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.
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,
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!