommend you check that out, which you can do over on the Podcast Page of my website, or you can subscribe to it on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! 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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Teaching Puppies and Kittens to Love the Vet

Teaching Puppies and Kittens to Love the Vet

Tuesdays with Tony

Listen, my staff are all vets and vet techs, so I do have an… appreciation for them (love may be a strong word), but I recognize that an inherent love for the veterinarian may not be present in all dogs and cats. As the human caretakers of your respective puppies, kittens, and rescued animals, you have the ability to foster a calmness and appreciation for the service providers at the vet clinic from an early age. This is done by acclimatizing your pet to things commonly done at vet visits, including general restraint, looking in ears, eyes, and mouths, and feeling legs and paws.

When you adopt or buy a new pet, it’s very important to bring them for an establishment exam to meet their new veterinarian, even if they aren’t due for vaccines or medications. In fact, making this first visit a positive one with minimal invasive procedures is another great way to foster a positive association with the doctor.

Cats (the superior species, obviously) often don’t go see the doctor enough. All animals should see their doctor at least once per year (just like all people… how’s that going for you, human?), but cats are especially good at hiding signs of disease until they’re very advanced. If they see their doctor yearly or twice yearly for general checkups, there is a very good chance illness can be caught earlier (which makes everything easier to treat).

To make your pet the best patient they can be, make going to the vet a normal part of life. Try out “happy visits.” This is when your pet comes into the clinic but nothing scary happens, just cuddles and treats. Make sure you talk to your vet clinic about this. Most are happy to do them, but they may need to put them on the schedule. Because my veterinary staff have both mobile and in-clinic appointments, they would need to make sure someone was here to appropriately snuggle the cute visitors. You can do happy visits between their regularly scheduled puppy or kitten visits, maybe once a month or every two weeks. But there’s multiple things you can do way more frequently than that.

Play with their paws and ears and open their mouth. Now, I say this mostly echoing what Dr. Speziok tells new puppy and kitten owners, because as a distinguished cat, I don’t *particularly* like my paws, ears, or mouth played with, but I will say it’s nice when it’s not a surprise. Puppies and kittens are new to the world and don’t know what is okay and what isn’t. So, teach them that it’s normal to have their human staff check out their ears, mouth, and paws. This will also help you in the future giving them nail trims.

I find that humans tend to hold puppies and kittens a lot in their first few weeks at home, but then that drops off as they get older and more independent. This results in a pet that’s very used to being held at the 8- or 12-week visit, but a very offended, very boisterous teenager at the 4- and 6-month visits.

There are some simple holds you can practice with your animals at home, and if you pair these with treat time, they will associate this practice with good things. Your goal should be to create positive associations with the things that will happen at the vet. This makes vet visits go smoother, which creates more positive associations! A happy pet at the vet means a happy vet and no barriers to a very thorough exam.

Anyway, the first one to practice is with your pet standing. Put one hand or arm under their belly and the other around the front of their chest, hold them close to your body and just let them stay still for a few minutes. If you have a second human to assist, they can practice looking in ears or eyes or picking up paws while you hold your pet– make sure to give lots of treats! Start small, puppies and kittens have super short attention spans so even 30-45 seconds at a time is helpful. An important note: if your puppy or kitten throws a bit of a tantrum, do your best to let them calm down before you release them. This way they don’t learn that a tantrum is the way to get out of restraint. Unless it’s me, and you should release me immediately. I’m just saying.

photo courtesy of ruralareavet.org

Another hold to practice is fairly simple, but you’d be surprised how little it happens outside the vet clinic. Have your puppy or kitten sit down facing away from you. You can do it on the floor or on a table, depending on how big they are. Use treats to convince them to get in this position and stay there initially, then you can work up to holding them around their chest or gently under their chin. This is usually the position animals have to get into to have their blood drawn, and if it is taught as a “normal” thing that humans sometimes ask them to do, it’s way less scary! This is also the easiest position to pill a dog or cat from, though in this cat’s opinion, you should almost always offer pills in some tasty food, as my human staff do for me.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

photo courtesy of oregonhumane.org

Finally, when your puppy or kitten is already feeling a little rollie pollie, maybe after a meal or a good play session, you can practice restraining them gently on their side. It’s usually best to start this one when they’re already laying down, but all you’ll do is put one arm across their belly and gently grasp their bottom hind leg, then put one arm gently across their neck (no pressure here!) and gently grasp their bottom front leg.

This is probably going to be really confusing at first, but if you have a second human staff member there with some tasty treats, and only hold the position for a few seconds at a time to start, it can quickly become a fun activity. Keeping animals on their sides like this is pretty common during sick vet visits, if they’ve hurt a leg, or if they need a nail trim. It’s a very normal position for animals to take, but what’s not normal if you’re not used to it with the human involvement. Making that a somewhat normal part of life from the beginning will make those future vet visits way more fun for all involved.

Being a human really isn’t that hard, much easier than being a cat, so I hope you don’t mind me adding this homework on to your job as a pet owner. Investing time into comfort with vet visits when pets are young– or new to your care– will pay off with huge returns over the course of their life, as vet visits will be less stressful and more enjoyable for everyone.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Are you still relying on Facebook to show you my blog each week? Be a good human and subscribe so you can get my wisdom in your email, and a day earlier than everyone else! It’s the big purple box down below. Just scroll down a bit. That’s a good human, you can do it!

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! 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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Mares (mostly) and Hormones

Mares (mostly) and Hormones

Tuesdays with Tony

There’s a thing here at the clinic called Regumate. It gets talked about a lot. Some talk of it in hushed tones as if its very mention can bring forth chestnut mare syndrome. My Docs tend to talk about it as a tool, usually during breeding season. This week, let’s explore the weird and wacky world of hormones, and the crazy things they do to mares and stallions.

One Hormone to Rule Them

It all starts in the brain for both males and females. I realize many of you may question if anything for males, particularly young males of any species, starts in the brain, but trust this cat. It does. In the brain there’s a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone. We’re gonna go with GnRH because that’s a lot to type with only two paws. GnRH sends signals to the rest of the body to tell it to make more hormones like testosterone and estrogen. (If you are a hormone researcher, I ask you to give a cat a break. Yes, I know I’m simplifying things, it’s what I do. Back to the blog.) 

