Types of Colic

Types of Colic

Tuesdays with Tony

While a rose is a rose is a rose, a colic is not a colic is not a colic! The old saying implies that when all is said and done, a thing is what it is, but colic in horses isn’t really just one thing. Colic is a catch-all term for abdominal pain, but a number of issues might be going on in that dark mysterious place that is your horse’s belly. While the outward signs can look similar (rolling, pawing, lack of interest in food, etc.) it takes some detective work in my doc’s examination to determine the cause of your horse’s colic.

Depending on what the actual problem is, the treatment can be very different. It can be confusing to horse owners that the remedy that worked on their horse before isn’t the right choice for the colic they’re dealing with now. I’ve written several blogs filled with my cat wisdom on how to prevent colic, but today let’s talk about the different kinds of colic so you can have a better understanding of what my doc is describing if a colic happens.

There are a few broad categories of colic – non-strangulating obstructions, strangulating obstructions, inflammatory conditions, and “other stuff” that doesn’t really fit into those other categories. There are about 100 feet of intestine in your horse’s belly, so unfortunately there’s a lot that can go wrong. I won’t describe every possible abdominal problem your horse could think up, because frankly we’d be here all day and I have a clinic to supervise!

Non-Strangulating Obstructions

This is the largest category of colic my docs see. In these types of obstructions, something is blocking the passage of feed material through the GI tract. Because the blood supply to the gut isn’t cut off (aka strangled), the intestinal tissue isn’t badly damaged (at least not immediately). Non-strangulating colic can often be managed medically, meaning that with appropriate care such as pain medications, oral or intravenous fluids, and laxatives, many can get better without surgery.

The type of non-strangulating obstruction you’re probably most familiar with is a feed impaction. It’s basically constipation. Food gets lodged somewhere in the GI tract – frequently the large colon or a part of the small intestine called the ileum. We see impactions a lot when the horse isn’t drinking enough water and gets dehydrated, when he’s not chewing his feed well, or with certain types of feed (cough-cough coastal hay cough) Most of the time, if my docs can rehydrate your horse and soften the impaction, she can get him un-impacted and feeling better.

Also very common are large colon displacements. The not-so-brilliant design of the horse GI tract includes a 12-foot-long large colon that basically has a single attachment point to the upper body wall. Why is that a problem? Because it allows the colon to move around the abdomen. Sometimes the colon turns in such a way that it kinks off the passage of feed material and gas or gets trapped against other organs. We call this a right dorsal displacement or a left dorsal displacement (aka nephrosplenic entrapment), depending on what direction the colon has moved. Some of these can be treated medically, but sometimes the colon will fill up with food and gas and get really wedged. It can get bad enough that the gut becomes damaged, and the horse won’t survive without surgery.

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Other kinds of non-strangulating obstructions include sand impactions, which is ingested sand that accumulates in the large colon, and enteroliths, which are mineral stones that develop in the colon and grow large enough to cause a blockage. Enteroliths can require surgery to remove if they get large enough to cause a problem. Young horses that aren’t dewormed properly can even develop an obstruction made of ascarid parasites.

Strangulating Obstructions

Thankfully, strangulating obstructions aren’t as common as the non-strangulating types, but when they do happen, you have to move fast to save the horse’s life. These colics occur when part of the GI tract gets twisted or trapped in a way that cuts off the blood supply to the gut. Strangulating colics are much more serious and always require surgery to treat.

Signs of pain often come on quite suddenly and can be quite severe, with a very high heart rate and violent rolling. It’s usually difficult or impossible to control the horse’s pain with medications. The bowel begins to die quickly once the blood supply is cut off, so there’s no time to lose and your horse will need to be on his way into surgery quickly. Yet another reason to contact your vet immediately if your horse is showing signs of colic.

There are several types of strangulating colic. A “volvulus” of the large or small intestine occurs when the piece of bowel twists on its own axis and tightens down. Because of the long attachments and the ability of the bowel to move around the abdomen, volvulus can occur as an “accident” for no known reason. Large colon volvulus also tends to occur in broodmares shortly after foaling.

Another common strangulating lesion, especially in older horses in their later teens and 20’s, is a lipoma. A lipoma is a benign fatty tumor growing from the mesentery (the tissue that connects the intestine). The lipoma itself isn’t the problem, it’s the fact that the lipoma grows suspended from a thin rope of tissue like a stalk. Lipomas can exist in the abdomen for years without causing an issue, but if they get wrapped around the intestine, they will quickly cause the tissue to die. The treatment is surgical removal of the dead intestine and suturing the healthy ends of intestine together.

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Entrapment colic occurs when small intestine gets stuck in a place where it’s not supposed to be. Epiploic foramen entrapment is when the intestine wiggles itself into a narrow opening between organs in the front of the abdomen, called the epiploic foramen. The foramen is a normal part of the horse’s anatomy, but the intestine isn’t meant to get in there. Another way entrapments happen is through an abnormal tear in the mesentery (a mesenteric rent) or in the gastrosplenic ligament. In both cases, there is an abnormal opening where there isn’t supposed to be one, and the intestine finds its way in there and gets stuck.

An intussusception is a weird type of colic where a piece of intestine telescopes inside the adjacent intestine and gets stuck. It’s an infrequent cause of colic and tends to affect young horses. Eventually, like all strangulations, the blood supply is cut off and the bowel starts to die.

The prognosis for a strangulating colic depends on how long the colic has been going on, how much intestine is involved, and how quickly the horse is operated on. While strangulating colics are invariably very serious situations, if treatment is performed fast, many will make it through surgery and be discharged home.

Inflammatory

Inflammatory colics are usually caused by infection by bacteria, viruses, or mold. Sometimes it’s possible to find the specific microorganism causing the problem, like salmonella or clostridium, but frequently the exact cause can’t be identified. Inflammatory colics can involve the large colon (colitis), small intestine (enteritis), or the peritoneal space inside the abdomen that contains the organs (peritonitis). Unlike most of the other types of colic we’ve discussed, inflammatory colics may have a fever.

They can all range from relatively mild to extremely severe. The inflammation of the colon in a colitis case usually results in diarrhea. Enteritis causes inflammation of the small intestine and a painful fluid backup in the stomach and small intestine. Peritonitis cases might show obvious colic signs, or just depression and a lack of appetite. Depending on what kind of inflammatory colic you’re dealing with, the treatment might be intravenous fluids, antibiotics, decompression of the stomach by nasogastric tube, or lavage of the peritoneal space. Prognosis depends on the amount of inflammation and how sick the horse is.

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Other Stuff

There are a few other types of colic that don’t fit easily into one of the categories above. And it’s not that they’re uncommon! Gas colic, sometimes called spasmodic colic, is one of the most common causes of abdominal pain in horses. Gas buildup in the intestine can be caused by changes in diet or activity level, though many times a specific reason can’t be identified. While many gas colics will feel better once the gas moves through, it’s possible for an untreated gas colic to progress into a more serious colon displacement or twist.

