Blessed be the old farts. Around here there is a kind of reverence for the older horse. I will admit to jealousy. It’s not pretty, I know, but it’s real. I mean, I’m a cat. I deserve all the reverence around here. In an effort to explore the causes for this misguided worship I talked with my minions, I mean humans, about the phenomenon.
Turns out all my humans went with something along the lines of enjoying their horses, learning from them, and feeling appreciative of all the horses gave to them during their athletic careers. The humans said they wanted to make sure their horses had wonderful retirements since they had earned it. I was a little confused by the “earned it” thing, since I don’t need to earn anything, but I digress.
What messes up a horse’s retirement?
Do they golf? Do they play Canasta and Bridge? Apparently no. They wander around a field and eat. This is a typical day for me if you substitute ‘Clinic’ for ‘field’, so not sure if I’m retired already or how that works. Anyway, dental issues, lameness, and not feeling so hot are the biggies that interfere with retirees’ ability to wander around and eat.
Let’s start with dental issues. Horses are this really weird thing called an hypsodont. It means they have a whole lot of tooth when they are young, which they wear down to nothing over their lifetime. The super cool thing is you humans are doing such a good job taking care of your horses that they now outlive their teeth. Sure. that sounds scary, but with good nutrition it’s not a problem. What it does mean is that you may notice your horse not wanting to eat. You humans do a pretty darn good job knowing your horses. When Tiny backs off on feed, don’t worry that we are going to think you’re crazy. We won’t! We do the exact same thing! What we are going to do is schedule an appointment for one of our Docs to come take a look in Tiny’s mouth. They might find some teeth that need to be adjusted a little bit or potentially extracted.
Moving on to lameness. This one I identify with. I have jumped down from high places one too many times and I’m starting to develop a bit of arthritis in my right front paw. Life catches up with us all. All those daring feats of athleticism we displayed in our younger years show up as aches and pain in our later years. Laminitis (same as founder) may rear its ugly head as well. Once again the signs can be subtle, and you, the awesome human, may notice Flicka is in a different corner of the pasture than normal. Once again, we won’t think you’re crazy when you tell us this. We do the exact same thing! In this case our Docs are going to evaluate feet, legs, and the musculoskeletal system in general to identify a cause for the lameness. If it’s arthritis, they will often recommend NSAIDs (horse aspirin) like bute or Equioxx, and movement, even in small amounts. If it’s laminitis, a test for Cushings is almost always called for. This is a test even a dog could pass! It’s just a blood draw. They also get on the phone with the farrier to make sure your horse’s entire team has the information they need.
When all of it goes wrong
Next there’s the “not feeling so hot”. Again, when you call to say Mister isn’t right, but you can’t put your finger on it, we will be nodding our heads. We know that feeling! This one is a little tougher. Our Docs will put on their detective hats and start the investigation with you. They won’t start with you because you are the prime suspect, they will start with you because you are the best source of information. You know your horse. You know if Mister ate and drank normally, and has he been sleeping normally? Rolling over? Is he in the same place in the herd hierarchy? Next they will take your information, combine it with a good physical exam, and determine a course of action. Usually, this involves some blood tests (remember they’re so easy a dog can pass them), along with an ultrasound of the chest and abdomen. Only thing difficult about an ultrasound is the cold alcohol they put on your skin. Based on these easy, peasy tests, our Docs will help you map out the best treatment options. Lots of times these tests turn up Cushings disease. Cushings is an endocrine disease which messes with every system there is to mess with. Good news though: one small pink pill daily is the treatment. And if you schedule an appointment by the end of the week, our monthly special is $10 off this blood test!
Horses are like fine wine, they only grow better with age. Totally patronizing the humans there, they told me to write that. Anyway, let your horse live long and prosper with a little TLC. The humans yak on a lot about Super Seniors, so this is the first in a four part Tuesdays with Tony expose. Tune in next week for part 2
Last Wednesday evening was an atypical night for me. There was pizza, which is always a plus. But then about a half dozen big burly men with a bunch of tools showed up, pulling trailers with–get this–built-in furnaces! The docs called them Farriers. Turns out all you have to do is let them know there will be pizza, and they will come from far and wide. Beth brought in her horse, Princess Chubby Butt, to be the test subject. The docs learned how the farriers approach a problem foot, and the farriers learned why things are not always as they seem on X-rays. It was a great learning experience for everyone…OK, I’ll admit even I learned a thing or two.