GnRH levels are strongly affected by daylight length. This is why mares are generally more mare-y and stallions are more stallion-y during the longer days of late spring, summer, and early fall. It’s a brilliantly designed system to ensure most reproduction happens during a season which will produce babies when there’s food. The same system is tweaked based on gestation length for other species. For example, goats and sheep experience these effects in the fall so they have babies in the spring. That Mother Nature is a smart cookie!

Moving Down the Body

So GnRH got released in the brain and did some stuff. What exactly is that stuff? GnRH hits the ovaries in mares, and the testes in stallions to cause them to crank up the pathways that turn cholesterol (yes, cholesterol) into estrogen and testosterone. But wait! This happens in a few other places as well. The skin and adrenal glands can also make estrogen and testosterone. This is important to understand when it comes to removing the ovaries and testicles. The moral of this story is that, sure, ovaries and testes do the heavy lifting of hormone production, but they aren’t the only ones to do it.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Estrogen and testosterone get blamed for a lot of things in the world. Some of it’s valid, but these hormones do a lot of other things besides rev up the libido. In males and females, estrogens help manage the metabolism, prevent bone loss, and protect blood vessels from damage. Testosterone is important for muscle metabolism, and red blood cell formation. Testosterone is also an important source of estrogen, particularly in males. This seems backward at first read. However, the body takes testosterone, turns it into estrogen, that estrogen then signals things like bone to get stronger. Most of this happens on the spot, which keeps those estrogens from sending bodywide signals. It only affects the things that need affecting. 

Hormones and Behavior

Estrogen and testosterone also drive some behaviors to occur, and here’s where we get back to where it all started, Regumate. These hormones drive mating behavior, which isn’t always conducive to good horse riding behavior. Being smart humans, you’ve found that by increasing the progesterone in the system, you can make these behaviors calm down a bit. Progesterone is a hormone most often associated with pregnancy. It does have high levels there, but it’s also around most of the time in males and females doing various progesterone things. One of the big things it does is reduce estrogen receptors. And Regumate is a synthetic progesterone, which means Regumate reduces estrogen receptors. Surely if there’s less estrogen receptors, your mare will be more focused on your riding goals than finding the closest eligible bachelor, right? Meh, maybe. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Does anything about this look straightforward and simple? This diagram is the simplified version of how all these hormones get created. This means something like Regumate might help you get through some tough days with your mare. However, it also means there’s a lot of things to factor in, and there’s almost certainly a behavior component involved. If nothing else, having hormones run around the system sets up certain behaviors, and once a brain learns something, it can be very hard to unlearn that thing!

Not a Magic Wand

Regumate, and similar hormone therapies, are often a go-to for mares when they are behaving badly. It’s even used occasionally for stallions or geldings being less-than-wonderful horses. The problem is, it’s not that simple. For stallions, it’s really not that simple. There’s no work to show if use of progesterones, like Regumate, can affect longterm fertility. For geldings, the best you might, and it’s a very tiny might, get is some slight calming effects that progesterones have. For mares, you will blunt the effects of being in heat which may help your mare focus, but you won’t suddenly be riding a quiet, laid-back gelding. 

For most instances, my Docs recommend giving something like Regumate a try, while also working on behavior modifications. It may be that Regumate helps you manage that horse show that falls exactly when your mare is in heat, but that it’s not necessary when she’s not in heat. Think of it as a tool rather than a magic wand. 

When to Look Further

There are some cases where my Docs get asked about Regumate for a mare who has suddenly changed behaviors pretty drastically. In these scenarios, the mare should be checked for a specific type of tumor called a granulosa cell tumor. These tumors secrete huge amounts of just about every hormone on the chart above. It leaves mares wondering if they’re in love, or ready to fight the world. A quick scan of the ovaries and uterus with an ultrasound, along with a blood test, can help determine if this is the problem. In these cases, removing the offending ovary puts all back to right with the hormones. 

Hormones are hard! If you think your horse might need some Regumate, I suggest a chat with one of my Docs to determine the best plan to move forward. There may be more going on than a dab of progesterone can fix. 

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. The humans did a podcast on hormones that really gets in the weeds. If you want to check that out, you can find it over on my Podcast Page, or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Not sure what a podcast is? It’s an audio recording, just like a radio show in the old days. You can listen to it right from your phone or computer, and it’s free!

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! 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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Pre-Purchase Exams (and why you need one)

Pre-Purchase Exams (and why you need one)

Tuesdays with Tony

Horse shopping is at once thrilling and terrifying. You may have spent months searching and trying out horses. Now finally you think you’ve found the right one, Woohoo! You love his personality and the way he rides! He’s even the right color! He’ll be purrfect for what you want to do with him! What are you waiting for?!

Whoa there, human. Take a moment and listen to my cat wisdom. Buying a horse is a big step. There might be a hefty price tag involved, and you’ll want to make sure you’re spending that money wisely. But even if the price isn’t high, a new horse is a time investment and often an emotional commitment, and it’s super important to find one that’s going to fit your plans well.

Why should I want a Pre-purchase Exam?

The point of the exam is to give you enough information to make an informed decision about whether the horse’s health, conformation, and soundness will fit your needs. You’ll want to know if there are pre-existing issues that would prevent him from being able to do the job you intend. It can be heartbreaking to invest all that time, money, and emotion into a horse just to find out he’ll never be suitable.

But don’t think about a PPE as just a reason to say no to a sale. Another important purpose is to learn about your new horse’s health. It’s very rare to find a horse with no problems at all (unlike cats, who are above such things, of course), and if you decide the exam findings are something you can handle, you’ll have a leg up on how to best care for his needs.

What happens in the Exam?

There are three basic parts to a pre-purchase exam. The first is a detailed physical exam. My docs take out their fine-toothed combs for this kind of evaluation. They’ll assess general condition, evaluate the heart and lungs, and examine the eyes, ears, and teeth. They’ll do a thorough palpation of the joints, tendons, and ligaments of the horse’s legs, looking for evidence of past or current injury. They’ll examine the hooves closely, since the old saying “no hoof, no horse” still rings true. They’ll also look at the horse’s conformation for red flags that could mean problems later. Lumps, bumps, growths, and scars will be assessed. A basic neurological exam will be performed, and his back and muscles will be checked out. If any abnormalities are found, my docs will talk with you about whether she thinks they’ll be problematic, or just cosmetic blemishes that won’t bother the horse.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

The next phase is the movement evaluation, where my docs will look for signs of lameness. She’ll watch the horse move in-hand at the walk and the trot on a straight line. A firm, level surface is best. Then she’ll watch him circling in both directions, usually on a longe line or in a round pen. She’ll perform flexion tests to simulate stress on a particular joint, to see if underlying lameness shows up.