Gastric ulcers, or sores in the lining of the horse’s stomach, don’t always show obvious outward signs – they may just have poor body condition, lack of appetite, or attitude changes. More serious cases can show colic signs like laying down and grinding their teeth. They can affect any horse at any age, but they’re most likely to occur in athletes like race or show horses.

As you can see, there are a whole bunch of different ways your horse can colic! It’s not possible to tell the type of colic just by looking at it, so make sure to get my docs involved right away. That’s why they go to school for years and years!

I’m going to give you a Pro Tip from a cat in the know: I see people who are trying to avoid spending $500 on a vet bill when their horse is showing signs of colic, so they try to wait it out. The first few hours that the horse is sick is when it’s the cheapest and easiest to treat him. After that, it gets more expensive, and the chances of a good outcome drop significantly, because most of these things we’ve talked about get worse if left alone, not better. So do your horse (and your wallet) a favor and call sooner rather than later.

Until next week,

~ Tony

P.S. Now that I’ve whetted your appetite with some serious horse knowledge, you should listen to an episode of Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth, which is my podcast. Well, I have people that do that stuff, just to be clear, but I still claim it. Dr. Lacher is willing to spend way more time talking about this than I am (hey, a cat’s got to sleep, and eat, and there’s only so many hours in the day). She has several very in-depth episodes on colic that will really clog your brain up with next-level facts. You can check it out over on the Podcast Page, or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, 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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Crate Training Dogs

Crate Training Dogs

Tuesdays with Tony

This one’s for the dogs. The unsophisticated, stinky, dogs. While no cat can be tamed, of course, dogs often need to be contained to prevent messes or not-so-smart choices. I know, it’s embarrassing, right? Dogs. But we should talk it out anyway, just so that we’re all on the same page with best practices.

What is Crate Training?

Crate training can be an effective way to housetrain your dog and teach them to be comfortable in their crate. Positive reinforcement is a great way to train dogs and puppies as it involves rewarding them for good behavior and basically ignoring the unwanted behaviors. There are a variety of different types of crates, so I’m sure you can find one that will work in your home. Here are some of the categories:

  1. Wire crates: Wire crates are one of the most popular types of crates. They are made of metal wire and usually have a removable plastic or metal pan at the bottom. They come in different sizes and often have a removable divider to make it easier to adjust the size of the crate as your puppy grows. They have good ventilation and are probably the simplest and most accessible to start with, and they are also easy to clean.
  2. Plastic crates: Plastic crates are another popular choice. They are made of hard plastic and usually have a removable plastic or metal pan at the bottom. They are lightweight, durable, and easy to clean. They are suitable for travel, as they are easy to fold and store. These aren’t the best idea if your dog is an aggressive chewer, as they can potentially chew and eat the plastic.
  3. Soft-sided crates: Soft-sided crates are made of fabric and mesh and are lightweight and portable. They often have a steel or aluminum frame for support. They are suitable for small dogs and for travel as they are easy to fold and store. They are not as durable as the wire or plastic crates. These should not be used for crate training but can be used once the dog is acclimatized to the concept.
  4. Wooden crates: Wooden crates are made of wood and are suitable for indoor use. They are not as durable as the wire or plastic crates and are not easy to clean. They are usually heavy and not suitable for travel. These are often the most aesthetically pleasing, and also the most expensive.
  5. Outdoor crates: Outdoor crates are made of heavy-duty materials such as metal wire or plastic, and they are designed to be used outside. If they are weather-resistant and have good ventilation, they can be useful for dogs that spend a lot of time outside. It is vital that they always have free access to water if they are outside and that they are not left outside in extreme conditions.

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Making the Right Choice

It’s important to consider the size and behavior of your dog when choosing a crate. You should select a crate that is just large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and lay down comfortably, initially. This specific sizing makes the initial crate training much easier. Once your dog is comfortable in the crate, you can try getting them a larger one, so they have more space, especially if you’re leaving them for the work day.

How Do You Do It?

So, how’s a human supposed to convince your new puppy or adult dog to go into a cage and stay there? Start by introducing your dog to the crate gradually. Place treats and toys inside the crate and let them explore it on their own. The goal is to make the crate a happy place to be. Once they are comfortable inside, you can start closing the door as you sit next to it. Ideally, they shouldn’t even notice the first few times because they’re so enthralled with whatever interesting thing you’ve put inside. This should happen the first day or two you bring your dog home.

This isn’t a new puppy blog, but I will say new puppies are going to cry at night pretty much no matter what (again, embarrassing). Some people choose to put them in their new crate next to their bed, others choose to put them in a pen, bathroom, or other safe space that is not the crate for their first few nights. Wherever you put them should be contained and fully puppy-proofed. That will be a future blog topic in itself, I’m sure. I hear Dr. Speziok talk about it to her clients every day, so it must be important. But enough on that for now. What was I saying? Ah, yes, crate training.

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Gradually increase the amount of time you leave your dog in the crate, and always, always reward them with a treat when they go in. Avoid making a big fuss when you put your dog in the crate or when you let them out. This can create anxiety for your dog and make the process more difficult.

This is an important point that you humans sometimes have a hard time grasping: Crates are not to be used for punishment. Really, punishment is never a good training tool. You can use the crate when your dog needs to be removed from a situation AFTER they’ve gotten used to the crate and associate positive things with it, but it should always be a positive, happy experience to go into the crate. Some of the big brain humans that study animal behavior feel that many dogs think of their crate as a sort of “den.” They consider it their home within the home, and some will be seen to bring toys, bones, or food inside.

Why Crate Train?

A properly sized, properly conditioned crate provides dogs with a safe, private place that is all their own. It allows you to focus on that new Top Gun movie or on sniping in Fortnite (if you don’t know what that means, it’s similar to playing Bingo). It creates independence for both the dog and you and gives them a place to settle. Probably most importantly, for your carpets, at least, it massively improves housetraining success.

While I, as a self-respecting litter box user, have never had to wear a leash, Dr. Speziok always recommends new puppies be kept on a leash or in their crate for the first few weeks they are with you so you can make sure they always make it outside to eliminate. Rewarding good behavior is significantly better than trying to “punish” bad behavior after the fact, mostly because it doesn’t work. Yelling or rubbing a dog’s nose in their mess only makes them fear you, and makes them more likely to hide from you to eliminate in the home. If you become a scary person, they will not be willing to be vulnerable around you, even outside on the leash. This is one of the biggest mistakes that new dog owners make.

What if I Adopt An Adult Dog That’s Already Housetrained?

