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