It turns out if you ask 6 different farriers the same question, you get 6 different answers. In fact, it is widely accepted that if you ask 20 different farriers the same question, you will get 20 different answers. Luckily, we have a bunch of great farriers in our area, and although they may have different opinions about the right way to approach a problem, none of them are wrong. If your horse was experiencing a foot lameness, it used to be commonplace for your vet to blame your farrier, and for your farrier to blame your vet. But here at Springhill Equine we are trying to change that!
We see the vet, farrier, and horse owner as a team, and we try to come up with a solution by putting our heads together. Whether the problem is laminitis, club foot, navicular disease, arthritis, thrush, etc… you need a vet and farrier working together to get the foot going in the right direction. Farriers are often grateful to see what’s going on inside the foot with the aid of X-rays, and I know the docs are grateful to have somebody else in charge of hammering nails into the horse’s foot!
All in all, our first vet/farrier team building/brainstorming meeting (event name pending) was a huge success, and we hope to have more in the future. Oh, and Princess Chubby Butt is loving her fancy new shoes! If you are ever looking for a farrier, there is a long list of names in the desk that I like to sleep on, and we would be happy to find one to meet your horses’ needs.
Until next week,
Quick shout out to all the UF Vet students, our Docs, and our amazing Clinic staff for an awesome Castration Clinic 2016. The world got nine new geldings on Saturday, and a whole bunch of vet students learned how to make more geldings. Of course, the highlight of everyone’s day was getting to see me. I supervised the entire event very closely, especially lunch. Now on to the rest of this week’s peek into my life.
You already heard about all the colics Dr. Lacher saw over Thanksgiving. Now you will get to hear about the lacerations. As far as I can tell, horses like to seek out any and all sharp things to cut themselves on. Sometimes they do such a good job the humans are left scratching their heads trying to determine what exactly the horse cut themselves on this time. Dr. Lacher’s Thanksgiving weekend consisted of an eyelid laceration split on the hook of a feed bucket, an ankle laceration done on a fence, and a shoulder laceration cut on who knows what (the horse wouldn’t tell).
Everyone who sees a cut of any size is certain there will be stitches. Well this wise cat is here to tell you not all wounds can be sutured, some shouldn’t be sutured, and some get stitches even when the Docs know they won’t stay in very long! In the case of Thanksgiving weekend it was stitches for the eyelid laceration, no stitches for the ankle, and stitches that were going to pull apart on the shoulder. The eye is obvious: there was a cut and stitches were placed. The wound will heal and all will be right with the world. The ankle was a little different. First, the skin was basically shaved off. It was super thin! Using a needle through the skin would have caused it to tear. Instead Dr. Lacher just cut it off. After she cut it off, she bandaged it with some Sox for Horses material. If you don’t know about Sox for Horses, I’m going to assume you have been hiding under some sort of rock or (and this better not be the case) you don’t read my blog very often. Use the Google thingy or ask one of my minions to tell you about Coby. Last, but not least, the shoulder cut. Dr. Lacher stitched the skin flap across but warned the owners it probably wouldn’t stay longer than about five days. So why did she suture it anyway? She’s a pretty smart cookie so I’m guessing she had a good reason….Turns out those skin flaps help the wound heal. For every day the skin flap is across the wound you gain 5 healing days. This means even if the skin flap stays for 3 days, you’ve shortened healing by 2 weeks! See I told you she was smart.
The wounds are now stitched or not stitched. What comes next? This is where it gets difficult for you humans. Do Less Stuff. That’s right, adopt the strategy of cats the world over: watch the world go by and do very little about it. As I was looking through a catalog Stephanie had open on the desk recently I noticed no less than 4,386 wound lotions, potions, and creams. Do you know how many our Docs use? Four, and mostly just two of those. What do they use a whole lot of? Water from a hose.
Wound care is simple. Keep the wound clean and moist, and sometimes because horses like to get a little too excited about healing, beat back the granulation tissue, also known as proud flesh. That’s it. Keep it clean with water, lots and lots of water. Then apply triple antibiotic or Vaseline to the wound to keep it moist. These products do double duty since they protect the wound itself from dirt while keeping it moist. If the Docs see a particularly nasty wound, they will recommend silver sulfadiazine (SSD). SSD has really strong nasty stuff killing properties, while being super gentle on wounds. And finally, proud flesh is put in its place by hydrocortisone. So all told we just spent about $20 on wound care stuff. No pretty blue bottles with very dilute bleach. Yes, that really all that’s in those pretty blue bottles. No expensive state of the art wound gel. Vaseline and water will cure most of what your horse has done to himself.