Every animal in your home should be comfortable going into a crate, cage, or pen of some sort in case of emergency. Yes, this includes cats, though we only acquiesce to that indignity in dire situations. And it’s exactly those dire situations that I’m talking about when I say emergency. For those of us in the southeast US, we know that hurricanes are a major worry during certain parts of the year. At any point, you humans could decide you need to leave your home, city, or even state, and you need to be able to take your animals with you, or at the very least get them to a safe weather-proof shelter. This will, unfortunately, necessitate them going into a crate.

So, even if your dog doesn’t need to be crated while you’re away at work, or at night, you should still go through the exercise of crate training them. Family emergencies, vacations, vet visits, emergency room visits, a tornado removing your roof; the reasons your pet might need to go in a crate on short notice are endless.

Try to take crate training slow and be patient with yourself, other members of your household, and your dog. Be consistent and positive and eventually your dog will be comfortable in their crate. Every dog is different, and some are more difficult (read: obstinate [pronounced: cat-like]) to train than others. Don’t be afraid to find a dog trainer in your area to help you out. Dr. Speziok also recommends two channels on the YouTube: Zak George Dog Training and Kikopup. Just click the highlighted link to visit them.

Oh, also… don’t tell the dogs I told you about this.

Until next week,

~ Tony

P.S. Speaking of YouTube Channels, make sure you subscribe to mine! Just click on that highlighted bit. It’s filled with great videos that will teach you way more about horses (and goats, and other things) than I’m willing to spend the time writing about. If you aren’t watching them, you’re missing out!

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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OCD in Horses

OCD in Horses

Tuesdays with Tony

Today, I’m going to be talking about OCD in horses, but it does not involve horses that are obsessive about keeping things neat and tidy! That’s a problem that only you humans have. Osteochondritis dissecans, or osteochondrosis is a developmental disease in horses (and other species, including humans) that is often abbreviated as “OCD”. The lesions caused by this disease are important to know as a horse owner because they can cause varying degrees of joint effusion and lameness in the horse.

They can also play a significant role in the pre-purchase exam. Even in young horses, my veterinarians often suggest radiographs. You may be thinking, he’s too young for arthritis and has no known history of an injury, so I don’t need x-rays, doc! However, OCD can be present in horses as young as 5-6 months old. At this young age, they may not be showing obvious signs of having a lesion. Having the knowledge of these types of lesions on your pre-purchase exam can help guide you in future care and treatment of that particular horse.

Now for a little semantics. We commonly use the abbreviation “OCD”, or the term Osteochondritis dissecans, as an all-encompassing term for this type of developmental condition. However, there are two terms that describe different stages of the condition.  Osteochondritis dissecans is technically when there is a flap, chip or some degree of separation from the joint surface. These are often referred to as “bone chips.”  These flaps or chips can cause inflammation and pain in the joint, which contributes to lameness. This is typically occurring later in the disease process. On the other hand, the term osteochondrosis is used when there is incomplete hardening of the bone, but there is no separation. In the horse, the most common joints that are affected are the hock, fetlock and stifle.

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OCD is a complex disease because the cause of the lesions is multifactorial. There is evidence that genetics, nutrition, and exercise play a role in the development of OCD. Genetically, there are some breeds and lineages that are predisposed to OCD in certain joints. Currently, we don’t know of a specific gene involved. Nutritionally, the most influential component is the ratio of calcium to phosphorus that is being fed, especially to a growing weanling. Exercise tends to play a modifying role in the condition. That means that younger horses that were stall rested or exercised infrequently have a higher incidence of OCD compared to those that are in a consistent exercise schedule. That makes me really glad to be a cat.

Now that you know what OCD is and what causes it, you’re probably interested in knowing how my docs can determine if your horse has it. Luckily, taking a radiograph (what you humans call an x-ray) can help us find most types of lesions. They’re sometimes inclined to take the x-ray because your horse may be showing the clinical sign of effusion. In some cases, ultrasound can also be used to identify the lesion.

There are several different treatment options, but the most common is arthroscopic removal, especially if there is a flap or a chip. Medical management could include injections with steroid or hyaluronic acid medications, or systemic non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (bute, banamine, equioxx) to help reduce inflammation. In general, arthroscopic removal leads to the best prognosis and return to athletic ability and soundness, but these results can vary depending on the location and joint.

Well, there you have it. OCD is a great reason to get a pre-purchase exam done on your next horse. And if you want to know more than I’m willing to write (hey, a cat’s gotta take a nap!) you should check out the podcast my humans did on this topic. It’s very informative.

Until next week,
~Tony

P.S. Are you watching my YouTube videos? There’s a LOT of really good stuff on my YouTube Channel. If you’re not binge watching it, I don’t even know what to say. 

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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Proud Flesh Management

Proud Flesh Management

Tuesdays with Tony

Did you know that horses only sleep about 3 hours a day? I’m pretty sure they spend the other 21 hours thinking of ways to hurt themselves. Cats, being far superior to horses, sleep 21 hours a day and think about eating the other 3 hours, which is a much better use of time, in my [not humble] opinion. But I digress.

If you’re caring for a horse, you’ll certainly have to deal with a wound at some point. While many wounds can be straightforward to manage, injuries to the lower limbs are especially prone to complications. One way the healing process might go awry is by the development of “Proud Flesh” (more officially called exuberant granulation tissue) – a pink, bumpy tissue that bulges from the wound. Once proud flesh occurs, it’s difficult for the skin to grow together and cover the wound. What results is a chronic wound that just won’t finish healing. Very frustrating!

What Is It?

To understand what proud flesh is, let’s briefly talk about how normal wound healing works. There are four steps: In simple terms, they are:
• Clotting
• Inflammation
• Rebuilding of tissue (proliferation)
• Remodeling into mature tissue

As part of the proliferative phase, the wound fills in with granulation tissue to provide a base for the new skin to grow in on. You’ve probably seen granulation before – it’s pink and bumpy and looks a bit like cauliflower or cobblestone. It’s a normal part of wound repair and is eventually replaced by mature tissue when the wound is healed. Once the new skin cells migrate in from the edges and cover the wound, the signal for the body to make granulation tissue is switched off. When all goes right, these steps proceed in an organized way.

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Sometimes this process doesn’t work like it’s supposed to, leading to abnormal wound healing and the production of way more granulation tissue than needed. That’s when we call it “exuberant” or use the term proud flesh. For a variety of reasons, the proliferative phase of wound healing isn’t properly limited, and a bulging mass of granulation tissue grows out of the wound, preventing the skin edges from being able to come together.

Horses, being the problematic critters they are, are more prone to proud flesh than other species. Several factors promote excessive granulation tissue – contamination or infection of the wound, motion in the tissues, poor blood supply, a foreign body or necrotic tissue, and chemicals applied to the wound. These things can slow or halt the normal progression of wound healing and the body gets stuck in the “must produce granulation tissue!” stage.

