Preparing for Horse Ownership

Preparing for Horse Ownership

Tuesdays with Tony

So, you think you want to own a horse. You’ve read all my blogs, listened to Dr. Lacher’s podcast, Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth, and you’ve been attending all of my monthly seminars. You feel like you have all the information you need to make an informed decision, and you have decided to buy a horse. Let me tell you, you still do not have all the information you need. There is always something else you must consider before buying a horse and even once you own a horse.  You may currently have a horse of your own, but there are still things that you horse owners need to think of. I have learned so many dos and don’ts of horse ownership throughout my years here as the Clinic Cat that I felt I should talk about how you can be best prepared for horse ownership.

We will be hosting an a Facebook Live seminar on Thursday August 26th at 6:30 PM. Be sure to check out our facebook page and click “going” on the event so you are notified when we go Live! Get your questions ready for the docs.

Money

Probably the biggest thing I have learned about horses is that they cost A LOT of money. Like a ton, like more catnip than I could ever imagine wanting amount of money. Most times it’s not even the purchase price of the horse that is the most expensive part of horse ownership. Instead, it is the ongoing feed, hay, bedding, and care that horses seem to require every day. Not to mention tack, training, the farrier and veterinary bills, and that kind of stuff. Did you know horses need vaccinations twice a year? I’m lucky I’m a cat and have a super immune system and only need vaccines every 3 years.

So, besides routine care, you have to think about the what ifs. Because if I have learned one thing in all my kitty years, it is that horses like to get hurt, or sick, or basically try to kill themselves all the time. To be more direct about it, if you own a horse, your horse will also likely get hurt, or sick, or try to kill itself at some point while you own it. Be prepared for this, be prepared for the unexpected.

Have a savings account dedicated to horse care, have a credit card designated for horse expenses, apply for Care Credit and save that for a rainy day, or have your horse insured. Horse insurance is a whole other topic that was discussed in this seminar video that you should watch, but what I can tell you about that is that you will still have to pay your full veterinary bill and then the insurance company reimburses you. Basically, whichever way you decide to pay for the care of your horse, be prepared. I was never a boy scout, I was too mischievous for them but, I still have learned to always be prepared.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Transportation

At least once a week my docs get a call from someone with a sick horse who lives too far away for my docs to get to. The question they always end up asking owners is, do you have a horse trailer, or do you know someone who does? More often than not, the answer is no. I am completely dumbfounded by this. You own a horse, but you have no way to transport it somewhere? How is that even a thing? Forgive my cattiness but, please, please, please, think about this.

Most veterinarians are ambulatory and travel up to an hour or more away from their home clinic. That means if you call with an emergency, my docs could be two or more hours away from getting to your horse. But if you had a way to transport your horse, you could bring it to the clinic and likely get it seen much sooner. Some veterinarians may not have a clinic for you to haul into. What if your horse cannot wait a few hours to see the vet? What if you need to get it to a referral hospital NOW? Or what if maybe the situation is not quite that urgent but still requires 24-hour veterinary monitoring and care, how will you get your horse the care he needs?

Horses don’t just need to be transported for veterinary care. We live in Florida, hurricane central. Evacuations can happen at any time and you may need to leave. You’ve bought this horse, you and your family have fallen in love with him, and now you have to leave. Do you leave your horse? If you don’t have a trailer, you might be faced with this decision. No one wants to make that kind of decision. Your horse is your family. Yes, trailers are an investment and no, they are not cheap, but they are worth their weight in gold when it means you have a way to transport your horse to get the care he needs or get him to a safer location. Before you go and buy a horse, be prepared and either have a plan with someone who can transport your horse for you 24/7 for an emergency, or invest in an inexpensive but safe horse trailer. You will be happy you did.

Stabling/Care

According to my docs, horses require a lot of care including grooming, feeding, friends, and more. Cats are more independent, we groom ourselves, don’t really need friends, and basically only need humans to provide the foods. Horses are so high maintenance! Alas, I digress.

When you are thinking about buying a horse, don’t forget to think about where you will keep your new family member.  Will he live in your backyard? Who will be responsible for his care 24/7/365? Will you have to board him at someone else’s facility? Will that facility provide him with the life you want for him, and what all is included with board? So many questions that you must think of before you buy a horse.

Maybe you have land and want to keep your horse at your house, because who wouldn’t want to wake up to a warm nicker every morning? It may seem glamorous and convenient to have your horse in your backyard, but remember that means you are the one responsible for all of your horses care, including feeding twice a day, cleaning his stall, washing his water buckets and water trough, fence maintenance, etc.

Horses are herd animals and really value companionship of other horses. If you bring your horse home, you may want to consider getting him a friend. This means 2 mouths to feed, 2 stalls to clean, more buckets, and more farm maintenance.  Not to mention vacation. If everyone in your family wants to go on vacation, who is going to take care of your horse(s)? Finding trustworthy, reliable help is more difficult than you may realize. And from experience, you cannot leave your horse unattended for days. Horses, like cats, require a schedule and will enforce that schedule every day. You have to be prepared and have a plan in place if you decide to keep your horse at home.

Maybe you think that keeping your horse at home is just too much responsibility. The choice to board your horse is never the wrong choice. With boarding your horse comes a certain amount of responsibility as well. When picking a farm for your horse to live at, be sure to find out what they feed, where and who your horse will live with, and if having a stall for your horse is important to you, make sure this is a part of the boarding agreement. Find out exactly what is included in the board price. Will they blanket your horse? Will they brush and pick his feet? Will they hold him for the veterinarian or farrier if you can’t be there for the appointment? Can you use the veterinarian and farrier of your choosing?

There are so many factors that go into boarding your horse and in no way, shape or form does it relieve you of your responsibility to care for your horse. It does, however, allow you the convenience of not having to be there every single day, multiple times a day to care for your horse.  Wherever you decide to keep your horse, remember the theme of today’s blog: be prepared.

Owning a horse can be the biggest joy you may ever experience, but it can also lead to serious heartbreak. Before you buy a horse, consult the professionals: a trainer and your veterinarian are a great place to start and they are a wealth of information.  If you are considering purchasing a new family member, please call me at the clinic and I will have my docs call you to discuss it further.

Until next week,

-Tony

P.S. If you want to dive deeper into this topic, check out the recent episode of Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth called Expecting the Unexpected. They cover a lot of important things that horse owners need to be on top of. Don’t forget about our Facebook Live Seminar on Thursday, August 26th at 6:30 PM.

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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Vaccines

Vaccines

Tuesdays with Tony

This week we’re going to talk about vaccines. What, this topic isn’t new and exciting? Well guess what? I agree. I wish everyone did so well at getting their horses vaccinated that I never had to talk about it again. But some of you are still not protecting your ponies! All horses need vaccines. Yes, your horse! Were you about to say that that he never leaves the property or that he had vaccines for years so he must not need any more? You’ve got to be kitten me! Let’s me purr-suede you why your horse absolutely needs vaccines.