The last phase of the pre-purchase exam is additional diagnostic testing. Not every PPE will include this. If the buyer is satisfied with the results of the first two phases, the exam may end there. On the other hand, if the horse appears lame or there are problems with the physical, they may have enough reason to walk away from the sale already.

X-rays are the most common type of additional testing. In many cases, buyers want screening images of areas where lameness problems frequently occur (like the front feet) or areas that will undergo strain in the horse’s intended career (like hocks and stifles for a dressage horse or a reiner), even if there are no signs of a current problem. A horse might be sound on the day of the exam, but if a significant problem shows up on the x-rays, my docs may be able to make predictions about future lameness problems. If abnormalities such as heat, tenderness, or swelling were found on the physical exam, or if the horse appeared lame, those may be enough of a concern to require further investigation.

How many x-rays are taken will depend on how the buyer wants to balance the expense of the x-rays against the value of the horse. The breed, age, and intended use of the horse also play a factor. Some buyers will feel comfortable without x-rays, and some will want to image every area possible. My docs can work with you to customize the exam for your risk-tolerance, budget, and plans for the horse. It’s never wrong to have a baseline set of x-rays on your new horse, so you can know what you’re starting with in case any future problems occur. Some issues are immediate deal-breakers, and you can save yourself heartache later. On the other hand, some x-ray imperfections don’t prevent the horse from being able to perform. Perfection is hard to find outside of cats, and most buyers will have to balance how well the horse fits their purpose, their budget, and the exam findings. My docs will help you determine if they are really a problem, since after all, you ride the horse, not the x-ray.

Other types of diagnostic imaging, such as ultrasound, are usually recommended only if my doc finds something that worries her, like a thickened tendon.

There are a few kinds of blood test commonly requested. A coggins test is required if the horse will be crossing state lines. A “wellness profile” including a CBC and blood chemistry panel can be used to screen for overall health and organ function. Drug testing can be used to check for pain medications or sedatives in the horse’s system.

What a PPE is and what it is not

A pre-purchase examination is an opinion of the horse on the day of the exam. Your vet will let you know if she finds indications of problems. No one cannot predict the future of any horse and its’s impossible to be certain that no sub-clinical problem exists. The exam isn’t a guarantee of long-term health or soundness, but a snapshot of a moment in time.

It’s also not a “pass or fail” test. A completely clean pre-purchase is a rare thing. Some findings are manageable but will require care to keep the horse performing well. There can be wide variation between what’s acceptable for a grand prix jumper versus a kid’s trail horse. The same finding may be a deal breaker for one but never cause an issue for the other. Arthritis in the joint of a 3-year-old you plan on jumping for decades to come is different than in the schoolmaster who has been competing successfully and probably has wear and tear from years of work. My docs can’t tell you whether you should buy the horse or not, but they can give you the information to make an informed decision for yourself.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Do’s and Don’ts

It’s important to choose carefully who will perform the exam. Do choose a vet who is experienced with equine medicine and lameness. To avoid conflicts of interest, don’t choose a vet who has previously cared for the horse or worked for the seller. The vet performing the pre-purchase exam is paid by and reports to the buyer, so an unbiased opinion will best protect your interests. Talk to the vet about basic exam costs and what diagnostic tests you want.

Do request the horse’s health records, including vaccines, deworming, and dentistry from the seller. If they will release previous x-rays and other medical records, even better.

Do have a clear idea about what you want to use the horse for, how long you hope to own him, and how much management you’re willing to put into keeping him sound. Do think about what issues would be deal-breakers for you.

Do be there for the exam, if possible. Unless you’re buying a horse from across the country (or plantet), it’s best to be present during the exam to discuss findings as they come up. If that can’t happen, talk with the vet ahead of time about your intentions for the horse, and be available by phone to make decisions during the exam.

Here’s the hardest one… don’t get so attached to the horse that no matter what my docs tell you, you’re going to buy him anyway. That’s called a “post-purchase exam” and it’s kind of not the point!

Happy horse hunting!

Until next week,

~ Tony

P.S. If you really want to dig into PPE concepts, my docs have a brand new podcast episode releasing September 1st that will teach you a ton of useful things regarding the purchase of horses. This old cat even learned a few things, and I already knew everything. Well, pretty much everything. Anyway, you can find it over on the Podcast Page or wherever you get your podcasts.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! 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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Sheep and Goat Parasite Management

Sheep and Goat Parasite Management

Tuesdays with Tony

I’ve waxed poetic more than once on parasite control in horses and donkeys, which I’ve summed up succinctly as: “deworm less.” Well, today I’m here to talk about that same thing in goats and sheep (spoiler alert, the sum-up will be similar). Dr. Speziok has only been here for a few months, but I’ve already listened to her spiel on small ruminant parasites more times than I can count. So, let’s talk about the major parasites of our cloven-hooved friends and, more importantly, how to manage them.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Let’s Meet the Contestants

There are four different worms that love to cause problems in ruminant guts, and just like the boy bands of yesteryear, they have an acronym: HOTC.

HOTC stands for: Haemonchus, Ostertagia, Trichostrongylus, and Cooperia. These “big four” cause all kinds of issues for sheep and goats and can make them very, very sick. We talk about them as a group because when we do our fecal egg counts (similar, but a bit more complicated to the fecals we do on horses once a year), they all look the same under the microscope, so we count them together.

In most sheep and goats, the species called Haemonchus contortus is the main player. Otherwise known as the Barberpole worm, it lives in the abomasum (the last chamber of the 4-chamber stomach) and small intestine and sucks blood for a living.

What Do They Do?

These tiny-but-mighty blood feeders lead to anemia, edema, emaciation, and GI distress. Sheep and goats can lose weight, have pale mucous membranes, high FAMACHA scores, and bottle jaw.

These pesky pests can even hide in their hosts by going into a dormant state called hypobiosis when they sense the weather would be unfavorable for eggs on the pasture. In the south, this is basically only the hottest part of summer, but even then they never really go away. In this hypobiotic state, the larvae are significantly more resistant to dewormers and only a few products even stand a chance against them.

Why do sheep and goats seem so sensitive to their little intestinal passengers? Well, they mostly evolved to live on mountain tops away from warm, moist environments that harbor parasites. So when we bring them to the southeastern US, their little guts have no idea what to do with all these worms!