Most of the time, proud flesh is a problem that occurs on the lower limbs. Being near the ground, the lower limbs are particularly prone to contamination with dirt or manure. The skin is naturally under more tension than higher up on the body and a lot of motion occurs over the joints as the horse moves. This causes cracks in the healing tissue, so inflammation persists, and more granulation tissue forms. When proud flesh occurs in other areas of the body, there is usually a specific reason, such as a foreign body in the wound.

How To Prevent It?

Because persistent inflammation and infection are contributors to proud flesh formation, it’s important to make sure the wound is clean, healthy, and properly managed from the beginning.  Have my doc examine the wound when it first occurs, don’t wait until it looks nasty. She’ll clean the wound appropriately and remove any foreign material, bone fragments, or dead tissue. Depending on the wound, she may recommend trimming damaged tissue or closing it with sutures.

Once the wound is prepared, my doc will recommend the appropriate ointment and bandaging technique for your horse’s specific injury. There are a lot of wound products sold over the counter that actually backfire on well-meaning owners and slow down wound healing, so be careful what you reach for! (Pro Tip – if it’s bright purple or fluorescent yellow, don’t put it on your horse’s wound. And no powders, ever!)

Good products to keep in your first aid kit are triple antibiotic ointment, Silver Sulfadiazine cream and medical grade honey. These dressings are antibacterial but also gentle and keep the wound moist, which is important for healing. Harsh chemicals or repeatedly washing and scrubbing a wound can damage the delicate new skin cells trying to grow and cause proud flesh to form. Don’t kill them with kindness!

Bandaging of a wound is decided on a case-by-case basis. The benefits of bandaging include reducing contamination and limiting movement of the healing tissue. However, some studies have shown that heavy bandaging can encourage proud flesh by limiting oxygen to the wound. The type of bandage can have an effect, so my doc may recommend one kind for the first few days and then switch to a different one as the wound progresses. Depending on the location, she may recommend resting your horse in a stall or small paddock to limit his movement and the stress on the wound edges.

How Do We Treat It?

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, proud flesh happens. Horses do love to make it! My doc will examine the wound for causes of lingering infection or inflammation. She may need to take x-rays or do an ultrasound to look for bone fragments or a foreign body. Antibiotics may be needed to control infection. Because there can be other growths that look similar to proud flesh, such as summer sores, sarcoids, or certain cancers, my doc may recommend a biopsy to be sure it’s definitely just proud flesh.

If the proud flesh is minor, appropriate wound care and topical creams may be sufficient to resolve it. A wound cream with a steroid can help to reduce the inflammatory response and turn off the signal to produce granulation tissue. Steroids aren’t a panacea though and should only be used once my doc has checked out the wound, because if there is infection present, steroids can make it worse.

The most effective treatment for significant proud flesh is to trim excessive tissue surgically. Because the proud flesh is taller than the surrounding skin edges, it forms a mountain that the new skin cells can’t climb over. The goal of surgical debridement is pretty simple – the proud flesh is cut back to just below the level of the surrounding skin edges. If the wound has been present for a while, the skin margins may be unhealthy and require a little trimming as well to create a fresh edge that is ready to heal. Proud flesh bleeds a lot, since it’s full of tiny blood vessels, but since it doesn’t have nerve endings, trimming it isn’t painful for the horse. Usually, the procedure can be done on a standing horse with just a little sedation. General anesthesia is rarely required, and my docs often don’t even need to numb the area unless they need to trim unhealthy skin.

Afterwards, the new skin can continue growing inward from the edges. This process may need to be repeated a few times, depending on the size of the wound. If the wound is so large that the skin can’t easily grow over it, your horse might be a candidate for skin grafts. Small pieces of healthy skin are taken from another area (often the top of his neck under the mane) and plugged into the granulation tissue of the wound. The little islands of skin grow where they are inserted and speed up the rate of healing.

So when your horses gets a wound, work with my doc to treat it correctly from the beginning. Early intervention and good management are always the keys to quick and successful wound treatment. Now that’s something you can be proud of!

Until next week,

~ Tony

P.S. If you aren’t subscribed to my blog yet, be a good human and scroll down to the purple box. It’s right below this, you can do it. Good human. You don’t want to rely on social media to get my blog to you, as it’s nearly as unreliable as dogs are. Just put your email address in the purple box, and I’ll send my blog right to you every week. I know, I make it so easy for you! 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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Coronary Band Dystrophy

Coronary Band Dystrophy

Tuesdays with Tony

Today we’re going to talk about what’s going on when your horse’s coronary bands look weird. I’m going for a specific weird today, not just any old weird. Read on to learn more about Coronary Band Dystrophy, and autoimmune disorders in general.

What Does Coronary Band Dystrophy Look Like?

This is an issue my Docs can spot from a mile away. The hair at the coronary band sticks straight out so it’s parallel to the ground. The hoof wall is rough, with multiple horizontal ridges, and it has a dry, cracked appearance. Check out the arrows on my graphic to better see what I’m talking about. Horizontal ridges appear during laminitic episodes as well, but they are larger, and more distinct than those seen with coronary band dystrophy. The hoof wall itself also doesn’t get quite as roughened, dry, and crackly with laminitis. 

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The sole of the foot is often affected as well. The frog is particularly prone to thrush, and shedding excessively. All of this can contribute to cracks so deep the horse bleeds, kind of like you humans in the winter with your hands. I don’t like scritches from those rough hands!  If your horse has coronary band dystrophy you may also want to check out the chestnuts. Some horses get similar cracking and splitting there as well. 

Coronary band dystrophy is often going on for a while before it’s spotted. You humans, understandably, chalk it up to wet hair, dirt on the hoof, wet conditions, thrush, you name it. It’s very easy to overlook, especially in the early stages. 

If you’ve got a great relationship with your veterinarian, and see them twice yearly for routine care, this may be noticed early. In that case, a biopsy of the coronary band can be used to identify the problem. This is a simple procedure where a small amount of tissue is removed and sent to a lab. There, it’s examined under a microscope to look for particular cells. These cells indicate the immune system is attacking the skin. If the symptoms are mild enough to require a biopsy to identify the problem, treatment will be easy and rewarding. Pat yourself on the back for being a good owner! 

Okay, But What Is It?

Coronary Band Dystrophy is a type of a syndrome called Pemphigus. Pemphigus is a group of autoimmune disorders where the body decides skin is bad. This seems like a horrible idea, but sometimes there’s no convincing the immune system it’s wrong. Autoimmune disorders are weird like that. They occur when the immune system suddenly begins to see what is normally considered “self” as “not self.” They can happen in many different ways, and can be extremely difficult to treat. No one knows why the immune system suddenly turns on the body, and no one knows how to get it to go back to normal.