 There are certain vaccines that every horse should receive (called “core” vaccines”) and some that are risk-based. The core vaccines are necessary for every horse, no matter where he lives or what you do with him. In Florida, that means Rabies, West Nile Disease, Eastern Encephalitis, and Tetanus. The risk-based vaccines (for example, influenza and strangles) are optional and are recommended if your horse will be exposed to those diseases. Best way to figure that out is to talk to my doc about your individual situation.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 So why are some vaccines considered “core” and the others optional?  Here are the criteria for a core vaccine:

 The disease causes severe symptoms or death.

  1. Rabies: A variety of neurologic symptoms leading to certain death.
  2. West Nile: Muscle twitching, hyper excitability, in-coordination, sometimes inability to stand or death.
  3. Eastern Encephalitis: Fever, severe incoordination, inability to stand, seizures, coma, death.
  4. Tetanus: Muscle spasms/rigidity, inability to eat or drink, inability to rise, death.

 The disease is difficult or impossible to treat.

  1. Rabies: 100% fatal regardless of treatment.
  2. West Nile: Supportive care only. Up to 1/3 of horses die despite treatment, and others have lasting neurological problems.
  3. Eastern Encephalitis: Supportive care only. Up to 90% of horses die despite treatment.
  4. Tetanus: Antibiotics, muscle relaxants and supportive care are used. 50-75% of horses die despite treatment.

 The way the disease is spread puts all horses at risk, regardless of the horse’s lifestyle.

  1. Rabies: Through bites from rabid animals.
  2. West Nile: Spread by mosquitoes.
  3. Eastern Encephalitis: Spread by mosquitoes.
  4. Tetanus: Bacteria lives in the soil, horses exposed through wounds or hoof abscesses.

 The vaccine is safe and effective.

  1. Rabies vaccine: 99% effective in preventing disease
  2. West Nile vaccine: 95-99% effective in preventing disease
  3. Eastern Encephalitis vaccine: 95-99% effective in preventing disease
  4. Tetanus vaccine: 95-99% effective in preventing disease

 Here are some common misconceptions my docs hear about vaccines:

 “My horse doesn’t ever leave the property or interact with other horses.” Doesn’t matter.  Your horse doesn’t have to go anywhere to get bitten by a mosquito, a rabid raccoon, or be exposed to tetanus through a small wound. All of those things will find him right in his own pasture. The only protection is a vaccine.

 “I’ve never heard of a horse getting Rabies.” Horses absolutely get rabies, though it is rare. But if it happens, it’s 100% fatal and puts your own human family at great risk. There is always a long list of people who get exposed in the process of diagnosing and caring for the horse prior to its death. Those people then have to go through the expensive and painful process of post-exposure therapy. Vaccinating your horse is a $20 insurance policy to protect you and your family from the possibility of exposure.

 “But there haven’t been any cases of West Nile/Eastern Equine Encephalitis in my area recently. Those diseases are not here anymore.” WRONG. Our practice sees several cases of encephalitis every year. Don’t get lax on this vaccine – we see positive cases on horses that are only a couple of months overdue from their last vaccine. They are terrible neurologic diseases and often fatal despite expensive treatment. This vaccine needs to be given every 6 months in Florida, because our mosquitoes never go away.

 “But I’m worried about vaccine reactions.” This is a valid concern. Like all decisions in veterinary medicine, the decision to vaccinate should be one of risks-versus-benefits. For most horses, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks of vaccine reactions. The most common form of vaccine reactions are very mild – either a brief fever or local swellings, easily controlled by a few days of anti-inflammatories. If your horse has a history of a more severe reaction, talk to my doc about whether to withhold that vaccine from your horse.

 “My horse has had vaccines plenty of times before. He doesn’t need any more. My small animal vet says we only need to vaccinate my dog every 3 years.” Horses are not dogs. Unfortunately, horses do not mount the same level of an immune response to vaccination as people or dogs. The scientists who did the research on extending the time between vaccines for small animals are clear that this won’t work in horses because of the different way their immune systems function. Unfortunately, your 20-year-old horse still needs his vaccines as often as he did 15 years ago. To be properly protected, horses in Florida should be vaccinated once a year against Rabies and West Nile Virus, and every 6 months against Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

 So if your horse is even a little overdue for his core vaccines, call my doc to make your appointment! Vaccines are simple and inexpensive compared to the CATastrophe of your horse contracting a dangerous and easily preventable disease. Better yet, sign up for one of Springhill Equine’s Wellness Plans and let us keep track of his schedule for you.

 Now, be a good human and subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss out on my impressive cat knowledge. It’s the purple box right down below; you can’t miss it.

 Until next week,

~Tony

 P.S. If you want to know more about equine vaccines and the diseases they protect against, the humans have a great podcast episode (actually 2 or 3, I think) that covers way more detail. You can find it over on the Podcast Page.

 

 

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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80 Degrees

80 Degrees

Tuesdays with Tony

What’s up with the title this week, you ask? Eighty degrees is the temperature of the air at midnight this past weekend. I know this, not because I was out prowling about, but because one of my Docs was up seeing a colic. Most horses don’t love this weather. I don’t blame them. Even I spend more time inside and less on the clinic driveway blocking traffic when it’s this hot out. This week let’s talk about summer fun with horses! 

The dreaded skin funk

There’s nothing like heat, humidity, and afternoon rain showers to create the just right environment for all kinds of crusts and crud on horse skin. You humans have about a million myths and legends for mystical potions to apply to the skin. Most of these don’t work, and, even better, aren’t great for the skin. 

#1 on that list: Listerine. Definitely should not be put on skin. A good hose off daily, along with time in front of the fan drying off, will go far to reduce summertime skin funk. If things have gotten out of hand, or your horse is a delicate thoroughbred who saw a raindrop and is now covered in crusts, reach for an appropriate therapy like Equishield CK Shampoo or spray. 

Now look, my Docs aren’t ones to walk around like a TV commercial selling you all manner of things. They use this product because it works! It’s made for horses so a little dab will do you, and also, there’s that it really works thing. For skin funk on the legs, it comes in a salve. Pro Tip: CK Salve is also the greatest thing in the world for removing that cannon bone funk they all get on their hind legs. 

Anhidrosis, or Non-Sweaters

There is a magical sweet spot around 78 degrees for the low temperature, and humidity consistently in the high 90% range that makes the equine sweat gland stop functioning. As a cat, I do NOT lower myself to something as mundane as sweating, but I also avoid work, so that helps. Not sweating in summer heat is a really bad plan. These horses are miserable! Luckily, we’ve got Dr. Abbott here, and she does acupuncture. I have no idea how tiny needles put in certain places makes sweat happen, but I am here to tell you I have seen it work with my own cat eyes. It’s pretty impressive. 