Drug Resistance

Unfortunately, just like with horses, you humans used to think that deworming very often and with rotating products was the way to go. It was very much not, as we know now, and it has only worsened the major parasite resistance issues we’re dealing with.

Doctor’s orders here: avoid deworming on any type of routine or schedule. Deworming needs to be targeted and adjusted based on individual animals as directed by the veterinarian you have a great relationship with. Parasite resistance is a very large, very real problem that we can only fight by being strategic. What works for one farm will not work for another, and the history of an individual animal is vital to making these protocol decisions. No more blanket approach!

FAMACHA Score

One of the most important skills and duties of a sheep or goat owner is to perform regular FAMACHA score checks. No, that’s not another boy band. It’s an anemia scoring system developed in South Africa to help small ruminant owners monitor the health of their animals. I’ve watched Dr. Speziok demonstrate this system to just about every goat owner that’s come to Springhill, so make sure your veterinarian shows you how to do it! FAMACHA scores are judged by the mucous membranes on the inside of the lower eyelids.

To expose the mucous membranes, have the animal in an area with good light and use an assistant to help restrain them if necessary. Use the thumb of your upper hand to COVER the eye, then to PUSH the eye slightly into the socket. Use the thumb of your lower hand to PULL the lower eyelid down, and watch the mucous membranes POP into view. This does not hurt the animal, and if it’s done weekly or monthly on a regular basis, it will become routine for them.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

The basic premise of FAMACHA is the darker the pink color of those mucous membranes, the better the goat is doing. The details of the scoring system and how it is used is one of those things that are best learned in person, so have your veterinarian show you how to use this scoring system next time you see them.

Deworming Protocols

Protocols will vary based on an individual herd or flock, but the main point is that all deworming of small ruminants should be based on the individual animals’ FAMACHA score and their fecal egg count. Checking those mucous membrane colors can become part of your farm routine, and when they are pale, collect a fecal sample for your veterinarian to analyze. Those two things together determine when a dewormer should be used. If there are resistance issues on your farm, your veterinarian may need you to give two different dewormers at the same time. This attacks those annoying worms from multiple attack angles, giving us a better chance of killing them.

I know you humans love to focus on the medications we animals need, but management strategies are often the most important things you can do. Feeding sheep and goats above the ground and keeping their pens clean will help prevent them from reinfecting themselves and each other with the parasites they shed. If you are breeding your small ruminants, do not breed those that constantly require deworming. Try to have dams lamb or kid in a clean, dry pen with minimal other adult animals.

Work with your veterinarian to manage the overall health of your animals, which will help them better fight off parasites. Dr. Speziok is now offering a herd/flock evaluation where you can learn some awesome tips and tricks for making your small ruminants as happy and healthy as they can be!

Until next week,

~ Tony

P.S. Have you subscribed to my blog, or are you just hoping that you’ll see it on Facebook? Be a good human and scroll down to that big purple box and subscribe, and not only will you get my blog in your email, you’ll get it a day before everyone else! That’s a purr-fect reason if you ask me.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! 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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Donkey Care

Donkey Care

Tuesdays with Tony

While my Springhill docs are out and about taking care of horses, they also see plenty of their long-eared cousins, the donkeys!  Quite a few of our clients have donkeys. Sometimes they’re kept as pets, or companions to a horse, and sometimes they are used as guardians to keep other animals safe against predators. Whatever their role, donkeys need good care just like the rest of the herd. But their requirements are often misunderstood, even by well-intentioned owners.

Despite their similarities, donkeys are definitely not just small, long-eared horses. There are differences in their behavior, nutritional needs, and physiology that require owners to treat them differently from the horses they may be more familiar with. So, here’s some invaluable feline wisdom about the care that donkeys need, as well as some specific requirements that even experienced horse owners might not be aware of!

Routine Veterinary Care

My docs see many donkeys that aren’t vaccinated or dewormed. Sometimes their owners have no idea that their donkey needs it, even if they know their horses do. So let me tell you right now: yes, your donkey needs vaccines! Even if he never leaves the farm. Even if he has always seemed healthy. Mosquitoes and wildlife travel to your farm, and donkeys are susceptible to the same diseases as horses, so he’ll need a rabies vaccine once a year and a combo vaccine including Eastern and Western encephalitis, West Nile Virus, and tetanus twice a year.

Like horses, donkeys are susceptible to internal parasites, and if not dewormed, can build up large parasite loads. This can cause diarrhea, weight loss, poor hair coat, colic, or severe anemia. A fecal egg count will tell us what parasites are present, so we can recommend a deworming schedule for your donkey. Remember, we don’t do the old-fashioned method of rotating dewormers every 6 weeks anymore. For why not, see my extensive blogs on deworming.

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Donkeys need yearly dental care, too. Dental disease is the second most common health problem in donkeys, after foot problems. Since donkeys are stoic and don’t like to show pain, don’t wait for them to show you signs of a problem, since by then there might be a BIG problem. Donkeys, like horses, have teeth that wear down constantly throughout their lives due to their continual grazing. They can develop sharp edges and uneven or overgrown teeth, that can cause pain and prevent them from being able to eat normally. So put your donkey on the same once-a-year dental schedule as your horse.

Hoof Care

Donkeys evolved in the semi-arid parts of the world, where the ground is dry and stony. When they are kept on grassy, moist pasture (ahem, Florida) a donkey’s feet absorb much more water than what they are adapted for. As a result, their feet can soften and become prone to diseases such as thrush, hoof abscesses, or white line disease. These are very common issues for donkeys in our climate, and proper care is needed to avoid foot problems. Keep your donkey’s paddock clean and remove manure regularly. You may need to give him a break from wet or muddy pasture during wetter times of the year. Providing a clean, dry, bedded stall where he can stand for part of the day can help to dry out his feet. Pick out his hooves frequently to remove dirt and manure and keep an eye out for changes in his hoof structure.

Yes, donkeys need their hooves trimmed on a regular schedule, too! My docs have met owners that don’t know this is necessary. Donkey hooves grow continually and don’t wear down on the type of ground we house them on. However, donkey hooves are quite different from horse hooves, so you’ll want to find a farrier who is familiar with the differences. A donkey’s hoof is approximately 5-10 degrees more upright than a horse’s hoof, and the shape of the hoof and sole is different.