What To Do

Luckily for horses, coronary band dystrophy can usually be managed readily. Much like normal feet, they should be kept clean and dry. This is really hard in Florida during the summer, but honestly, it’s hard for everyone, everywhere. From there, regular application of a steroid cream to the coronary band helps get the immune system to calm down. This also works on the chestnuts if they’re affected. 

Steroids are a blessing and a curse. They shut the immune system down when it’s being hyperactive, but they also keep the immune system from doing its very important job of keeping the body safe from invaders. The advantage with coronary band dystrophy is the steroids can be applied topically right where they are needed. This shuts the immune system down there, but not body wide. In that regard, this isn’t such a bad syndrome in the realm of bad things that can happen. 

Coronary band dystrophy is a lesson in noticing the small things and talking with my Docs about those concerns. As official caretaker and treat supplier, you humans do know your horses. If you see something that concerns you, bring it up with my Docs. This is best done by sending an email into the clinic at vets@springhillequine.com with your concerns and a picture of the issue. You humans are good at doubting yourselves sometimes. As a cat, I find this a difficult concept, but let this week’s blog be a life lesson as well as a horse lesson. You’re welcome.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. If you’re new to this whole horse ownership thing, there’s a lot you need to learn from this cat. You can read my Blogs, watch videos on my YouTube Channel, listen to my Podcast, and read my books. Naturally, I’ve delegated the production of some of these things to my minions, but I make sure they do a good job providing you with all the horse knowledge they can. Why would I do all this for free, you ask? Because Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic’s mission is to make the world a better place for horses (and dogs and cats and goats and sheep). This is what I do. Well, this, and take naps. Lots of naps. That’s a requirement if you’re a cat.

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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Prep for the Vet

Prep for the Vet

Tuesdays with Tony

All my docs want for the holidays and the New Year is for you to be prepped and ready for when they arrive! Well, that, and cat treats. I know it sounds weird, but that’s what they said. If you’ll send them to me, I’ll make sure the docs get them. It’s okay, I’m a cat. You can trust me.

 There are several small things that can be done to prepare for a veterinarian’s arrival that will not only save time, but can help facilitate safety during the many different procedures that they do at your farm. 

Confined Spaces

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Probably the top recommendation the docs tell me that they’d like for this holiday is to have the horses either caught or brought in from turnout by the time they arrive. Veterinarians have a very distinct smell; I know because I have a very delicate cat nose and I smell them every day. Horses have almost as good a sense of smell as me, and once they smell the veterinarian, they often become difficult to catch. So, having the horses caught before they arrive can save both you and your vet a lot of valuable time. The less time they spend catching your horse, the more time they can spend on the exam and discussions needed for that visit. It also helps them not be late to the rest of their appointments that day, which is basically a public service to all involved.

While you have your horse caught, it’s also valuable to brush any big pieces of mud and dirt off their legs and back. Don’t worry, it’s not because our vets don’t like to get dirty! It’s just easier to palpate legs, tendons, and evaluate the skin if the horse is relatively clean.

Wait, Where Are You?

Luckily, the veterinarians all have high tech phones with little maps that tell them where they need to go. It’s very handy. That being said, let the vets know how to get to you and give them a heads up if you’re a lucky one and your address is off the grid! Having instructions ready and standing at a corner street or end of your drive to wave the vets down is extremely helpful and a timesaver. Additionally, keep in mind if your farm numbers are visible in the dark and consider getting reflective numbers or a small solar light to illuminate those numbers once the sun sets. If my doc is trying to find your farm in the middle of the night for a colic, you don’t want them cruising up and down the road lost, I promise.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

One at a Time, Please

The vets would love to visit with all of your animals, but corralling any dogs, goats, chickens, etc before the vet arrives can really facilitate efficiency and safety during the exam and treatment of your horse. You know those pesky dogs like to stick their noses everywhere, whether the doc tells them it’s a sterile field or not!

This is just an assumption on my part, but it seems like having a cat around would be helpful, unlike dogs and goats. A cat can lend advice, reduce anxiety, and really bring a group together. I’m sure my docs would agree.

How Can I Help?

            So, you called the vet and are waiting for them to arrive. Some supplies to have available are water and an electrical outlet (or have an extension cord ready if the closest outlet is in the house). Water and electricity can aid in several different procedures, especially in an emergency situation. Water will be needed in the event of a colic and can help facilitate passing a nasogastric tube. The vets also use water with their dental equipment to rinse the horse’s mouth so they have a clear view of their dentition. Previously, electricity was needed for things like clippers, the ultrasound machine and the x-ray machine. Lucky for us, all of these are becoming cordless and are things we can charge at the clinic before coming to your farm! However, if it’s the end of a busy day, batteries might be low, so having that extension cord handy can be a big help.

            I’m going to keep this short, as I’m sure most of you are still recovering from excessive festivities. My docs will thank you for being prepared when they visit. Thank you, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Some people learn from reading, some from listening, some from watching videos, and some from an in-person presentation. Guess what? My docs have got you covered, no matter what your style is! Of course, you’re already subscribed to my blog, but I also have Books you can read, a Podcast you can listen to, Videos you can watch, and monthly seminars you can attend! I know, I’m very generous, for a cat. This is what I do. Well, this is what my docs do. I mostly just supervise.

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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Sleeping Sickness in Horses

Sleeping Sickness in Horses

Tuesdays with Tony

Sleeping is just normal cat behavior. We’re simply resting up from the difficulties of constantly managing our humans. But wait, we’re talking about horses… that’s a whole different deal! Sleeping sickness in horses is really, really bad. It’s also 99.99% preventable. Let’s chat about mosquitos, viruses, and vaccines.

Sleeping Sickness

Let’s start with what I’m even talking about. There are lots and lots of encephalitic viruses around the world. To name a few: Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), West Nile Virus, Japanese Encephalitis, Kunjin, and St. Louis Encephalitis. The list goes on and on and on. These viruses spend most of their time cycling through mosquitoes and birds. Infected birds get really high levels of virus, they get bit by a mosquito, that mosquito takes it to another bird, and around we go again. 

For many birds, this is no big deal. They aren’t terribly affected by the virus. The problem occurs when those mosquitos branch out to other animals. Most notably, humans and horses. That’s right, you humans can get encephalitis too! When the virus infects humans or horses, it causes a HUGE immune response in the brain. This immune response causes all kinds of problems. Often the horse (or human) becomes what my Docs call obtunded. It’s a great word. I try to say it all the time. 

Obtunded is a fancy word for sort of sleepy, and not really responsive to the world around you. And that’s why it’s called Sleeping Sickness. Often, the first sign you humans report is that your horse is quieter than normal. ProTip: If your horse is ever quieter than normal, take their temperature. Normal is between 99.0-101F. 