Since it can take a couple weeks for acupuncture to get these guys going, we also recommend a really good fan, or even better, one of those swamp cooler thingies, and frequent hosing. The less these horses need to sweat, the better they do. On this topic, Dr Patterson-Rosa at our very own hometown University of Florida recently published a paper on the genetics of non-sweaters. Hopefully this helps researchers come up with even better solutions to this problem, and helps breeders avoid making them!

Summer sores

The fancy term is habronemiasis. These things are a giant pain in the behind of all involved. My very best cat advice is to get my Docs involved early! They usually start with some topical treatments, but if that’s not working they quickly go to injecting the summer sore with medications. The best thing you can do to prevent them is fly management. Those pesky flies carry the organism responsible for this around on their feet. Working to reduce your flies with fly predators, feed-through growth regulators like Solitude, and manure management will go a long way to reducing summer sores. 

Getting Cool

Here is a shining spot of Old Wives Tales in the horse world. When I was just a tiny kitten the absolute RULE was only tepid water on the underside of the neck, and legs. My other favorite is the post that goes around Facebook this time of year: if you turn your horse out after hosing them without scraping the water off they could die of heat build up! They can’t. In fact, the single best thing you can do to cool down a hot horse is to hose their entire body off with LOTS of cold water. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

If possible, hit them with VERY cold water. No need to scrape. Just keep hosing until they have cooled off. Put them in front of a fan after hosing to get air moving across that wet, hot body of theirs. If a fan isn’t an option, walk them around to accomplish that same breeze across the body. If in doubt about the level of coolness, hose again. It’s never a wrong answer! You can even hose your horse off before you get on to “pre-cool” them. 

Summer is rough. I recommend getting through it in the air conditioning. Heck bring the horses inside. I’m sure they’d like the AC too! If you can’t bring them in, and you need help managing all the fun things summer brings, give my Docs a call. They are full of strategies to manage summer!

Until next week,

~Tony

 

P.S. The humans have an entire podcast episode about managing horses in hot weather. If you want to listen to that, head over to the Podcast Page on my website and scroll down through the episodes until you find it. It’s good stuff. But before you go, make sure you subscribe. It’s the purple box right below here. Scroll down a bit more. There you go. Good human.

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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Cribbing

Cribbing

Tuesdays with Tony

Cribbing

Everyone has a bad habit or two. Yes, even your horse. I know you’re thinking, there is no way my horse has any bad habits, he is perfect in every way. I hate to break it to you, but the only animals in the world with no bad habits are cats.  While your horse might be close to perfect, he will never be as perfect as a cat. Some horses kick, some horses bite. Others weave, paw, or dig. The bad habits horses can have are innumerable. One that most horse people are familiar with and one I hear much grief about is cribbing.

 If you’ve spent any time around horses, you are likely familiar with a horse who cribs. You are also probably familiar with the negative connotation that goes along with a horse who cribs, but are you familiar with why horses crib or the risk associated with cribbing? And do you know how to help prevent a horse from cribbing?  No? Well, that’s okay, that’s what I’m here for.

 Why do horses crib?

First, I should define what cribbing is for you.  Cribbing is when a horse places his teeth on a solid object, pulls back, and sucks air into his upper esophagus with that lovely grunting noise you all are familiar with.  The noise horses make when cribbing is very distinct.  Beyond the annoying sound, horses that crib can cause damage to stall walls, fences, and other structures around the barn. 

 Cribbing is a stereotypical behavior, as are weaving and stall walking. That means they aren’t actually habits, but rather a compulsive behavior. I’ll call it a habit in this blog, as it’s easier for me to type and you to read, but just so you know, it’s more than a habit.

 It is often thought that horses crib out of boredom. While there may be a boredom component, the reason horses crib is still largely unknown. It’s not understood why some horses develop cribbing while others don’t despite identical management. There is some research suggesting there may be a genetic factor that predisposes certain horses to develop the habit of cribbing which is why we see more thoroughbreds that crib than other breeds.  That being said, management may also play a role in compulsive behaviors such as cribbing.  Horses who are fed high concentrate feeds, have minimal turnout and little to no socialization are more prone to start cribbing.  As you well know, horses are foragers as well as herd animals. Therefore, when their lifestyles do not reflect what their bodies were made for, they tend to develop coping mechanisms such as cribbing to deal with the stresses of an unconventional lifestyle.

 Current research shows cribbing may be associated with lower stomach pH. In other words, if your horse’s management makes them prone to ulcers, it makes them prone to crib. Oddly, cribbing is associated with increased endorphins prior to the behavior! In other words, your horse gets a hit of endorphins, then cribs in response. Not the other way around like we’ve always thought.  Cribbers also have lower cortisol levels when they are allowed to crib. This behavior may actually help your horse cope with stress!

 Risks associated with cribbing

The theme I’m seeing with cribbing and horses is that there really aren’t any clear-cut answers.  And if you know me, you know how much I like black and white answers.  For some unknown reason, horses that crib are more prone to a certain type of colic. The limited research out there points to the pressure created within the abdominal cavity during cribbing as being a possible causative agent of a colic called an epiploic foramen entrapment.  This is a type of colic in which the small intestine becomes trapped in a hole between the liver and pancreas.  The only way to resolve this kind of colic is with surgery.

 The idea is that, as horses crib and the pressure changes within the abdomen, the hole opens up and the small intestine can migrate through. Then, when the pressure normalizes, the hole returns to its normal size and the intestine gets stuck. When the intestine is stuck, the blood supply is cut off and starts to strangulate the small intestine resulting in a severe colic.

 Cribbers also do damage their teeth as they are cribbing on all the fun things they find around the farm to grab. This leads to early loss of their incisors. However, for the most part they handle this just fine thanks to modern horse diets.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 “Treatment”

While there is no real treatment for cribbing, there are ways to prevent and discourage your horse from cribbing.  Unfortunately, once a horse has started cribbing, it’s nearly impossible to break that habit.  In fact, that current research about endorphins means that totally eliminating cribbing from your horse’s life may very well increase their stress levels.  

 Occasionally cribbing can be related to gastric ulcers, but an endoscopic examination is the only way to confirm the presence of ulcers. If ulcers are confirmed, and your horse is showing signs of cribbing, a change in diet is essential. A diet high in forage, particularly alfalfa hay, can reduce stomach acid and reduce the risk of ulcers. Similarly, since horses are grazing animals, having hay in front of your horse at all times if they are not out grazing can reduce the frequency of cribbing observed.  This is especially important in young horses since this is when they establish the behavior.