For routine farrier care, a 6-8 week schedule is sufficient. If your donkey has foot problems, more frequent visits might be necessary until the feet are back in good condition. It’s very, very important to train your donkey to have his feet handled and trimmed. If your donkey only has his feet touched during farrier visits, he may be scared and stressed by the process. Donkeys can kick hard and accurately, and a good farrier is hard to find, so make sure you work with your donkey beforehand so that it’s a positive experience for everyone.

Feeding

Obesity is one of the most common problems my docs see in donkeys (and me, if I’m being honest). Donkeys evolved to live in dry landscapes with sparse vegetation. They are very efficient at digesting fibrous, poor quality plant material that horses couldn’t survive on. In their natural habitat, donkeys often walk considerable distances throughout the day to find small amounts of forage. This is a very different lifestyle than the rich grassy pastures of many Florida farms, where barely any walking is needed to find the next bite. It’s the donkey equivalent of sitting on the couch and eating Bon-Bons all day.

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It can be a challenge to control a donkey’s weight in our area. Many people want to turn their donkeys out on the same lush pastures as their horses, which is an immediate recipe for donkey obesity and health problems. Over-feeding of hay and grain is also common. Horse owners may be used to feeding the products their horses thrive on and want to treat their donkey just as well. We’re glad you love your donkey! But no, he doesn’t need the alfalfa hay and pelleted feed that your horse eats, no matter what he tells you! It’s a lot easier and safer to prevent obesity in donkeys than to put him on a diet if he’s already in an unhealthy state, so be really careful with this.

A well-balanced, high fiber diet is best for your donkey. Give him limited grass to graze and a fibrous hay such as coastal or Teff. Donkeys can also be fed barley straw. Legume hays such as alfalfa or peanut are too rich. Your donkey definitely doesn’t need lots of grain. A small amount of ration balancer to provide vitamins and minerals will suffice. Provide a salt lick and free choice clean water. Only sick, underweight, or old donkeys need any additional feeding, so talk to my doc if you think that’s the case.

The tricky part is feeding an appropriate amount of calories while also satisfying his need to graze continuously for most of the day and move around. If your donkey can’t find some forage to chew, he may resort to chewing your fences or barn, or develop stomach ulcers. You may need to use slow feeders or hay nets with small holes to keep him entertained without increasing food intake. This may take some creativity!

Training

Spend time with your donkey to get him used to being handled. Train him to wear a halter and be led. Make sure you can catch him when you need to. Pick up his feet and get him used to having them handled for hoof trims. When handled regularly and kindly, donkeys can be easy to work with and fun companions. But if they are never touched, they will be wary of humans, and farrier and vet visits will be difficult. Do your homework ahead of time and it will be much easier!

More Differences Between Donkey and Horse Care

In the wild, donkeys evolved the behavior of wanting to appear strong and healthy to reduce the chance of attracting a predator’s attention. They use this stoic behavior as a defense mechanism, but this doesn’t mean they don’t experience pain or get sick like a horse would. They just don’t show it, which means if your donkey isn’t acting right, he’s probably sicker than he looks. If your donkey is unusually quiet or not eating well, he requires immediate veterinary care. A donkey’s cough reflex is also more insensitive that a horse’s, so respiratory disease may be severe before it is noticed. Donkeys are at particular risk of a problem called hepatic lipidosis, which can occur due to other illnesses, stress, or decreased food intake. Hepatic lipidosis is very dangerous and can be fatal, so if your donkey isn’t eating for any reason, he should be checked for it. Yes, this includes during weight-loss programs, so remember it’s easier to prevent obesity than to treat it!

Our Springhill Wellness Plans include all the routine care your donkey needs, and as always, my docs are happy to give you personalized advice for your herd. Tell ‘em I sent you.

Until next week,

~ Tony

P.S. Have you subscribed to my blog, or are you just hoping that you’ll see it on Facebook? Be a good human and scroll down to that big purple box and subscribe, and not only will you get my blog in your email, you’ll get it a day before everyone else! That’s a purr-fect reason if you ask me.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! 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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Equine Insurance

Equine Insurance

Tuesdays with Tony

This is one of those recurring themes for me. It seems every time I talk insurance, I hit a relevant point for a human, so here we are again. Let’s start with the obvious: horses are expensive. They’re expensive to buy and maintain, and to fix when they break. Having a plan for that makes it way easier to handle when it’s 2:00 am and my Docs are asking what you want to do. 

Mortality Insurance

This is like your life insurance. Basically you set a value for your horse, and if they pass away, you get money. I know none of my readers went there, but others may see this as a get-rich-quick scheme. Go buy a horse for $500, insure it for a high dollar value, watch some crime television to determine the best way to off the horse, and pocket all that cash. 

If you’re a crime TV watcher, I suggest you Google Helen Brach. I’m sure you will find an excellent series surrounding her death that involves just such a plan. The insurance companies are not so dense as to repeatedly fall for such schemes. 

The value of the horse is calculated several ways. The first is purchase price. If you bought a horse for $5,000 then you can easily obtain mortality insurance for that amount. The next way to calculate value is through performance record. The company will look at type of competition, number of competitors, prize money, and a host of other factors and determine that, yep, your horse is now worth a whole lot more due to your hard work, or give you an idea of what they would need to see to justify the dollar amount you’d like. 

Foals and breeding stock are a bit different. I’d recommend checking with a horse insurance specialist about that rather than a veterinary clinic cat. I mean, I’m smart, but I have limits on how much research I’m willing to do between naps. Anyway, mortality insurance is designed to help you replace your horse if something happens and they pass away. It is also, generally, the biggest factor in the amount of your yearly premium. Five thousand dollars in value is going to be a lot cheaper than $500,000.

Medical and Surgical Coverage

Once you’ve got mortality coverage, you can add other things like medical and surgical coverage. For this cat, this is the meat and potatoes of the matter. Medical and surgical coverage does just what it says: it covers them getting sick, injured, or needing surgery. I’m going to talk about things like ColiCare from SmartPak in a second, so hold that thought I know you’re probably having. 

Medical and surgical coverage covers way more than colic, and trust me, horses have way more things they can do than just colic. An insurance plan will help with a bad eye problem (we see at least 5 of these every year), a laceration into a joint (I can’t count how many of these we see), a surgical colic (less of a problem than you think), colics that need a lot of care but don’t need surgery (more of a problem than you think), lameness that require advanced diagnostics like MRI or CT, and a host of other things that horses do to themselves that cost a lot of money. 

