Why do horses get stomach ulcers?
No one, not even the omniscient Tony, knows quite what causes ulcers to develop in one horse compared to another. But, with a quick glimpse of their brilliant anatomy *sarcasm* you can understand why horses are so prone to this painful condition, also called EGUS (Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome). You see, horses, like most other animals, use acid to help digest the food in their stomachs. Logically, most of their stomach is coated with an acid-resistant lining. However, the top 1/3 of their stomach lining is uncoated, and when acid splashes on it, *surprise* they get ulcers.
When should I treat my horse for ulcers?
Some signs of stomach ulcers in horses are obvious, while others are more subtle. When Dr. V’s horse bucked her off because she tightened his girth… that was a pretty obvious sign. But as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you can anticipate stress-inducing events for your horse, it is much easier and less expensive to prevent your horse from developing ulcers in the first place, than to treat them once they are already established.
For example, Dr. Lacher’s horse just underwent major surgery, and will be on stall rest for an extended period of time. Dr. Lacher has her horse on Gastrotech and Ranitidine to protect him from developing ulcers. Our amazing office assistant, Mallie, has a mare who just weaned a foal and moved to a new farm. Mallie has her on Ulcergard to prevent stress-induced ulcers.
We know that exercise, illness or injury, hauling anywhere, and change in routine are all events that have been linked to ulcers in horses. In general, it is best to treat your horse for ulcers BEFORE you think he has them.
What should I treat my horse’s ulcers with?
You have probably heard of Gastrogard and Ulcergard (which incidentally are exactly the same product, just marketed differently), but there are a myriad of other ulcer treatments out there. One of the most promising areas of recent ulcer research is in feed and supplements that prevent ulcers by raising stomach pH. Legends Gastrotech and Purina Outlast would be examples of these. Remember from high school chemistry, low pH=acid, high pH=base. In lay-cat’s terms, that means any feed, supplement, or medication that raises stomach pH is going to inhibit ulcers.
How can I learn more about ulcers in horses?
I’m so glad you asked! Simply come to my event this Thursday, Sept. 7th at 6:30 pm; don’t forget it’s at Canterbury Showplace. I can personally guarantee that every question about equine gastric ulcers will be answered in great detail. I wish I could say I will see you there, but I’ll be stuck holding down the fort at the Clinic with Teanie. Now then, if you’ll excuse me, it’s nap time.
Earlier this year, you all got to see picture after picture of cute baby horses. Around now, the first of those adorable foals is coming due for their first vaccines. And that’s where the fun begins! A 3-9 month foal is a whole lot like a 10 year old kid. Still pretty cute, but beginning to assert their opinions on the world.
Foals and Germs
When your foal was born, my Docs came out to do a Well Baby check in the first 24 hours. Part of that check was a blood draw to test for something called IgG. This test told them if they got enough of that very important first milk, or colostrum, to provide them with germ-fighting immunity. That IgG works for about 4-5 months, at which time those foals need vaccines to prepare them to fight the bugs of the world on their own.
Encephalitis vaccines are INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT at this age! Be a smart human, and get those foals vaccinated! We see West Nile and Eastern Encephalitis every month of the year in Florida. Un-vaccinated foals (and yearlings) are the most vulnerable to these deadly viruses. Beginning at 5 months of age if mom was well-vaccinated, or 3-4 months if she wasn’t, foals get a two to three shot series of the encephalitis vaccines. If your mom wasn’t well-vaccinated, you get an extra booster in there. Along with the encephalitis vaccines, foals also get rhinopneumonitis, influenza, and rabies. For a whole lot of very complicated reasons, the 3-9 month age is the most important time to vaccinate for rhinopneumonitis.
Foals and Worms
Worms love foals more than encephalitis. The good news is this is a relatively easy problem to solve. Foals get all the same worms as adults, along with a special young horse bonus one called an ascarid. Ascarids are the grossest, nastiest worms you’ve ever seen. I included a picture just because I can, and they’re pretty gross. Ascarids also think Ivermectin is candy. So here’s our recommended foal deworming schedule for your convenience:
- 90 days old- use pyrantel pamoate
- 5 months old- use ivermectin
- 7 months old- use fenbendazole or oxibendazole
- 9 months old-use ivermectin
- 11 months old-use pyrantel pamoate
- 13 months old- use ivermectin
- 15 months old- use fenbendazole
- 17 months old- get a fecal egg count, they’re old enough to start fighting those worms themselves
Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be not halter broke!
All that discussion about vaccines and deworming was a lengthy preamble for this section. Teach your foal how to be a good citizen starting the day after they’re born! Put a halter on, take it off, repeat about a bajillion times. Teach them how to lead. Teach them about boundaries. Just like pre-teen humans, pre-teen foals test the boundaries of what’s allowed (and your patience). Teaching them that the crazy humans are going to ask you to do some weird stuff, but are never going to hurt you, makes adulting easier.