 Since horses are herd animals, you may find that your horse’s cribbing habit is reduced if you allow him time to socialize with other horses. Horses tend to follow each other and if your horse’s new friend isn’t seeking out somewhere to crib, your horse may not seek out a place to crib either.  Toys and enrichment devices are also an excellent tool to keep your horse occupied and reduce their frequency of cribbing.  They can also help to keep your horse moving around and exercising which can reduce stress as well.

 Of course, there are also several devices that have been developed to reduce cribbing mechanically. Cribbing straps and muzzles certainly have their place in a barn. There are many different cribbing straps out there, so be sure to talk with your vet about which once is right for you and your horse.  The goal of the cribbing strap is to prevent your horse from being able to suck wind into his esophagus. However, cribbing straps do not prevent your horse from trying to crib. This means that they may still seek out solid structures to try to crib on.  Occasionally, topical paints or sprays can be applied to stall walls and fencing to deter horses from cribbing. These require frequent re-application and are sometimes easily washed away.  Even more, some horses like the taste and it does not deter them at all.  I tell ya, horses are just silly animals. They should just be smarter, like us cats.

 No matter what method you choose, it’s unlikely you’re going to get rid of cribbing all together. Set your horse up for success by giving them someplace acceptable to crib for at least a portion of the day. If possible, use a piece of soft wood, like a non-pressure treated 2×4, somewhere they frequent set up at a height they like. This can be done in a stall or in a pasture. In the pasture, placing it near the water trough or hay feeders will usually draw your horse in.   

 Cribbing can be a frustrating habit to deal with, but don’t let it deter you from your dream horse. Lots of horses crib, but it doesn’t mean they can’t perform their jobs and excel in them.  If you have questions about cribbing and what it means for you and your horse, give my docs a call. They would love to talk more in-depth with you. 

 Until next week,

~Tony

 

P.S. If you have a cribber, you really, really want to take the time to listen to the podcast my docs produce. They have an episode all about cribbing and other stereotypical behaviors, and they interview Dr. Wickens, who is one of the leading researchers on stereotypical behaviors. It’s a fantastic conversation, and you can find it over on the Podcast Page

 

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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10 Things Your Vet Wishes You Knew Part 2

10 Things Your Vet Wishes You Knew Part 2

Tuesdays with Tony

Welcome to Part 2 of my series on 10 Things Your Veterinarian Wishes You Knew. If you haven’t read Part 1, you can do that here. I’ve got a lot to talk about before nap time, so let’s get back to it!

6. Don’t mess around trying to treat things yourself before you call a vet

Whether it’s a colic, a wound, an eye problem, please just call my doc early and don’t mess around trying to treat the problem yourself for days or weeks before seeking veterinary care. My docs see a lot of disasters caused by well-meaning owners. Sometimes it costs the horse his life. We understand the desire to save money, but in most cases it’s less expensive to treat the problem correctly and early. Turning to Dr. Google or using some treatment you bought online may be putting your horse in danger. My docs hear a lot of “I’ve been treating it for a week with this purple spray and it’s just getting worse”. They wish you would have called them first, because they might have been able to fix the problem when it first happened faster and for less cost than what it will require now.

I’m not saying it’s a bad idea to educate yourself on equine health topics, but make sure you use factual sources, such as TheHorse.com website or our podcast, Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth and not just a Facebook group. Believe me, there is some truly TERRIBLE advice out there on Facebook groups and horse forums. And none of them are a substitute for an exam by one of my docs.

 7. Equine Major Medical Insurance is cheaper than you might think

No one likes to think about their horse becoming ill or injured, but when something happens, the last thing you want to be worrying about is whether you can afford to treat your horse. It’s devastating to have to make a decision to euthanize a horse that could have been successfully treated due to lack of finances. Even though vets are able to deliver quality care for a fraction of what human medicine costs, some treatments are still expensive. Colic surgery can cost $5000-$10,000 or more, and my docs absolutely understand that few of us have unlimited funds.

Newberry FL horse veterinarian

You might not realize that equine medical insurance is pretty affordable (often just a few hundred dollars a year) and it’s not just for fancy show horses or million-dollar racehorses. Your backyard trail horse is just as good a candidate. My docs insure their own horses, even though they are equine vets! For example, one of my docs has a policy that covers $10,000 of major medical and surgical costs with a yearly premium of $400. Of course, the specific numbers will vary based on your horse, so you’ll need to talk to an insurance company for your own quote, but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than paying out of pocket for a major illness or surgery.

There are also colic programs from companies like Platinum Performance and SmartPak that will cover a significant chunk of the surgery cost. One of my docs recently had a horse need colic surgery. Because her horses are fed Platinum Performance supplements and enrolled in their colic program, Platinum covered $8000 of the cost of surgery. Check out the websites for Platinum Performance and Smartpak Equine to see if those are a good option for you.

8. Regular dental care performed by a veterinarian is really important

Don’t wait for your horse to start dropping feed while trying to chew and losing weight! That’s not the time to do a dental, those signs mean you already have major dental issues. The average horse should have a dental exam and float once a year. The goal is to do a little touch up every year so your horse can maintain good teeth long into his senior years. When the teeth are neglected, and problems have already occurred, it’s a lot harder for my doc to make your horse comfortable and corrections may be more expensive. She can’t put back teeth that have worn down or fractured. So start early and stay current with your horse’s dental care.

Also, there is a big difference between a complete dental exam performed by a veterinarian and a lay dentist sticking a rasp into your horse’s mouth. A thorough dental requires sedation, which lay dentists can’t legally administer, and an oral speculum to allow evaluation of the back of your horse’s mouth. Way in the back is where a lot of the problems occur. My docs have to correct problems caused or missed by untrained (non-DVM) dentists all the time. Often the owners thought they were doing the right thing for their horses. We don’t want this for you and your horse, so just call a vet to take care of your horse’s teeth please!

9. Colic surgery has a better outcome than you probably think

We hope your horse never experiences a colic bad enough to require surgery, but if you find yourself in the position where you need to choose whether to pursue emergency colic surgery, we want to make sure incorrect assumptions don’t influence your decision. Yes, it’s a major surgery and yes, it’s pretty expensive (see # 7 about getting insurance). But some folks still have the idea that few horses survive colic surgery or that their horse won’t be useful afterwards. That might have been true long ago, but surgical practice has come a long way and nowadays about 90% of horses that undergo colic surgery will survive. Studies have also shown that older horses have the same survival rate as younger horses after colic surgery. So don’t let your horse’s age alone influence your decision.

It’s a wonderful thing to see a horse feeling better and munching feed again after surgery. After the appropriate healing time, most horses can return to their previous athletic careers, even racing or grand prix jumping. So if my doc is recommending colic surgery as the best option to save your horse’s life, make your decision based on facts and not outdated preconceptions.