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Having insurance to help you cover that long list of things is really helpful. The most important way insurance helps, at least from my fine feline perspective, is at the moment the decision has to be made. My Docs have evaluated your horse and come up with a plan for surgery or medical care, and now you have to figure out all the ways to pay for that plan. Having insurance makes the decision so, so much easier. Especially at 2:00 am on Saturday morning when you’re on vacation somewhere.

Colic Coverage Only

There are some options that give you coverage for colic surgery. SmartPak and Platinum Performance have really great options! My Docs have experience with both plans and have found them to be fantastic to use. The companies are great to work with, and the coverage is available for a wide variety of horses. If you have an older horse who isn’t doing much these are some great options to look at! 

However, everything great comes with at least some downside (Except me. I have zero downsides). These programs do a great job covering the majority of even a pretty significant colic surgery. What they don’t cover is a medical colic. If your horse doesn’t need surgery, they don’t kick in, which means no dollars for that $2,500 invoice (IV fluids are expensive!). Again, these programs are great, and they definitely have a place, just be sure you have a plan for a medical problem as well.

Special Add-ons

There are a million customization options for horse insurance plans. Finding a good agent who will talk you through what all these options are and how they might, or might not, apply to your life is key. For example, most horses probably don’t need flight insurance. This isn’t the “oh my flight was delayed and I missed my connection” insurance. This is “something bad happened on a flight” insurance. Not many horses fly on a plane at all, but if yours is one of them, you may consider this. 

More common options are things like Loss of Use, newborn foal coverage, and stallion fertility coverage. Insurance companies have also combined some of the liability-type coverages and will have add-ons for injuries caused by your horse to others. It’s almost like they know horses go out of their way to find these opportunities. Speaking of liability…..the other thing many horse insurance companies do is cover your farm for those oh-so-fun horse-specific liabilities like kicking someone who knows nothing about horses, or breaking a fence and frolicking around the neighborhood. You know, horse things.

Horse insurance is a definite conversation to have with yourself at the very least. All my Docs have at least some experience with horse insurance, and can help you consider what questions to ask, and point you in the direction of a few local brokers. Nothing beats knowing your own risk tolerance, and doing some research on available products. Having watched the process many, many times from my perch on the desk, nothing makes it easier to make hard decisions than knowing you have a way to pay for it all.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. If you want to hear it straight from the equine insurance agent’s mouth, you can watch our Seminar video on this very topic, delivered by an equine insurance agent. And make sure you subscribe to my YouTube Channel while you’re there!

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! 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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Myths Legends and Sketchy Ideas

Myths Legends and Sketchy Ideas

Tuesdays with Tony

The horse world is full of some crazy myths, legends, and sketchy ideas. My Docs experience them every day, and I hear my fair share of them during conversations at the clinic. I know horse people like tradition, and also The Google, but both of these are more likely to let you down than help you in a crisis. This week, let’s talk about some common myths, legends, and sketchy ideas. If you don’t want a full dose of my profound wisdom, I’ll put the moral of the story here: You should check with my Docs before you do anything.

Vaccines

My horse doesn’t leave the property, so no vaccines are necessary. 

There are plenty of things that reside on your property that can be 1. Vaccinated for and 2. Can kill your horse. The most common one of these is Tetanus. Horses love, and I do mean love, to get themselves hurt. Each one of those scrapes, cuts, and punctures is an opportunity for tetanus (which lives in the dirt) to go forth and multiply. Add to that mosquitos, as encephalitis delivery mechanisms, and you have several very good reasons to vaccinate, even if your horse never leaves the property. 

Rabies, and particularly rabid animals, ignore fences, as it flies in a bat, or arrives via a raccoon, fox, skunk, or any other mammal. Testing for rabies is difficult and can only be done following death. There is no treatment for animals showing signs of rabies. Sadly, euthanasia is the only answer. For vaccinated animals who have been exposed, a rabies vaccine is needed within 7 days. This thing is scary! Want to use the Google for something? Google human Rabies cases, and prepare to be scared.

Always, always, always vaccinate your horse for the basics, even if they never leave your property! The basics are: Eastern and Western Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, Tetanus, and Rabies.

Colics

If a horse is colicking, you should walk them, and if they roll, they can twist their intestines. 

There aren’t enough eyeroll emojis for me to place here to cover the level of “nope” for this one. If you, dear human, are colicky, what do you most want to do? Lay in bed in the fetal position and feel incredibly sorry for yourself? Maybe lay in that position on the bathroom floor? You most definitely do NOT want to go for a nice long walk with someone pulling you along by the head. 

Please, please, please allow your horses to lay down and feel miserable! All walking does is use up precious energy for a horse who is already colicky. I know you humans feel the need to do something, and it’s hard to let your horse just lay there. Find a safe place to put your horse so they can roll if they feel the need. Call my Docs. Fill the time you would be watching them with making sure you have your horse insurance paperwork in place, making sure your trailer and vehicle are ready to go if needed, and come up with a plan that works for you in case this is a bad colic. Bad colics require a financial plan. Use this time to run through scenarios. Trust me, it’s way easier to have an answer ready when my Docs ask, “Is surgery an option?”

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And about that twisting gut thing: It doesn’t work that way. I know it seems like it should, but in the wise words usually attributed to Dr. Neal DeGrasse Tyson, People don’t think the universe be like it is, but it do. I feel these words could be changed to, People don’t think horses be like they are, but they do. Horses roll because they have twisted their large colon and it’s painful. The twist occurs due to an impaction with a buildup of gas behind it, and the contraction of the intestine trying to move the impaction. So, the rolling doesn’t cause the twist, the rolling is a result of the twist. Make sense?

EPM, Ulcers, Kissing Spines, Lyme Disease

My horse has *insert disease* because I Googled it and the symptoms match. This one gets two myths, legends, or sketchy ideas. Also, I found this supplement on the internet that says it will fix *insert disease* and it has a lot of likes and shares so it must be good.

These, and many other diseases, are real. However, more often than not, they aren’t what’s wrong with the horse. The more common things like bad feet, arthritis, or tendinitis are causing the problem. The other problem with many of these diseases is actually diagnosing them. Let’s take EPM for example. 

There are several blood tests available. None are particularly good at telling us if a horse has EPM. They can indicate that it’s unlikely a horse has EPM, but not the other way around. If they are positive, you may as well flip a coin. That horse may have EPM, or it may have been exposed to it, and if you live anywhere in most of the United States, chances are good your horse has been exposed to it. 