Foals at 4-5 months of age are usually too big for my techs and Docs to hold up off the ground like they can the newborns. However, if they are halter broke, they can start to train them that while shots are a moment of needle prick, they come with scratches, a treat, and a whole lot of rewards. You see, my whole team of Springhill Equine minions, I mean staff, work hard to teach horses that visits from the veterinarian are fun. They start that process from the very beginning. Having a halter broke baby makes it easy-peazy. Having to start by introducing the 500 pound foal to a halter does not make it easy!
With a little help, we can all make those tough pre-teen months a little easier. Now the teenage years….That’s an exercise in patience, just like it is with the humans. Until next week, may your litter box be clean and your food bowl full!
Is this an emergency?
Does this need stitches?
I recently spoke about teeth and dentals, but I’m going to do it again. This time I’m going to talk about myths and legends surrounding horse teeth. There’s a saying I hear around here quite often: No Hoof, No Horse. I have a second version: No Tooth, Expensive Feed Bill. Read on to learn about how to avoid the expensive feed bill. After you finish reading, call, email, or message the Clinic to set up a dental float during the month of July and enjoy a $35 discount!
1.Young horses don’t need dentals
Very, very, very not true. Horses under the age of five years have a ton of stuff going on in their mouths. They have baby teeth leaving and adult teeth growing in. Major changes happen about every 6 months. On top of that, baby teeth and young adult teeth are very soft. This makes them form super-sharp points ridiculously fast. In addition, all those changes need to be monitored. If a tooth erupts not quite correctly, it can be corrected now, and you can avoid a lifetime of dental corrections.
2. Miniature horses don’t need dentals
If ever there was a snaggle-toothed bunch of horses, it’s miniatures. They try to fit the same number of teeth in their mouth as a full-size horse. Sometimes it goes very badly. Minis also like to get what are called supernumerary teeth. These are extra teeth that form for no good reason and cause mass chaos in a mouth. The earlier they are identified, and removed, the better the rest of the teeth will do.
3. Power tools are bad
I covered this one last time, but I’m going to do it again, since I hear this myth the most. Power tools aren’t bad. They let my Docs do the same job on the first horse of the day, and the 10th horse of the day. Power tools get the job done faster, with less stress on your horse, and my Docs. Know what makes power tools bad? People who don’t know how to use them. That’s not my Docs. They go to continuing education every year to stay up to date on the latest research. They also participate in veterinary online forums discussing dentistry for horses. If you have ever used a drill or power saw, then you understand the benefits of power tools. Hand drilling and sawing takes a long, long time, and you’re exhausted after one hole, or board.
4.You can perform a dental float without sedation
Alright, I’ve seen this one a few times. One of these people is even a veterinarian, I’m ashamed to say. Let me nip this in the bud right here and now. Sedation, a full mouth speculum, and a bright light are required to see ALL of your horse’s mouth. Anything less is bad medicine. That mouth goes way back there! There is simply no way to fully evaluate a mouth with anything less!
5. Old horses don’t need dentals
I will give you that some horses, during some periods of their lives, can go two years between dentals. These are horses between 10 and 15 years, who are working as lawn mowers or being lightly ridden periodically, and have a history of dental evaluations which demonstrated good teeth. No matter the age, if your horse is being regularly ridden, it should have a dental float yearly. There may not be much to correct, but that little bit is just as annoying to your horse as that little pebble in your shoe. After about 15 years of age, yearly dental evaluations are needed to check for old teeth. Horses start to wear out their teeth sometime between 15 and 25. The range is that big because a lot of factors are involved in the wearing out of something as significant as a horse tooth. Worn out teeth cause significant pain! Can you imagine chewing on celery with a painful tooth? Yeah, me either. Don’t make your horse chew hay with one.
Keep the pearly whites pearly and white! Schedule your dental evaluation and float In-Clinic during July and get $35 off!! Seriously, that’s a deal! Be sure to bring tuna fish for me, and I will grace you with my presence. I expect scratches under the chin, behind my ears, and along my back.
I realize I may sound like a broken record this time of year, but sometimes you humans don’t listen so well. Cats listen to everything. We might ignore you, but we do hear you. ‘Tis the season for me to chat with you about hurricane preparedness.
The Bare Necessities
As I sit here watching it torrentially rain, I remember back to last year when Hermine made the power go out for three days. I learned humans require a substance called coffee, which requires electricity, and horses drink A LOT of water, which requires a pump, which requires electricity! Electricity has a nasty tendency to go away during hurricanes.
Take a look around your farm and decide who needs what to tough it out for 5-7 days. For the animals, that is feed, hay, and water. For the humans, that’s coffee, water, and food that doesn’t need refrigeration. Can you provide these things without electricity?