10. They care a lot about your horse

My docs love being equine vets and taking care of your horses. They’re horse people themselves and their choice to become vets means they’re naturally hard-working, compassionate people who want the best for your equine family. But being a vet can also be pretty hard. My docs think about your horse long after they leave your farm, spend time at night researching particularly difficult cases, and lose sleep and sacrifice time with their own families to take care of your horse when you have an emergency. They do it because they love the animals and care about helping you.

No vet goes into the profession for the money, and it hurts them deeply when they’re sometimes accused of not caring about an animal because it’s necessary to charge for his care. It costs a lot to keep the lights on in the clinic, to purchase the equipment they need, and to pay employees. The medications they stock cost just as much for a vet to buy as it does for a human hospital, yet vets charge a fraction of what a human medicine bill would be. Vets have an average of nearly $200,000 in student loans, go to school for as long as a human physician, and make nowhere near the same salary.

That all said, they love their jobs. They just want you to understand why a medication or an X-ray costs what it does, and that greed has nothing to do with it. They wish the financial part wasn’t in their job description, and they sympathize with your situation. So just be kind to your vet and remember that they’re on your team when it comes to caring for your horse. If you’re inclined, you can express your appreciation with cat treats dropped off at the clinic (care of Tony) and I’ll be sure to pass on the message.

So, that’s my Top 10. I hope that you take my supreme cat knowledge and use it for good. Our mission here at Springhill Equine is to make the world a better place for horses (and cats), and I’m just trying to do my part. After all, I get a lot of love from horse owners, so I would be remiss if I didn’t give back. Cats aren’t susceptible to that kind of pressure, but I know where my treats come from. Speaking of treats, I gotta go.

Until next week,

~Tony

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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Dental Care

Dental Care

Tuesdays with Tony

My people told me to tell your people that July is Dental Month here at the Clinic. It’s one of my favorite times of the year because so many of you come to see me, and, let’s be honest, that’s really one of the most important things you could ever do.  Not to mention you’re bringing your horse in for their annual dental examination and flotation. And if you’ve been reading my blog recently, and I know you have, you know that it is essential that your veterinarian perform your horse’s dental. 

 You know WHY your veterinarian should be performing your horse’s dental (Sedation, bright light, and speculum so they can get all the way to the back teeth). You understand the basic concept of a dental, which is to float sharp points. But do you know what else is involved in a dental examination and flotation? No? Well, lucky for you, I am well-versed in all things equine dentistry. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 Types of Teeth

As you well know, my daily meals are extremely important to me. So much so that I start reminding my staff about dinner time an hour before hand just so they don’t forget. If I’m not mistaken, horses are also very much creatures of habit and I am certain they let you know if you are 5 minutes late for breakfast.  Can you imagine if your horse couldn’t eat because of dental problems? I would be utterly miserable. 

 Unlike cats and humans, who have brachydont teeth, horses have hypsodont teeth.  I know you’re saying, wait a second Tony, those are some big words, aren’t teeth just teeth? Well, no, they are not.  Carnivores and omnivores typically have brachydont teeth, which are low-crowned teeth in which the crown sits above the gum line. Brachydont teeth stop growing once all permanent teeth are fully erupted.

 Horses, on the other hand, have hypsodont teeth which continue to erupt throughout their entire life and the enamel extends below the gum line. As grazing animals, horses are eating almost constantly throughout the day. Because of the type of forage horses consume, their teeth undergo a lot of wear and tear. Therefore, slow eruption of their teeth throughout their lives compensates for the constant grinding which can wear away 2-3mm of tooth/year. This is also why a diet that consists of quality forage is so important. 

 The Exam

When you bring your horse to the clinic, his exam starts right away with a complimentary CATscan by yours truly.  Once the CATscan has been completed, I allow the docs and technicians to step in. The docs exam starts almost immediately. They like to watch your horse eat and chew while they talk to you about his history and if there have been any problems, dental related or not. Believe it or not, problems that may seem behavioral could actually stem from your horse’s mouth. 

 After a few words with you and look from the outside, my docs and technicians prepare your horse for his oral exam.  This involves sedation, an antiseptic mouth wash, and placement of a speculum. (Apparently horses do not just say “AH” on command). Once your horse is settled into the speculum and head loop, my docs reach for their bright light.  A bright light is imperative to a thorough oral examination.

 Depending on what all is going on in your horse’s mouth, my docs may write a few things down or have their technician take a few notes. While examining his mouth they assess all of his soft tissues including his cheeks, gums, tongue, hard and soft palate, and lips.  They look for any abnormalities including signs of foreign bodies or cancer.  Then they start the exam of your horse’s teeth. They note any signs of infection including caries (cavities), fractured teeth, misaligned teeth and teeth that may have grown too much or not enough. They check for hooks, ramps, steps, and waves. If any teeth are missing, they will make a note of that as well.  You may even notice them pull out this little mirror on a stick. They tell me that it is so they can look at the back of your horse’s mouth better.

 Occasionally, they may recommend radiographs, just like your human dentist. If they suspect a fractured or infected tooth, radiographs are the best way to assess the root structure of the tooth and develop a plan for removal if necessary.  Alternatively, a Catscan may be recommended.  Unfortunately, this is not the same kind of catscan that I provide and requires general anesthesia.  Radiographs are significantly less invasive and can give my docs a lot of the information they require to best treat your horse. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 The Float

After a thorough oral examination, the next step is the flotation.  My docs use a diamond burr head on the end of a long battery-powered rod.  This head spins in a circular motion to grind down any sharp enamel points that your horse had naturally developed over the year. It is a very gentle, yet effective tool which allows the docs to work quickly to correct any problems seen on their exam. Unlike hand floats, which can be very damaging to your horse’s soft tissues, the power float causes none to minimal damage. 

 While floating your horse’s teeth, the docs take care to spend time on areas such as hooks, ramps, waves, and steps. They correct these as much as they can without exposing tooth root.  Sometimes, however, corrections must be made slowly which may lead to my docs recommending twice yearly floats or even quarterly dental floats for your horse. Aggressive corrections and/or overfloating will lead to more problems such as open pulp, fractures, and infection. Correcting a problem before it becomes too severe is key to preventing the need for more than once a year dental floats.

 The End

After your horse’s teeth have been fully examined and a float has been performed, they will be taken out of the head loop and the speculum will be removed.  At this point, my docs check on their front teeth, noting any abnormalities such as a slant mouth, evidence of cribbing or equine odontoclastic tooth resorption and hypercementosis. They may make some minor adjustments with the float to allow for better occlusion of his teeth which will help your horse chew more effectively. Finally, they make suggestions to you regarding further care and write all of their findings down in a special form on the computer. I particularly like to help with this part, as I have a knack for computers, and I find they really give me a lot of attention when I help them with their medical notes.