Sometimes, particularly if a wound is on the legs, our Docs recommend bandaging. Sure the leg will do great with just a water and Vaseline but the dreaded proud flesh likes to become a problem below the hock and knees. Three words: Sox For Horses. Once again use the Google thing or talk with my minions and they will get you hooked up. These are absolutely the cat’s meow when it comes to bandages. Also they are easy, relatively cheap, and reusable. From my limited experience, these three things never go together with horses.
Signing off this week with a reminder to sign up for our 2017 Wellness Plan by January 1st. One colic owner and one laceration owner over Thanksgiving weekend saved $100 each on their unplanned Dr. Lacher visit. How you ask? Our Wellness Plans include NO emergency fees. You are as crazy as the Labrador from down the street if you don’t sign up.
While clicking through the internet over this long holiday weekend I came upon this picture of yours truly:
It got me thinking about boots. I make these boots look darn good. This got myself, Teannie, and our weekend guest, a charming horse name Goose, talking about boots in general. We marveled at all the colors, textures, patterns, and types of boots that humans have for their feet. Teannie and I remarked that as the perfect creatures we are, we never have to wear such things. OK, so that one time I had to wear a cast for a long time after Teannie broke my foot when I made, what she considers a disparaging, remark about her ears, but other than that, no foot wear. Goose informed us we just didn’t know all the fun we were missing. He gets to wear boots all the time when he works, and he finds them stylish and comfortable. I wasn’t going to be the one to tell him we don’t work. However, Goose’s statement did make me head off for some research about boots and horses.
My first question to you humans is REALLY??!!??!? Do you really need all of the 8,482 different types of boots I found? There are open front boots, support boots, cross country, splint, ankle, bell, and galloping just to name a few. And the colors and patterns. Don’t get me started on all that. Let’s just say I am never wearing anything in tie dye. Especially not on my feet. Looking in to the why so many freakin’ kinds of boots did inform me that many different kinds are needed for all the crazy things you guys do with horses. Lots of people like the all around support kind. If you jump over things, you like the kind open in front. If your horse hits his ankles you like the ankle kind. You get the gist. Anyway I will give you all the different kinds.
My next question was can they seriously do all the things they say they can? Here’s where life gets a little fuzzy. Let’s start with support. When it comes to the equine limb that is a tricky statement at best. Support what? If you support the fetlock, then more concussion goes up the limb and that can be damaging to the shoulder. With all the weight horses bring to the game, it turns out “support” can’t be done without compromising range of motion, which means no more daring moves of athletic prowess. So how about concussion? This one does turn out to have some validity. When you ask horses to turn quickly around trash cans, jump over sticks, and prance sideways they have a tendency to tangle up those long legs at some point in the process. Those tangles can have some serious forces behind them. A good boot will absorb some of the concussion and prevent lacerations from hooves.
Goose pointed out that sometimes his legs get hot in those boots. Seems reasonable in this ridiculous Florida weather; also important for the health of your horse’s tendons and ligaments. Tendons and ligaments can take normal heat but researchers have found temperatures of up to 145F following exercise! Newer boot manufacturing techniques are looking at the heat build-up problem and working on solutions. I would certainly put boots on just before exercise and take them off just after work to keep those legs happy.
In case you need a good reason to make your horse wear boots, watch this video at around 18 minutes in. Words of warning it is a bit graphic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsvS6gEBJuE
And on that note, I’m off to ponder my new line of feline footwear.
Ah May…It’s hot and dry, then we get rain, then it’s beautiful out but dry. Last year was weird with all the rain. This year seems more like the days I remember as a young kitten. Turns out this weather is fantastic for making hoof abscesses. And while those are fun for the Docs (they have an unnatural love for pus), they are no fun for you or your horse.
I realize I talk about the stupid design of horses a lot, and here I go again. That hard hoof wall is great for walking on but it makes it extremely painful if there is any swelling of the soft tissues inside. Hoof abscesses form when a tiny bit of bacteria get between the hoof wall and those soft tissues. The body reacts to the bacteria by sending white blood cells to kill the bacteria, and, Voila!, pus. The white blood cells also release some chemicals which cause swelling and pain all on their own. All that extra stuff stuck underneath the hoof wall hurts worse than whacking your thumb with a hammer. I do love when humans do that. I laugh every time.
