Untreated Asthma

Untreated Asthma

Tuesdays with Tony

In preparation for my upcoming seminar this month, lets discuss asthma. Not only is asthma extremely frustrating, it can actually lead to life threatening situations for your horse. You all have read my previous blogs and watched my docs’ seminars about asthma and allergies. I know you are already familiar with the ins and outs of the causes, symptoms and treatments for asthma. So, let’s focus today on what can happen if symptoms are left untreated.

Asthma

Asthma, or heaves, is a disease that typically affects middle-aged to older horses, but it does not discriminate and can affect young horses as well. Asthma is an all-encompassing term that actually refers to disease processes such as heaves and inflammatory airway disease. For the sake of today’s topic, we will use the umbrella term Asthma and all that it means. As a refresher, asthma is inflammation of your horse’s airways that can lead to cough, nasal discharge, labored breathing, and exercise intolerance. Asthma can be caused by a number of different factors like dust, mold, pollen, and heat and humidity. Horses in Florida are very often affected by asthma in the summer months when it’s hot, sticky and steamy out. That doesn’t mean that horses won’t develop asthma in the colder months. As you all know, horses do whatever they want, whenever they want, and however they want. Inconsiderate creatures, if you ask me.

Treatment

Treatment for asthma can be as simple as antihistamines or as complicated at hospitalization with oxygen supplementation. The key to treating asthma is to catch the signs early, have your veterinarian examine your horse and start treatment as soon as possible. More often than not, asthma becomes a chronic condition that requires lifelong treatment when symptoms arise. Environmental management is also key to keeping symptoms under control. Where my docs often run into trouble with treating asthmatic patients is when the symptoms have been left untreated for a long time or when acute, severe flare-ups occur.  When asthma symptoms are left untreated, horses can end up in respiratory distress. From what I have heard this is very scary for owners. The sounds their horses are making have been described as anything from a lion growl to a dinosaur roar. Horses often seem to be out of sorts and may appear to be neurologic since they can’t get enough oxygen. Similarly, horses may show signs of colic resulting from pain induced from abdominal musculature contraction. They may go off feed, and signs of choke have also been reported.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Once a horse is in respiratory distress resulting from asthma, treatment becomes increasingly complicated and is more time consuming that primary treatment for asthma. My docs may have to reach for what they call ‘rescue medications’ including Ventipulmin, Butorphanol and Buscopan which are all aimed at opening your horse’s airways and reducing inflammation. The really fun part about these treatments is, Ventipulmin is on indefinite backorder, so your veterinarian may not even be able to supply your horse with this medication. They may also decide to treat your horse with a very high dose of steroid to reduce inflammation in the airways or start your horse on anti-histamines to combat the allergic component of asthma. So now we are up to 5 medications that your horse is receiving to help regulate his breathing.

The Next Level

If these treatments do not relieve your horse, further steps to get him out of respiratory distress include treatments with an inhaler or nebulizer. An inhaler for your horse delivers a unique steroid directly to his airway. Nebulizers allow horses to inhale medications directly to their airways, including anti-inflammatory medications, bronchodilators and antibiotics. I don’t know about you, but all I can see right now is dollar signs. It seems like all these treatments could really add up quickly. Unfortunately, treatment may not end here. What if your horse does not respond? Then what do you do?

The next step is hospitalization. Hospitalization which will likely include oxygen supplementation and frequent nebulizer treatments. If your horse is unresponsive to treatments on the farm and requires hospitalization, the reality of the situation is, your horse is very sick and may not recover. Sadly, horses that do not respond to the rescue medications often can’t survive the stress of a trailer ride to the hospital, and euthanasia becomes the most humane option.

Risk vs. Reward

These treatments are not without risk. High dose systemic steroids increase your horse’s risk of developing laminitis. Frequent doses of Ventipulmin may decrease your horse’s response to the medication and decrease its efficacy. Nebulizers and inhalers lower the risk of systemic medications, but they are expensive, and medications for them are not always readily available. 

The take home message I want you all to get from this is to call your veterinarian at the first sign of asthma. At that first cough, or any change in your horse’s normal attitude towards work, call your veterinarian. You’ll thank me later, I promise. Treatment of early onset asthma is significantly easier and may just involve environmental changes and anti-histamines. At times, my docs will turn to systemic steroids as treatment, but when treatment is started early they are often able to get your horse on a lower dose which reduces the risks. Alternatively, there are some holistic options that can help your horse when asthma has been detected early including acupuncture treatments along with Chinese herbal therapy. With early treatment it is possible to control asthma symptoms and still be able to enjoy riding and/or competing on your horse. A horse who has developed respiratory distress may never be able to work again as their lung capacity may be comprised due to scar tissue formation. So trust this old cat and call your veterinarian early before a little cough turns into a career ending, life-threatening situation.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Don’t forget to tune in to my Facebook for details on the seminar on September 16th on Asthma and Allergies.

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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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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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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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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