 Around the Clinic we are a group of highly food-motivated people and cats.  We know how much horses enjoy their food as well. That’s why it is so important to have your horse’s dental examination and flotation performed at least once a year by your veterinarian (refer to my previous blogs if you need a refresher on why your vet should perform dentals and other procedures). To prevent problems later in life, annual dentals are an essential part of your horse’s veterinary care. Give the Clinic a call to schedule your haul-in dental for the month of July and don’t forget to ask about the special discount!

 Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Are you “chomping at the bit” for more dental care information? If so, the humans have a fantastic podcast on dental exams. You can find that and so much more on our podcast page.

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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10 Things Your Vet Wishes You Knew – Part 1

10 Things Your Vet Wishes You Knew – Part 1

Tuesdays with Tony

Gather round my friends – this week I’ve got some secrets to reveal! I’m letting the cat out of the bag on what your equine vet really wishes you understood about taking the best care of your animals, and how to be a client that we love to work for! (Just so we’re clear, don’t EVER think about putting me in a bag, it’s a figure of speech.) My docs want the best for you and your horses. There’s nothing they like more than a happy, healthy horse and a happy owner getting to enjoy her horse. My docs want you to have as few bumps in the road as possible, but when bumps come up, they want you to be prepared and able to handle them. So how many of these things do you already know and what do you need to work on?

1. You need to have a trailer available in case of emergencies

You have a horse – emergencies will happen. That’s what horses do. Some things can be taken care of on the farm, but some problems require emergency treatment at a hospital. You may also live further away than a vet can get to for emergencies. So you NEED to have a trailer available. This may mean you have a trailer of your own, or it may mean you have an emergency plan set up with a friend who has one.

  • Here’s what I do mean: You have a working truck and trailer in correct repair at your farm you can hook up and drive. Or you have an established list of friends or family who own a functioning trailer and are ready to help in an emergency. You also have their phone numbers and know how to reach them. Keep in mind this stuff usually happens at 3 AM and horses particularly enjoy getting hurt on major national holidays when everyone is out of town on vacation. Doesn’t matter, you should have a plan.
  • Here’s what I don’t mean: You have a trailer that sits on the back 40 with the wheels halfway sunk into the mud because you haven’t hooked it up in 5 years and it has no floor and is missing a wheel or two. There is probably a nest of raccoons living in it. I also don’t mean you start trying to reach someone you kinda know who might have a trailer at 3 AM on Christmas Eve, though you haven’t spoken to her in a couple years and you don’t have her phone number since you’re mostly just friends on Facebook. Nope, your colicky horse needs a much better plan that that!

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

2. Establish a relationship with your vet before an emergency happens

Not all vets can take in emergencies if you are not a current client. You don’t want to wait until a serious problem arises to go looking for someone to help. Establishing a good relationship with a vet ahead of time not only will provide you a go-to plan in the case of an emergency, but you may also be able to prevent illness from happening by working with your vet on a good preventative health plan.

Just so we’re clear, here’s what I mean by “good relationship.” Your veterinarian visits your horse(s) at least twice a year for vaccines and a wellness exam. Your vet is your horse’s dentist. Your vet knows who you are, knows your horse, and can look at a complete medical history of your horse in their computer. Also, you don’t owe them money from your last visit, or the one before that.

Why is this important? I’ll give you some insider cat knowledge. When two or three emergencies happen at the same time, and this happens every weekend, my on-call doc has to decide who to see first. Does she go to the regular Wellness client who does all the things, or does she go to the one who gets a Coggins once every two or three years and “doesn’t usually need a vet”? Or the one who was last seen for a shoulder laceration in 2014 and didn’t pay the bill for seven months? Having a good relationship ensures your place in that line.

3. Learn to take vital signs on your horse

It’s a great idea to know how to take your horse’s heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, gut sounds, capillary refill time, and digital pulses. Not only should you know what your horse’s normals are, but it can be of great help to my doc in case of an illness or emergency. It can also help my doc determine whether she needs to come out to examine your horse. Taking vital signs is really not as hard as you may think! You can read my previous blog with easy instructions and videos by clicking here or come to our open house event in November to learn in person. Or when my doc is at your farm next, ask her to show you! My docs love to educate horse owners, so feel free to ask questions.

4. Prepare a safe environment for the vet visit

Spend time handling your horses and working on their ground manners so they can be safely handled during a vet exam. If you’re not experienced, work with a trainer. The vet appointment, especially an emergency visit, isn’t a good time to start working on training your horse. We can’t do much to treat your horse if no one can catch him or if he’s so unhandled that he’s dangerous to work on. It’s really important that both people and horses stay safe, so start preparing your horse for his vet visits long before you call my doc out.

When it’s time for the appointment, have your horse caught and ready in an area that’s safe to work in, without a lot of distraction from things like farm dogs, equipment, or lots of people moving around. You can have as many cats around as you want though, we are extremely helpful.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

One common problem my docs run into is horses that aren’t used to having their feet picked up. You can familiarize them with this every day when you feed them just by rubbing down their legs and eventually picking up their feet a little at a time. This will go a long way to help your vet and farrier to avoid getting kicked. The same goes for being in a stall or on crossties for horses that live outside.

5. Horses need vaccines, whether or not they ever leave the property!

Your horse doesn’t travel? Too bad, the mosquitoes and raccoons that carry equine diseases do. Eastern encephalitis is fatal in 90% of cases. Rabies is 100% fatal and can affect your human family, too. Get your horse vaccinated. It’s not worth the risk. There are some vaccines that are risk-based, so your horse may not need those if he doesn’t travel or meet other horses, but every horse needs core vaccines like encephalitis, tetanus, and rabies.

Okay, I know I said I have ten things, but I’m going to stop here for now. I want to make sure you have these five down pat before I go on to the next five, which we’ll do in a couple of weeks. Let’s see where you are so far. Give yourself 20 points for each one of these that you are 100% on:

  1. Truck and trailer ready or definitely available 24/7
  2. Good relationship with the vet (at least 2 regular, non-emergency visits in the last year)
  3. Know how to take vitals, and know what your horse’s ‘normal’ is
  4. Have a good place for the vet visit, and a horse that can behave
  5. Up-to-date on your vaccines

If you scored 80-100 on this first half, you’re in pretty good shape, and you should be up to 100% by the time Part 2 of this blog comes out. If you scored 60 or below, you’ve got a lot of work to do in the next couple of weeks!

I’ll be taking a cat nap while you work on it.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Don’t forget to scroll back up to #3 and click on that link for a refresher on taking vital signs! Well, I guess you could just click here and go to the same place. Sometimes I forget that you humans don’t like taking the long way around. Bah.

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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It’s Hurricane Season, again..

It’s Hurricane Season, again..

Tuesdays with Tony

Yes, I know I do this every year around June 1st, but it’s because you humans are very bad at listening. Hurricane season has officially begun. It’s time to play, “Let’s get prepared for a disaster!” The Farm Version.