Here’s an interesting fact: humans and horses can’t even spread the virus. They don’t get high enough levels of virus in the blood. There’s no point in even infecting them, but these nasty viruses do it anyway. That’s ruder than when the humans are late with my breakfast. 

Treating Encephalitis

Here’s a typical scenario for an encephalitis horse. You humans call and report your horse was acting a little quieter than normal yesterday, but not bad. Now your horse seems really, really quiet, but also isn’t sure where their feet are. They seem to almost be acting drunk. This report sends my Docs into high gear. They hate to hear this combination because it almost always means either EEE or West Nile here in Florida. If it’s Fall, West Nile is the more likely culprit, and if it’s not Fall then EEE is more likely. It’s also time for a real talk about future care for your horse. 

If the horse is standing and looks like it will be able to continue standing, my Docs talk about trailering to a referral hospital. Many, if not all, of these horses will go down at some point. Most humans I talk to are quite sure horses can’t tolerate laying down for long periods of time. Not quite true. Horses can handle laying down, but those big bodies laying on pointy parts like hips and shoulders leads to bed sores like you wouldn’t believe. Referral hospitals often have slings, which allow the horse to be held up for some portion of the day. This helps all kinds of things, and prevents the worst of the issues. 

Neurologic horses also require a LOT of nursing care. From fluids, to constantly fixing the bad positions they get themselves in, to offering food, and managing medications, these horses are a 24/7 job. If a referral hospital is an option, then the sooner they get there, the better. Because… the next step in encephalitis is ‘down and unable to stand,’ followed by seizures. This is the sad reality of EEE in particular, but often West Nile as well. These horses progress from being slightly dumpy, to acting a little drunk, to unable to stand, and then seizures. 

The seizures are when things go from bad to way worse. Generally, once seizures start there is a very small chance even all the medical care in the world will be able to save that horse. This is often true for humans with encephalitis as well. The other very big problem is a 1200 pound creature having seizures. They don’t know what they’re doing, but they have just become incredibly dangerous to be around. This makes it nearly impossible to get treatment for them, or even euthanize them. My Docs try very hard to monitor these cases closely, and make the hard call before they get to the full blown seizure stage. Seizures can also be much, much better managed at referral hospitals. Yet another reason to have a plan for what you want to do with your horse in all kinds of emergency situations. They can do way more than just colic.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Prevention

Here’s the kicker. There’s a cheap, incredibly effective way to make sure you and your horse never have to go through any of this. It’s a vaccination. The basic vaccine contains Eastern and Western Encephalitis, West Nile, and Tetanus, which we call EWT. All of these are big, bad things that cause horrible deaths. And all are easily prevented with a vaccine. 

If you’ve been paying attention to my profound wisdom, then you know in Florida, mosquitos can happen any day of the year. This means your horse should be protected year round for these viruses. That’s at least every 6 month vaccinations, because horses are not great at responding to vaccines.They lose protection quickly. There are many, many reports of horses at 7-8 months from their last vaccine contracting these viruses. It’s why my Docs say every 6 months on the nose. 

If your horse is less than 3 years old or travels a lot, you should really look at every 4 months. The immune system isn’t all grown up before 3 years, so it takes a bit of extra vaccinating to keep it current, and lots of travel stresses the immune system and makes it respond poorly. 

Basic vaccines are one of the key things you can do to keep your horse healthy. It also keeps my Docs happier. They absolutely hate to see encephalitis horses. They are heartbreaking, and easily avoidable!

Routine care keeps your horse happy and healthy, and saves you money. Let’s be honest. Horses aren’t great at saving you money. You need to be proactive on this front. Need help remembering that every 6 months part? Check out the really great Wellness Programs my humans have developed. They save you money, take worry away, and make a great Christmas present for every horse.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. If you want to get some expert-level knowledge on viruses and vaccines, you should check out the podcast my humans produce. It’s called Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth, and they’re willing to talk about this stuff at much greater length than I am. You can find over 100 episodes on the Podcast Page of my website here, or search for it on Apple Podcasts, Audible, 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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Coughing Critters

Coughing Critters

Tuesdays with Tony

Coughing. Dogs do it, horses do it, goats do it, people do it. Cats only very, very rarely cough because we are far more sophisticated than that. But what does it mean? Is it concerning, or is it normal? Well, neither my docs nor I can answer about the people part, but I can divulge some of my vast cat knowledge about the rest of the species.

Coughing Questions

So, you’ve got an animal that’s coughing. Should you have them seen by their veterinarian? First off, if you’re asking that question, then you at least need to call the vet and ask. My docs would always rather see something that could have waited than not see something that couldn’t have waited. Let’s talk about some of the extra information they’ll need to come see a coughing patient.

  • Has the animal traveled anywhere, is it new, or have new animals come into the home?
  • Is there sneezing or nasal discharge as well?
  • Is the animal feeling okay and acting like themselves, or do they feel sick?
  • Have you taken a temperature? If so, what is it? (this mostly applies to large animals)
  • They may ask you to describe the cough, or even video it if that’s possible
  • Does the cough happen after exercise, in the morning, after eating, or just all the time?
  • Is it just the one animal, or is there a group that’s coughing?

The point this friendly feline is trying to make is that there is a whole variety of causes of cough, and they’re going to be different depending on the species and age of the patient. The answers to those questions I’ve listed are going to help my docs determine if your animal needs to be seen today or this week, and if they need to wear extra gear (called PPE, or personal protective equipment).

I’ll go down a rabbit hole for just a second here and talk about something called a reverse sneeze. I know, I know, we’re on coughing, not sneezing. But, when dogs and cats do this thing called a reverse sneeze, it can’t look pretty scary and like they’re coughing and choking. Really, a reverse sneeze is a harmless reaction to airway irritation and is relatively common, especially in dogs. Go on that YouTube place you people like to watch cat videos on and type in “reverse sneeze” for an example of what I’m talking about. If your animal is doing that, it’s probably nothing to worry about, though videoing any behavior that concerns you for your veterinarian is always a good idea.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Horses

Okay, let’s go back to some of the causes of cough. We’ll start with the tried-and-true patients of Springhill EQUINE: horses. Coughing horses absolutely need a physical exam by a veterinarian. When you call to tell us you have a coughing horse, we’re going to ask you one question right off the bat, so prepare yourself now. Can you guess what it is?

What is the horse’s temperature?