Anticipate 15 gallons of water per horse per day, along with 1 gallon per human per day, and another ¾ per dog and cat per day. This water can be stored in large trash cans (clean ones, obviously!), or those big water troughs. Water can be purified with 6 drops of bleach per gallon if necessary. Be sure any feed and hay you’ve stocked up on is way, way above what you could possibly in your wildest dreams consider a high water level. Ask the nice people in St. Augustine how high water can get without the hurricane even making landfall!
Now is the time to examine your fences, property, and barn for anything that can become debris during hurricanes. High winds, during even afternoon thunderstorms, can pick up old boards, sheets of roofing tin, or even fencing wire and send it flying around your farm. Horses seem to have a special magnetism for injuries from these scenarios. Keeping these “junk piles” every human seems to have securely covered or tied down is key to an injury-free hurricane experience.
Eyeball your farm for other hazards that may occur. A biggie is downed power lines. Figure out where you can safely put your animals so that even if lines come down, they won’t be able to go near them. Approach deep water areas the same way.
Speaking of keeping your animals safe during storms, we recommend big stuff like horses and cows stay outside during bad storms if at all possible. This gives them the best opportunity to move away from flying debris, downed trees, and other fun hurricane happenings. We recommend small critters, like dogs and cats, stay inside to prevent them from doing the full-on freakout and running away.
Find your way home
Microchips. Best way for your horse, or dog, or cat, or grandparent (ok just kidding on that one, sort of) to find their way home is with a properly registered microchip. Microchips are easy to place, simple to register, and provide 24/7 lifetime identification for your horse.
For the humans though, have a family plan for how you will meet up if a storm prevents you from returning home. Pick a point person, whom everyone knows, that lives outside of the potential disaster area. Let’s be real here: for hurricanes, that means someone outside of Florida. This is a person any family member can contact to check-in. Having a far away point person can be a lifesaver (literally) in these situations.
There are tons of resources out there about hurricane preparedness and farms. Go find them, read them, and form a plan. Don’t be the cat left out in the rain: Be prepared for hurricane season!!
Is your older horse taking longer to shed out than usual this spring? Is it getting harder to keep weight on the old man? Has your retiree had more than one hoof abscess in the last year? If so, you may be dealing with PPID, better known as Cushing’s Disease. Read on to learn more about PPID from this wise old cat!
What is PPID?
PPID stands for Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, which is the technical term for Cushing’s disease in horses. In the most basic sense, PPID is a brain tumor. The brain actually has a very intricate system of glands that produce hormones which stimulate additional glands to produce other hormones that control functions elsewhere in the body. When one of these glands (the Pituitary) in the horse’s brain goes AWOL, you have Cushing’s disease.
The tumor growing on the pituitary gland is called an adenoma. This tumor applies pressure to the gland as it grows, causing over-production of its hormones (namely, adrenocorticotropic hormone, or ACTH). The clinical signs of Cushing’s disease in horses are all a result of too much ACTH in circulation. Time for a nap break…all of these letters are giving this cat a headache!
What are the signs of PPID?
Cushing’s disease can lead to a bunch of problems. For one, overproduction of ACTH can confound the whole winter-coat-growing system, so your horse winds up with long, curly hair in the hottest summer months. Failure to shed out completely or in a timely manner is the most well-known sign of Cushing’s disease. However, now that we know early treatment seems to slow the progression of the disease, our efforts are aimed at diagnosing the disease earlier, using more subtle signs.
In the early stages of the disease, PPID can cause lethargy, muscle wasting, regional fat deposits, recurrent infections, increased water consumption, and increased urination. The most worrisome side effect of Cushing’s disease is chronic laminitis. There is no known cure for laminitis, and it can even be life-threatening in horses with PPID. And that’s bad, because horses have 8 fewer lives than us cats.
How do I know if my horse has PPID?
Since the early signs of the disease can be subtle, our docs recommend annual testing for Cushing’s disease on any horse over 10 years of age. First the docs will draw blood, then it goes on a trip to Cornell University where they test the ACTH levels. Then, the doctors will compare your horse’s ACTH levels to the normal range for a horse during that time of year.
Considering your horse’s test results and clinical signs, your vet may recommend daily medication to treat PPID. Luckily, the folks at Boehringer Ingelheim have come up with a great medicine called Prascend that is easy to give, and works really well too! Just one tablet a day mixed in with grain is a sufficient dose for most horses. I’ve heard it tastes better than the cheese-flavored medicine the humans squirt in my mouth every day.
Conveniently, I have an event coming up here next week at Springhill Equine on Wednesday April 19th at 6:30pm, where you can learn all you ever wanted to know about PPID and other senior horse problems! Some of my favorite people from Boehringer Ingelheim will be there to answer any questions you may have, and best of all there will be food! Oh, and a chance to win a free ACTH test for your horse. You may think that is even better than food, but that’s where we will have to agree to disagree………
See you there!