 Dump Run

 Hurricanes love to pick stuff up and throw it around. Look around the farm for those items. Make a burn pile for the stuff that can get burned, and a dump pile for the stuff that can’t. Once in piles, actually remove them. Most of the area has now had some rain, so no excuses! Burn that burn pile. While you’re in the burning mood, check out any tree limbs that look sketchy. Add them to the pile, too. No need to wait for anything for the dump run. Bonus: Dump runs can usually be counted on for some entertainment from other humans making dump runs as well. Most important: do something with the debris. Don’t let it sit around until the next Hurricane Michael is at Cedar Key. At that point everyone in your county will be at the dump trying to get rid of their debris. Be a smart human!

 Identify your stuff

 Microchip your horse. It’s easy. It’s cost effective. It’s permanent. Do it now.  Also works for your dogs and cats. I say it works for humans too, but some frown on that. If you’ve followed my microchip advice already, now is the time to make sure the information attached to that chip is correct. My minions can help with that if you need help figuring out how. It can be a little complicated if you don’t know which company made your chip. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 Identify more than just your pets and relatives, though. Take a few minutes to shoot a video or take pictures of your truck and trailer, vehicles, tack room, and barn. Anything you think you would claim on insurance should be documented. Those phones you humans carry around to take pictures of yourself and your horse can be used for this, too! Upload it to that place called the cloud so it’s safe. A few moments now can save you a ton of hassles with insurance later. Might want to check on that insurance thing while you’re at it as well. Make sure you know what you do and don’t have covered. I hear flood insurance is the biggie you don’t know you need until you need it. 

 Stockpile a few things

 Think about what you will need if power is out. Take advantage of the Tax Holiday in Florida on some things. Common stuff you can stockpile now include batteries, flashlights, tarps, duct tape (can you ever have enough?), and gas cans. Horses drink a LOT of water. Think now about how you are going to provide that water. Plastic trash cans with lids work great! Large water troughs work well, too. Whatever you are going to use, now is the time to make sure you have it, and it doesn’t leak. If you are going to evacuate (more on that in a sec), be sure you have enough water and feed buckets for everyone. Speaking of food, have a plan for getting feed and hay up off the ground in case flooding becomes a problem. 

 Should I stay or should I go?

 There’s a different answer for everyone, but the important thing now is to make a plan. Even if you intend on staying, you should still make an evacuation plan. It’s just a good idea. The tricky part about evacuating with horses is the timing. You need to leave the area 4-5 days before the projected hit. Traffic is way too bad if you wait until the last minute. I promise that you don’t want to ride out a hurricane with your horses in a trailer in the middle of a traffic jam.

 Now is the time to call places you may evacuate to and find out what they require. The Agriculture Inspection Station will often waive the Health Certificate requirement during evacuations. However, your destination will likely require a Coggins at a minimum, and may require certain vaccines as well. Check your Coggins now on ALL the horses you might evacuate. Getting them done as a routine appointment is so, so much easier than doing them as an emergency. Bonus: my Docs can microchip your horses at the same time! Easy peasey.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 We all like to pretend hurricanes are no big deal, but this cat has been around long enough to know you humans don’t really believe that. The way you’re glued to Mike’s Weather Page the moment something stirs out there in the ocean says you care. Spend some time now getting ready, and then you can enjoy that hurricane party as you watch for Jim Cantore’s latest location.

 All well-trained humans will now scroll down to the subscribe button. Press the button, enter your email, and get my blog a day before everyone else. If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is!

 Until next week,

~Tony

 

P.S. This was the short, sweet version. If you want more, the humans have a fantastic podcast called Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth, and they have two episodes that focus on all things disaster prep. 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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Euthanasia

Euthanasia

Tuesdays with Tony

There are certain things held sacred here at Springhill Equine. One of those is the mission to make the world a better place for horses. Sometimes that mission means the kindest option we have is euthanasia. Wow, that got heavy in a hurry. The life of a clinic cat isn’t all foals and fun though. There are tough days, too. This week I want to talk about euthanasia since there is a very important drug shortage affecting how we euthanize horses. Don’t worry, my Docs still have very safe, kind, humane ways to be sure your horse doesn’t suffer. It simply might look a little different than it has in the past. 

Pentobarbital

For reasons which aren’t entirely clear to this cat, pentobarbitol, which is the main ingredient in euthanasia solution, is on backorder. This happens periodically, and as with many of these backorders there isn’t often a clear reason. I’m going to guess they have clinic cats too, and they, as I sometimes do, revel in doing fun things like holding down the escape key with my paw then watching the humans become increasingly frustrated with the weird things the computer is doing. In this case, I imagine it shut down a factory. This is what Teenie and I talk about on weekends. 

Anyway, pentobarbital is an anesthesia drug with the ability to cause the brain and heart to stop when given as an overdose. It has been used for many, many years for this purpose so my Docs have a good feel for how it works, and how horses are going to respond. In general, my Docs give a very large dose, the horse falls asleep, and then passes away over a few minutes. 

The Problems with Pentobarbital

Recently scientists have found a few problems with pentobarbital. The first is groundwater contamination. It’s tough to think about, but when a horse gets buried it slowly decomposes away. Pentobarbital is one of those things that sticks around for a very, very long time, and loves to head for water. This is not something you want happening, especially since many of you humans live on farms with wells. This is one reason several groups who write euthanasia guidelines began discussions on some other options. 

Speaking of pentobarbital sticking around, it also remains very active in the body after death. This becomes an issue if burial or removal of the body is delayed for any reason. Scavengers like vultures, coyotes, and bald eagles, among others (like your dog), are attracted to the body and do what Mother Nature designed them to do. This can be a big problem in areas where the ground freezes in the winter, and burial can’t happen until Spring. I’m going to insert a bit of an aside here that as a sun-loving cat, the thought of ground freezing is awful. Anyway. Scavengers can be affected by pentobarbital and inadvertently killed. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

The Alternatives

There are many alternatives. The goal of all of them is to allow the horse to pass as peacefully as possible. The three most commonly used by my docs may look a little different, but work very similar to pentobarbital. These are an overdose of potassium chloride, an overdose of magnesium, or an injection of lidocaine into the space around the spinal column. 

All three start by placing your horse under general anesthesia, exactly like that used for surgery. Then the medications are administered, and the horse passes away over the next few minutes, much like they do with pentobarbital. These medications are all safe for the environment and scavengers, if there is an unexpected delay in burial or removal. Gunshot, or captive bolt, is a very humane option if you have someone very knowledgeable about the proper location. The key here is that horses don’t have the psychological trauma of a gun pointed at them. My Docs recommend the horse be sedated to minimize the risk of last-second movement.