I’m going to be very disappointed if you tell my docs you haven’t taken one yet, and even more so if you say you don’t have a thermometer. Go study my writings on basic preparedness for horses and on horse vital signs for more info. Or watch this amazing video on my YouTube channel. A coughing horse with a fever is a big concern, because we worry about scary things like pneumonia or other severe disease. A coughing horse with a normal temperature still likely needs to be seen, but it might be seen later in the week when you don’t have to pay an emergency fee and my docs don’t have to drop what they’re doing and run to your farm. One of the less scary, common causes of coughing in horses is inflammatory airway disease, or heaves. Check out my writings on that as well. Or listen to our podcast on the topic. Whatever scratches your chin.

Ruminants

Now for ruminants, large and small (that’s cows, sheep, and goats for the uninitiated). The very occasional cough here and there can be “normal.” When I say occasional, I mean something like one time per week or per few weeks, not multiple times per day. If you call about a coughing ruminant, we’re going to ask about nasal discharge, travel history, and other animals in the group. If you’re able to get a temperature before my docs come out, that’s fantastic, but if you aren’t, that’s okay. What isn’t okay is not having a way to corral and restrain your ruminants when my doc comes to see them. It’s no fun having to chase a wily goat around a 5-acre field just to take a temperature.

Dogs and Cats

For dogs and cats, my docs likely won’t ask you to take a temperature at home. We small animals (that’s small in stature, but large in personality, thank you very much) require a much gentler touch than our hooved counterparts, so leave the vetting up to the professionals. What they will ask is all about vaccination and travel history, and about what preventive medications you’ve got your animals on. Prevention for what, you ask? Heartworm, of course. If you aren’t up to speed on that, check out my blog here for all the deets.

Heartworm is one of the major causes of coughing in dogs and can be a cause of coughing in cats as well. If your dog hasn’t been tested for heartworm disease or isn’t on prevention, Dr. Speziok is absolutely going to want to run a heartworm test. The other thing we’ll likely want to do is take chest radiographs. This involves your pet laying on an x-ray plate on both their side and their back to get multiple images of their chest. The doctors are looking at heart and lungs for changes that would indicate disease.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Coughing can also be caused by heart disease such as congestive heart failure, and things growing in the lungs such as fungus or tumors. In cats, coughing is often a sign of feline asthma, which requires multiple medications, usually including inhalers, to manage. I shudder at the thought.

Coughing in dogs and cats can also be caused by infectious agents. I’m sure you’ve heard of “Kennel Cough.” This is a bit of a misnomer because it can happen from any nose-to-nose contact with other dogs or cats, not just from a boarding kennel. Still, dogs that are going to boarding kennels, groomers, trainers, or dog parks regularly should be vaccinated for Bordetella, which is the bacterial vaccine known as the “kennel cough vaccine”. This vaccine, like many vaccines, does not necessarily completely prevent the disease, but it will lessen the severity if your pet does get it.

There is another, more worrisome respiratory disease that dogs should also be vaccinated for when possible, called Canine Influenza. This vaccine isn’t always available, but if your dog is around other dogs at all, they should be vaccinated for flu. The good news with this is that the canine flu virus mutates less often than the human flu virus, so their vaccine works way better than yours.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, coughing is not a simple thing. There are a ton of causes, way more than I’ve gone over here. Coughing is almost never normal, so should always prompt a call to your animals’ veterinarian. They can help direct you to the best next course of action to get your animal feeling back to their normal self.  

Until next week,

~ Tony

P.S. I’m on a mission to hit 800 subscribers by the end of the year. If you haven’t already, scroll down a bit further to the big purple box and sign up. I promise I won’t send you anything other than a link to my blog every Monday (that’s right, a day before the rest of the world gets it!). 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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How to Help Your Vet Manage a Colic – Part 2

How to Help Your Vet Manage a Colic – Part 2

Tuesdays with Tony

If you missed the first half of my blog on how to help your vet manage a colic, click here to read it first! Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Wake me up when you get back and we’ll go on to Part 2.

While Your Vet is Examining Your Horse

My doc may start by asking you some questions about what’s been going on, or, if your horse is really painful, she may need to start working on him immediately. A typical colic exam includes these things: a physical exam, passing a nasogastric tube through your horse’s nose and down into his stomach, an ultrasound of his abdomen, palpation per rectum to feel his internal organs, and bloodwork.

These are all pieces of the puzzle to determine what is causing the colic and how best to treat it. Some types of colic can be treated on the farm with pain control medications and laxatives. Some need to be brought into a hospital for IV fluids and more involved medical treatment, and some kinds of colic can’t be resolved without surgery. Listen carefully to what my doc tells you is going on and her instructions.

After the Vet Visit

  • You’ll want to continue monitoring your horse frequently. Exactly how frequently will depend on what my doc finds – at least every few hours in a very mild case. Colic signs can worsen quickly, so you won’t want to miss anything. Yes, you may have to miss work or lose some sleep during the night. Trust me; as a cat, I know what I’m asking for on losing sleep. That’s how important this is.
  • Check for manure production. You’ll want to keep your horse somewhere you can see when he passes a new pile of manure. Pick out a stall or a small paddock so you can tell new piles from old. Don’t turn him out in the back 40 where you’ll have no idea if he’s pooping enough.
  • Follow my doc’s re-feeding instructions. This will probably mean a gradual reintroduction to feed to ensure the colic doesn’t start again. Yes, your horse will look at you like he is staaarving and you are cruel, but remember, it’s just tough love and it’s what is best for him.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

The DON’Ts (and the NEVER EVERs in a million years)

  • Don’t give your horse banamine without talking to my doc first. Banamine is a pain medication that will mask some signs of colic. This can make it hard for my doc to get an accurate assessment of the severity of the colic. Banamine can also have a toxic effect on the kidneys if your horse is dehydrated, so it is best to let her make the decision if it is appropriate to give. Also, don’t give extra banamine after the first dose if your horse is still painful. If your horse still isn’t comfortable, it’s a sign of a more serious colic, and more banamine won’t do anything to help that.
  • Never give banamine in the muscle! It can cause a horrible infection if injected into the muscle. While it doesn’t happen every time, it is definitely not worth the risk! Trust me, I have seen the disgusting result. If my doc instructs you to give banamine, you can give it by mouth, even if what you have is the injectable liquid.
  • Don’t walk your horse to exhaustion. While a little walking is good for gut motility (5-10 minutes every hour or so), there is no need to walk for hours, and it can end up dehydrating your horse further
  • This is a big one – NEVER attempt to put a hose anywhere, either down his throat or by rectum. This is a sure-fire way to injure your horse. Don’t give your horse an enema – the horse’s rectal tissue is delicate and at risk for a rectal tear, which can be fatal. An enema will almost never even reach the location of the colic in an adult horse anyway. Don’t try to syringe water or oil into your horse’s mouth either. You could end up aspirating some into the horse’s lungs, which could lead to a fatal pneumonia. Sadly, I have seen these awful conditions caused by well-meaning, but misguided owners. JUST DON’T DO IT.
  • If you have to trailer your horse to the hospital, don’t ride in the horse compartment with him. A rolling colic can be dangerous in confined quarters, and there isn’t anything you can do to help him while enroute.
  • If your horse goes down in the trailer on the way to the hospital, don’t stop. I know it’s scary but keep driving to the hospital – that’s where my docs can help him. While we’re on the trailer topic: don’t tie them in the trailer! If they do go down, being tied can put them in a really bad way, and can make it much harder to get them out at the hospital.
  • Don’t discount colic surgery if my doc says your horse needs it. Many horses go on to have long, healthy lives after colic surgery, so don’t think there is no hope. There are often no restrictions on future athletics. Horses that have had colic surgery have gone on to compete in the Olympics, or in 100-mile-long endurance rides like the Tevis Cup.