To actually diagnose EPM, you need some of the fluid around the spine. That is the only definitive way to know. Lyme disease is even harder! The worst version of Lyme disease is very often negative to every test available on a living animal!! This uncertainty causes the very worst in humans to rear their ugly heads: The Snake Oil Salesman. 

I’m going to help out here because I’m such a generous cat: if a “treatment” is not recommended by your veterinarian, it’s because it doesn’t work. Even worse, if it is widely advertised on the Faceplace and has tons of comments, but your veterinarian rolls their eyes when you mention it, it’s because this product will only take your money, and not help your horse. I promise you, my Docs want your horse better, and they want to do it in the most economical way they can. Horses don’t always go in for that plan, but my Docs try their absolute hardest.

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Wounds

This *insert product name* is the absolute best for wounds. Look at this picture of the healed wound I found on the internet!

This one is short and sweet. For all the effort horses put into hurting themselves, they really, really want to heal. Most of the time it’s a matter of staying out of the way of the healing process, not putting some goop in the middle of it. Ten minutes daily with a hose, and good bandaging are the keys to wound healing. Sure, my Docs will add some stuff to really dirty or nasty wounds, and they use things like Silver Sulfadiazene, or Manuka Honey to help wounds heal faster, but the cornerstone of wound care is water and bandaging.

A cat could go on and on about all the crazy ideas horse people have, but I won’t. I’ll go back to my sage advice at the beginning of this week’s blog: If your horse has something wrong, talk with my Docs. They will help figure out what’s really going on, and find the best treatment possible. And it will probably be a lot cheaper than that other stuff.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. If you want more, the humans have a podcast on this very topic, with the same name I used for this blog. I know, I was a bit lazy, but come on, I’m a cat. Anyway, you can find it over on the Podcast Page of my website. With over 100 episodes now, you’ll likely find some other good stuff to listen to. It’s a great free resource, and it was all my idea, of course. You’re welcome.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! 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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Trailer Safety 101

Trailer Safety 101

Tuesdays with Tony

It will never cease to amaze me that horses willingly get into those dark boxes you humans call horse trailers and rattle along down the road. I’ve seen a few protests, but with a little training, encouragement, and some food, they comply and walk right on. You just try getting me into a cat carrier that easily! Since your horse trusts you enough to go against his natural instincts and get into that tin can, we’re going to discuss some very important safety tips to make sure you take good care of him while trailering. From loading to unloading and everything in between, there are opportunities everywhere for things to go wrong.

Before the trip

The most important thing, whether you are planning on hauling a horse around the country or around the corner, is to make sure your trailer is in good working order. Maintaining the functionality of your trailer is critical to the ease and safety of transport.

Inspecting the floor of your trailer is an essential part of trailer ownership. If you have floor mats, pull them up regularly and check underneath. Look for wood rot, rust, holes, and broken welds. Areas of weakness increase the risk of your horse falling through the floor. As you can imagine, a leg through the floor can result in a life-ending injury.

Next, be sure to check your door latches and hinges for any pieces that may be rusty, loose, or missing. As a cat who manages a vet clinic, I see way too many lacerations sustained on horse trailers. Please also check the interior of your trailer for screws or other sharp things that your horse could find to hurt himself on.

Check your trailer brakes, as well as brake lights, taillights, and turn signals before heading out. There could easily be a short in the wiring even if you just drove it yesterday. I see so many trailers come through the clinic with the lights not working. That’s just begging to get rear-ended, which doesn’t end well for the horse.

It’s always good to do a “circle of safety” just before driving away with your trailer. A circle of safety is where starting at the driver’s side door, you walk ALL the way around your truck and trailer until you return to that door, looking for anything amiss. Make sure you kick every tire, and make sure your spare is still inflated. Under-inflated tires are the #1 reason for blowouts, and blowouts are the #1 reason for trailers flipping over. A small air compressor is a lot cheaper than new tires! Look for dry rot, even if your tires aren’t old. The Florida sun is one of my favorite things. I love basking in it while taking my morning, midday and afternoon naps, but it sure is hard on tires when it comes to dry rot.

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I highly recommend yearly maintenance by trailer professionals. Your wheel bearings should be repacked once a year – when was that last done? Has your trailer’s emergency brake battery been checked to make sure it will stop your trailer if it were to become detached from your truck? Maintaining a safe trailer in good working condition will reduce the risk of accidents and make for smoother hauling of your most precious cargo.

Training

As you know, horses like to injure themselves or colic at the most inopportune times. It’s often necessary to transport your horse to a clinic or hospital for treatment. During an emergency is not the time to be teaching your horse how to load or unload.

Spend time in your usual day-to-day training teaching your horse to load and unload calmly and quietly. Take time to make sure that your horse is comfortable loading and unloading in all different conditions. Weather and time of day/night can affect your horse’s willingness to get on the trailer. Practicing trailer loading/unloading in normal circumstances will help to ensure your horse remains calm while loading in times of urgency.

What should your horse be wearing?

The first choice is whether or not to tie your horse. There are positives and negatives to both schools of thought, but also some firm rules.

When your horse is loose in the trailer, he can maneuver and stabilize himself in whichever way he feels safest. He can also lower his head and neck more easily which allows him to rest while on a long ride. Lowering his head can help to reduce the chance of a respiratory infection because he can clear his nostrils of dust, dirt, mucus, and germs when he coughs or sneezes. Tying your horse’s head high prevents this very normal behavior and may result in a sick horse.

Some very small horses or ponies might be at risk of turning around in the straight stall of a trailer if they are left loose, or they may find themselves under a bar or panel where they could get injured by another horse. However, most horses find comfort in a bag of hay in front of them and the ability to move around as necessary.

If you do choose to tie your horse, make sure you use a method that can be easily released in case of a problem. My favorite method is to hang “Blocker Tie-Rings” in the trailer and use those to attach the lead rope. These tie rings allow a horse to pull slack in the lead rope if he panics or falls. Similarly, they are quick release if you need to free him fast. You may also choose to use a quick release knot when tying your horse. Whichever method you decide on, make sure the lead rope and any extra equipment is secured safely out of the reach of your horse.

Possibly the most important thing to remember when tying your horse in the trailer is what type of halter you use. Please, listen to this old cat on this one. Please, please, please put your horse in a leather halter, or at the very least, a break-away halter. Halters that don’t break, including rope halters, are incredibly dangerous whether your horse is tied or not. If a horse slips and falls or there is an accident, and your horse is tied with a rope halter or one that doesn’t break, you risk him breaking his back or neck. Similarly, if your horse is in the trailer and has a halter on that is not breakable, you risk him getting caught on a part of the trailer, panicking and injuring himself. And if your trailer is on its side or upside down, it can be nearly impossible to get them out if they are too securely attached. The longer it takes to get them out, the more they will suffer, and the less likely they are to survive. Trust me, this is something that is so easy and can prevent CATastrophe.