After reading a not-so-great article recently about the shortage of pentobarbital, I wanted to assure my readers that my Docs have got a plan in place. They always have the safety and comfort of your horse on their minds. 

 

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. The humans just recorded a podcast that goes into a lot more areas on the topic of euthenasia. If you haven’t become a listener yet, this is a great time to start! You don’t even have to read it, you just listen while you’re riding, or driving, or whatever it is you humans do. You can check it out over on the Podcast Page.

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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White Line Disease

White Line Disease

Tuesdays with Tony

“No hoof, no horse”. Since you’re a horse person, you’ve probably heard this old saying, and it will always ring true. Let me purr-suade you to learn a little more about a common hoof problem – White Line Disease. You may have even seen it without realizing!

Mild white line at the toe

Also called seedy toe, white line disease can start with just a little separation at the hoof wall. Maybe you’ve gone a little too long between trims and your horse’s hooves have gotten a bit too long. You notice a small gap between the outer hoof wall and the sole, and some dirt is packed in there. That can be how WLD starts, and at this early stage it can be pretty manageable, but it can get out of control before you know it. Let’s go into what white line disease is, what causes it, and what you can do about it.

What is White Line Disease?

White line disease is basically an infection in your horse’s foot caused by bacteria and fungi getting into a gap in the hoof wall. The infection takes place in the tissue between the outer hoof wall and the sensitive inner tissues of the hoof. It doesn’t take any special evil organisms to cause this problem, it’s just the normal bacteria and fungi in your horse’s environment that are just waiting for the opportunity to find a nice place to set up shop. What they love is a dark, moist place, and a little space inside the hoof wall is their real estate dream. As the bacteria and fungi work their way into the hoof wall, they eat away at the tissue that should be keeping the hoof connected to the deeper structures. It’s a vicious cycle – once they access even further up inside the hoof and have a lovely dark, protected area, it gets much more difficult to clean them out. If you look at a foot with WLD, you’ll see a cavity between the outer hoof wall and the sole. You may be able to stick a hoof pick up in there and pick out some crumbly material that is the degraded hoof plus dirt, bacteria, and fungi.

This foot has several spots where bacteria and fungi have invaded

You can find WLD on just one or two feet, or it can affect all four. In the early stages, your horse may not yet be sore, but as the tissue invasion becomes extensive, it can cause lameness. It can even progress to a very serious stage where the coffin bone loses connection to the hoof wall and begins to rotate (similar to, but different from, laminitis).

Half of this hoof wall is separated

Look how far up inside this horse’s foot the dirt, bacteria, and fungi have travelled. The outer layer of the hoof wall has been cut away to treat the infection.

Severe WLD has caused this coffin bone to rotate

What causes it?

Like I said, bacteria and fungi are involved in WLD, but it’s not so simple as that, because the bacteria and fungi are always there in the environment, and not every hoof gets WLD. So how do they get into a foot?

It comes down to a separation that occurs in the hoof that gives the organisms a chance to invade – the bacteria and fungi are just there to take advantage of it. Why does that separation occur in the first place? Poor trimming or sometimes a conformational issue such as club foot can be the cause. A horse with chronic laminitis can also be at greater risk due to the loss of integrity of the hoof. Most commonly, a long toe or overgrown foot can distort the hoof and cause mechanical stress that leads to the hoof wall separating near the white line. Just another of the 10,000 reasons it’s important to stay on top of your horse’s hoof care and get him a quality trim at a regular interval.

Any age, sex, or breed of horse can be affected.  While it can occur in any climate, it’s more common in humid conditions (ahem, Florida anyone?) since wet footing can soften the hoof and allow the organisms easier entry into the tissues.

How do we treat and prevent White Line Disease?

First, we have to recognize the WLD. You’ll want to pay close attention to your horse’s feet when you’re picking them out. If you think there are any areas of separation, pockets of dirt, and crumbly hoof near the white line, talk to my doc and your farrier. If your horse wears shoes, it’s a little trickier to observe this area, so your farrier should take a good look when she removes the shoe to trim the foot. One of the best things you can do to prevent WLD is just to have your horse trimmed frequently (about every 5 weeks, depending on the horse) and to make sure the toes don’t become too long. A well-trimmed foot is much less likely to develop this problem. On top of that, pick your horse’s feet regularly and give them a chance to dry out. Admittedly, the drying part can be tricky during some times of the year.

A hoof wall resection. You can see the new healthy hoof growing down from the coronary band.

If your horse does develop white line disease, my doc and your farrier should work together to develop a treatment plan. Unfortunately, just picking the cavity out and applying medications is unlikely to stop the progression. A very minor WLD may be able to be trimmed out by your farrier during a routine visit. Larger areas of separation will require additional treatment. My doc may need to take a radiograph to see how extensive the damage is within the foot. She’ll need to correct any abnormal forces on the foot (such as an overgrown toe) that are causing the separation. All the other treatment will not really be effective if the primary cause isn’t fixed.

Next, my doc has to stop that bacteria and fungus in their tracks. The most important part is to remember what those organisms love – a nice dark, moist space that can’t easily be cleaned out. So my doc takes the roof from over their head by performing a hoof wall resection! Those critters don’t stand a chance once their hiding place is exposed to light and air. My doc uses a hoof nipper or Dremel to remove the outer layer of hoof wall from over the cavity. The organisms are prevented from hiding up there, and the infected area is exposed for medications to be applied. Medical treatment is almost never useful unless the hoof wall over the infection is removed, so don’t waste your money on the various lotions and potions that make lofty claims.

This hoof required an extensive resection to remove the diseased tissue. Normal hoof will grow downwards from the coronary band over the next few months. This horse was walking sound right after the resection.

I’ve been watching my docs do a bunch of hoof wall resections lately from my spot in the middle of the barn aisle. It can look a bit dramatic to see a bunch of hoof wall removed, but don’t worry, it’s actually only the outer part of the hoof that is already disconnected. So there’s no bleeding, and it’s not painful to the horse. It’s much better than leaving the bacteria and fungus to eat away at the hoof. If a lot of hoof wall must be removed, a shoe can be helpful to stabilize the foot until new hoof grows down.

A rocker shoe is being used in this case to support the hoof and to improve the horse’s breakover. This is the same horse as in the x-ray above.

Once the outer hoof wall is removed, you’ll need to keep the hoof clean. My doc likes to soak the hoof in CleanTrax once a week to disinfect the hoof. The new, healthy hoof wall will grow downwards from the coronary band and as long as you have corrected the primary problems, your horse should grow in a normal hoof!

Until next week,

Tony

P.S. If this wasn’t enough info to make you purr, you should check out the podcast my humans recently did on White Line Disease. It’s loaded with interesting discussion, and you can listen free right from your phone or computer. Check it out over on the Podcast Page of my website.

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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