If you are not sure what to do, just phone one of my docs. They are always there to help you. Working together and intervening early are the best ways to give your horse the best possible outcome.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Have you seen the latest video over on my YouTube Channel? If you aren’t subscribed to that (as well as this blog, of course) you might be missing out on some great stuff! While my cat blog is far superior to everything else, of course, the humans work pretty hard on giving you lots of amazing doctory info in both their videos and their Podcast. Just click on the blue words to check out each of these amazing free resources. And you’re welcome, as always. Now, back to my nap.

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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How to Help Your Vet Manage a Colic – Part 1

How to Help Your Vet Manage a Colic – Part 1

Tuesdays with Tony

I see a lot of stuff as the Springhill Equine Clinic Cat, and it seems to me there are few things that strike more fear into the heart of a horse owner than colic. Colic is a catch-all term for abdominal pain and can be caused by a variety of different things in your horse’s belly, ranging from a mild gas colic to a serious lesion that requires surgery.  I’m not sure why horses don’t just puke on the carpet (or a keyboard, I love puking on keyboards, very satisfying) like I do whenever they start to feel colicy, but my docs say that’s not how it works. Colic will never be a fun time, but here are some ways to help your horse (and my docs!) so things go as smoothly as possible.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Be Prepared

  • Know how to recognize the signs of colic – Rolling, pawing, looking at the flank, and laying down are the most common signs, but horses can also show more subtle signs such as not wanting to eat, kicking at the stomach, restlessness, stretching out as if to urinate, increased respiratory rate, and reduced manure production. If you notice any of these things, give my doc a heads up so she can advise you what to do next.
  • Call my doc! Even if you aren’t sure she needs to come out yet, it’s best to discuss what’s going on. If you wait too long, it could turn a mild problem into a severe one. Generally, colic is much more easily (and economically) treated if you can catch it early. A severe colic may have no chance of survival if you don’t pursue treatment immediately.
  • Get yourself an inexpensive stethoscope and learn how to listen to your horse’s heart and gut sounds. You can find one for as little as $20 and my doc can show you how to use it! Practice ahead of time, don’t wait for an emergency to happen. When you call my doc, it’s very helpful to tell her what the heart rate is – it helps to determine how serious the colic is. A horse’s normal heart rate is around 26-46 beats per minute (much slower than yours, and waaay slower than my thrillingly fast kitty heartrate of 170 beats per minute) You can hear it best on the left side, just behind his elbow, about where the girth rests. A high heart rate is often a sign of a more serious colic. His gut sounds can be heard on both sides of his belly, high and low, in front of his hips. A normal horse has active rumbles all over his belly, and you shouldn’t have to listen for much longer than 15 seconds to hear some. Again, practice ahead of time to get used to his normal sounds. Keep a thermometer around, too. Practicing ahead of time will also help you keep track of what your horse’s normal temperature is, so you’ll be more likely to notice a problem. Normal temperature is usually between 98.5 – 100.5 degrees F.
  • Have a transport plan. If your horse needs to get to the hospital for surgery or medical treatment, who is going to trailer him there? If you have a trailer, can it be hooked up quickly and ready to go? Are the tires and lights good? You don’t want to have to worry about these things when the colic is happening, trust me.
  • Consider a major medical insurance policy for your horse. Colic surgery can be very expensive, around the mid to high 4 figures in north central Florida. Insurance can be surprisingly affordable, especially compared to the cost of treating a colic. It’s a very sad thing to have to euthanize a horse that could have been treated. When your horse is sick, the financial part is the last thing you’ll want to have to worry about. There are also colic programs from Platinum Performance and SmartPak that will cover a significant chunk of the surgery cost if your horse is enrolled.
  • Be familiar with the idea of colic surgery. While hopefully you never have to use this option, you should make sure you don’t have any misconceptions about surgery. Decades and decades ago, colic surgery was less common than it is now. Some people still have the idea that colic surgery doesn’t have a great success rate. But the truth is, the survival rate for colic surgery is about 90%. Most horses can go back to athletic careers a few months after. Another misconception is that older horses can’t handle surgery well. Studies have shown that postoperative survival rates for older horses are about the same as younger horses.

 While You’re Waiting for the Vet

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

  • Give my doc good driving instructions or an accurate GPS address to find your barn. The importance of well-marked street numbers visible from the road can’t be overstated! Keep your phone close in case she needs to contact you. If the house might be hard to find, especially at night, get someone to stand by the driveway or meet at a landmark to help direct her to where your horse is.
  • Have a well-lit area available for my doc to examine your horse. It should be a safe place to work and free of obstructions. Have a clean water source available in case she needs to pass a nasogastric tube into your horse’s stomach. It helps to have a power source available to plug in equipment. Also, this feline thinks you ought to put the dogs away so there are less slobbery distractions.
  • Take away your horse’s food until after my doc has examined him. This includes grass, too. It’s okay to leave him water, though a colicky horse usually won’t be interested in drinking.
  • Keep an eye out for manure. The amount of manure your horse has passed, and whether it’s a normal consistency, is useful info for my doc. If possible, collect some of the manure for her to inspect, as it might offer a clue about the cause of the colic. But, a common misconception is that if a horse is passing manure, the colic has to be getting better. That’s not always the case, since there are about 100 feet of gut inside your horse. The manure could be further back than the site of the problem or obstruction.
  • You don’t have to continuously walk your horse, especially not for hours and hours! That can do more harm than good. A little walking (5 or 10 minutes at a time) can help to improve the activity of the intestines. But it’s okay to let him rest calmly. Laying down isn’t going to cause a twisted gut – that’s an old wives’ tale. If your horse is rolling violently and you can’t keep him up, your own safety is the priority, so it may be best to put him in a safe place and stay back until the vet arrives.
  • Think about possible causes. Do you have a new batch of hay? Has your pasture changed recently? Anything else different in your horse’s lifestyle?

In Part 2, we’ll go over what will happen while my doc is examining your horse, and what to do after the vet visit, so keep an eye out for that one!

Until next week,

~Tony

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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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