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I’m a big believer in putting wraps or boots on your horse’s legs for trailering. Horse legs are soooo delicate and they have almost no cushioning over the important bones and tendons. Remember, it doesn’t matter if your horse is good at trailering and you’re a good driver, because someone else on the road who’s not so careful can still cause a wreck. You can use old-school standing wraps or modern shipping boots. Boots are super quick and easy to apply. They’re basically fool-proof and offer good protection. Get your horse used to wraps or boots before attempting them for a trailer ride though.

Positioning in the trailer

If you have a straight-load trailer, you always want to load the heavier horse on the driver’s side. If you’re only hauling one horse, he should likewise go on the driver’s side. The reason behind this has to do with the pitch, or slant, of the road. When paved, the road is actually taller in the middle than at the shoulder. If you were to put the heavier load on the passenger side, the combination of the pitch of the road and the uneven weight would cause the trailer to pull hard to the right. And if the tires on that side go off the pavement, having all the weight on that side can cause a rollover.

If you have a slant load, the heaviest horse should go at the front (closest to your truck), to reduce the chance of your trailer fishtailing out of control.

Think safety first

When driving your trailer, practice defensive driving at all times. It seems today fewer and fewer people on the road understand trailer safety, so you have to be extra cautious. Give yourself more than enough stopping distance. Take turns slow and wide. Leave extra time and don’t speed. And my personal favorite: don’t pull in anywhere you aren’t sure you can get your trailer out of!

At rest stops, check your horse to make sure everything is hunky-dory. Remember to offer your horse water when you stop, to prevent colic on a long trip. I recommend always carrying extra water with you while you are shipping your horse. You may be going five minutes away or five hours away, but either way, extra water is very important. A trailer on the side of the road full of horses can get dangerously hot very quickly.

Carry a first aid kit and an extra halter and lead rope in a safe, easily accessible place. For more info on packing a good first aid kit, see one of my First Aid blogs.

I could keep giving you Tony Trailer Tips all day, but a cat’s gotta nap. I think the most important thing to remember is that you have some very precious cargo onboard! So do your work before you ask your horse to step on the trailer so you can enjoy safe travels and good rides!

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. The humans made a really good video about trailering. You can watch it here. While you’re on my YouTube Channel, make sure you subscribe and check out all the other great videos!

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! 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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Barn Cat Care

Barn Cat Care

Tuesdays with Tony

There’s a new doctor at Springhill Equine. I had to be told she was new though, because she’s been hanging out here for close to four years. I guess she was a vet student until now, but she always takes the time to pet me when she arrives, so she gets my approval. Anyway, the humans call her Dr. Speziok and she’s going to be bringing some other interesting critters to Springhill Equine besides horses and donkeys. She’ll see dogs and cats, goats, sheep, cows, camelids, and pigs in addition to the run of the mill horses we’re used to.

Since there’s going to be other cats besides just me and Teenie coming by, why don’t we talk about veterinary visits for the feline in your life? Some people think cats don’t need to go to the vet, especially if they live inside. I live at a vet clinic and get fussed over all the time, so I never really thought about it, but health care is important for all animals, especially the best animals—cats!

Checkups

Cats should go to the veterinarian (or have the vet come to them—Dr. Speziok can do that too!) at least once per year as long as they are healthy. When cats start to get into the double-digit years (cough cough Teenie cough) they ideally have a veterinary exam every 6 months for a checkup.

Vaccines

Cats need vaccines, kind of like horses, but -no surprise- cat immune systems are better than horse immune systems, so they need vaccines a little less often. Every kitten should have a few rounds of a combination shot commonly called feline distemper. It actually includes feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia virus which are all a bunch of nasty diseases no self-respecting cat wants to get.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Kittens also all need to be vaccinated for feline leukemia virus. This disease is way less common than it used to be, so we may not need to continue the vaccine as an adult, but it’s still necessary for the little ones! And then the one we kitties have in common with horses -and most mammals- rabies! Rabies vaccines are required by law and protect us from a deadly disease that we could spread to the humans in our lives.

Adult cats like me need to see their doctor at least once per year for checkups and vaccines, and sometimes need to have dental cleanings. For those, the humans put us under anesthesia, which is great because I would never lower myself to saying “Ahhh” just because I was told to.

Population Control

Every cat and kitten should be spayed or neutered. There is a tremendous overpopulation of cats in the world, and while we’re awesome, we need to make sure there’s enough human caretakers for all of us. Trust me, as a neutered cat myself, I’m glad I don’t have to worry about online dating! Ridding us of the pesky hormones also decreases the chance of reproductive cancers—especially for the lady cats like Teenie. Kittens can start *ahem* procreating as young as 4 months, so get them fixed sooner rather than later if they’re in mixed groups!

Prevention

The other thing your favorite feline friend needs is monthly flea and heartworm prevention. This is doubly true for those of us that live in the Sunshine State. There are so many of those nasty, itchy, fleas here that the human bug researchers travel here from all over the country to study them. Now, I’ve always gotten my prevention from my minions (I did choose to let a veterinarian provide for my needs) but it turns out you also need to get your cat prevention from their vet. Some of the grocery and feed stores sell cheap knock off products that claim to kill fleas, but they don’t work! Look alike imports often have a different active ingredient, and aren’t actually the same thing at all. Don’t waste your money on knock offs, get the real deal prescription flea and heartworm prevention from your vet, and use the extra cash you save to buy a new scratching post!

Anyway, I’m sure all of us around here will learn a little more about dogs, ruminants, and most importantly, cats now that Dr. Speziok is here. Be sure to let her know if you have any questions. And if your kitty hasn’t seen a doctor in a while, give my team a call to get on her schedule!

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. I know you’re subscribed to my blog (the big purple box below) and my YouTube Channel, which has about a hundred videos packed full of free horse knowledge. And since you are, you won’t miss any of the exciting things that are coming up! The humans are really getting into making videos, and you don’t want to miss out on a thing! Lots of excitement happening around here!

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

Subscribe to Tuesdays with Tony

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More Adventures of the Horse Doctor's Husband