Abscesses usually make their presence very well known. Much like when I sleep on the computer keyboard, you can’t help but notice your horse is not right. It may start as a limp on one leg, however, they always progress to “Holy Cow I can’t stand on my foot!” Once they reach the Holy Cow stage they are ready to be opened. You can get them to this stage faster by soaking the foot daily in warm Epsom salts for 5-10 minutes. This often goes about as well as bathing a cat so may I suggest the baby diaper method. Take one baby diaper (Newborn – size 3 depending on the size of your horses hoof), place a small amount of Epsom salts in the baby butt area, add enough water to make it pasty, place diaper on foot, securing convenient tabs around the pastern while you grab duct tape, run duct tape across the bottom and around the hoof to secure the diaper. Change this daily.
Our Docs can help the whole abscess process get done and over quicker. The closer your horse is to the Holy Cow it hurts stage the more likely they are to open the abscess. Dr. Lacher or Dr. Vurgason will start by cleaning the bottom of the hoof, then applying hoof testers. Hoof testers are these incredibly barbaric pinchy things that help the Docs find the sorest spot on the hoof. Once they find it they will use a hoof knife to pare the hoof away and open up the affected area. They will dig a bit but don’t be surprised if they stop before they open up the abscess. This can be tricky thing. If you dig too deep you can create more problems so the Docs tend to be very conservative. Like I said earlier, they do love to pop an abscess so rest assured they are going to try as hard as they can to get it opened.
The good news with abscesses is that, almost always, once they are opened and drained your horse will return to happy and comfortable. And now back to napping in the sun in the handicapped parking spot. Pretty sure they put that there for me.
This past weekend was my opportunity to thank a select group of my fans: Our Wellness Plan Participants. Every year, on the first Saturday in May, we gather around a shrine called a TV to watch some horses run around in a large circle to the left. There is much fanfare, wearing of some very strange hats, good food, good times, and adoration of Tony. After all the partying died down, I hit the computer on our new faster internet connection and researched this crazy thing called Thoroughbred racing.
As someone who is not very fond of exercise, I found this running thing a bit much. When I found out these horses are only three years old, I thought that seemed like a bad plan. Then a rare thing happened: I was wrong. It doesn’t happen often in the cat world, but if you felt a shudder of the earth, or a sudden chill on Saturday evening around 10pm, that was a cat being wrong. I found numerous well-designed research papers on the influence of early exercise in thoroughbred racehorses. Training as a two year old was directly correlated with a longer career as a racehorse. The horses didn’t necessarily have to race, just being in race training was enough to cause a positive effect. Based on my research, this effect is due to remodeling of lots of structures in the leg due to exercise. The cannon bone, tendons, and ligaments were all found to be stronger when exercise was started at 2 years as opposed to 3 years. In fact, there are studies which show that exercise started as early as 21 days of age didn’t cause developmental issues. I will say that these horses were exercised under very exacting schedules designed to allow the tendons, ligaments, and bone to adapt. Another aspect I found interesting was that the comparison group of foals were allowed free range pasture access. This wasn’t standing in a stall compared to exercising. This was turnout compared to exercising. Made this cat think….
While researching the young horse exercise thing, I found a lot of discussions about racehorses breaking those ridiculously-designed legs they run on. I mean, who designed the “run fast on four sticks” system? Just by its very nature it is bound to break sometimes. I did find out that there are some very interesting reasons racehorses break their legs the way they do and learned about research by veterinarians to try to prevent these fractures. One of the biggest issues trainers, riders, and veterinarians face is the horse’s love of the job. Unlike cats, especially black ones named Tony, horses love to run and do a very bad job recognizing pain when running around a racetrack with eight to ten friends. This means that if the leg starts to fail while the horse is running they are unlikely to demonstrate a lameness or give the jockey any indication of a problem until the leg actually fails. So, veterinarians are working to use standing MRI, CT scans, bone density scanning, x-rays to assess joint geometry, and ultrasound to try to identify early changes in bone and tendon that indicate a problem is coming. There are also programs in many States that perform in-depth post mortem exams on any horse who suffers from one of these serious injuries. As a difficult-to-impress cat, I was impressed by the level of dedication the racing industry has to keeping the horses safe!
Coolest fact I learned while playing on the internet: During each stride a racehorse takes the heart beats once and they take one breath. Here’s how it goes down: front leg of the lead they are on hits the ground, intestines push forward on the diaphragm, this pressure collapses the lungs causing a breath out, and compresses the heart. As the weight is transferred back to the hind end, the intestines slide back, opening the lungs, and allowing the heart to expand and fill with blood. How amazing is that?!?!!?
It may be difficult to admit but I have a little more respect for the athleticism of horses. I have lost a bit of respect for my staff around here after all those funny hats, but since they provide food I will keep them around. Until next week, may your litter box be clean and your food bowl overflowing.