The Basics of Horse Health

The Basics of Horse Health

Tuesdays with Tony

It’s January, which means two things: it’s cold, which I hate, and Springhill Equine Wellness Program sign-ups, which I love, are in full swing. Let’s talk about the cold first. I have asked my humans repeatedly to make the temperature outside more to my liking. Their only offer to solve this problem is a horrible plaid jacket they attempt to make me wear. This is a completely unacceptable solution. Thus I sit at the front door and demand the repeated opening and closing of the door so that I may move inside or out depending on my minute-by-minute temperature desires. I feel it’s a solid plan. The humans seem to object, but I ignore them. On to the thing you probably care more about: the Wellness Program, in other words, your horse’s basic healthcare needs. What are they, and why do my Docs do what they do?

The Exam

Every horse should get a good basic exam every time they get a vaccine. This isn’t a fancy exam. It’s a heart, lungs, gut sounds, my Doc looking your horse over exam. It’s tempting to wonder what the heck they’re doing during this quick exam, and how much information they can gather. The answer is a lot. Giving a highly trained professional 5 minutes to look over your horse, take a listen, and talk to you about what you and your horse are up to will get you more information than all the hours you can put in with The Google Machine. 

During that time my Docs are assessing your horse’s heart rate and beat. Is it regular? Is the rate appropriate for the fitness level your horse should be at? They are listening for early signs of asthma, a ridiculously common Florida horse problem. Gut sounds tell them if there is a hint of sand, or too much gas, or maybe some impending diarrhea. All the while they are looking at all your horse’s other body parts. You may not realize it because my Docs are slick like this, but they’re evaluating feet, muscles, topline, haircoat, eyes, and a million other things in that 5 minutes, all while integrating the information you’re giving them about your horse’s eating, drinking, and exercise habits. I dare you to get all that from the Faceplace!

Vaccines

Serious Tony here. Encephalitis is EVERYWHERE in Florida, and Rabies is really bad. Vaccines are important! Every single horse in the United States should have Eastern and Western Encephalitis, Tetanus, West Nile Virus, and Rabies vaccines yearly. If you live in the swampy, mosquito-infested land of Florida, the encephalitis and West Nile vaccines should be given at least every 6 months. Do you know what happens when you guys try to keep track of this yourselves? It doesn’t happen every 6 months. Often it doesn’t even happen every year. These diseases are deadly, and heartbreaking. Eastern encephalitis carries a 95% mortality rate. West Nile horses rarely return to their previous level of competition. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

If your horse is around other horses, they should also be vaccinated for rhinopneumonitis and influenza. These are the respiratory viruses of the horse world. Horses get them from other horses. That means it’s not just for show horses. If you trail ride around other horses a lot, your horse should get these vaccines. 

There are other vaccines out there, like Strangles and Potomac Horse Fever. Some horses need these. Some don’t. The best person to determine this is your veterinarian. Not a random person you met at the feed store, not your farrier, trainer, or Facebook friend. TikTok should also not be a guide here. If they aren’t a vet, they don’t decide. That’s some Tony wisdom right there.

Know how to best ensure your horse gets the vaccines they should, when they should? Sign up for Springhill Equine’s Wellness Program. So easy, even a dog can do it. Trust me. You humans can’t keep track of this without some feline help!

Coggins

I’ve got entire blogs on why one should have a Coggins test, and how it’s spread. All the info you need on this. This week I’m here to say once again: sign up for our Wellness program so you’ve got your Coggins when you need it. “Emergency” Coggins really shouldn’t be a thing. If you think you might take your horse off property, get a Coggins on them when my Docs are there doing vaccines. It makes life much easier when you suddenly decide to take Flicka for a trail ride on Saturday, but realize on Thursday evening you don’t have a Coggins.

Dentals

Big old Tony soapbox here. Dental care should be performed by your veterinarian. Just this past week we saw a horse who had their dental care performed LAST WEEK by a lay dental floater who had missed a giant tumor on the jaw. I know. I know. That’s not how my random person with an internet certificate in dentistry works. But it is how they work. Your horse’s mouth should be evaluated at least yearly by a veterinarian. That means sedation, a speculum, and a bright light. That means a veterinarian. Sedation can only be legally administered by a veterinarian. 

You can tell this is a pain point for this cat. It’s because my poor Docs have to handle the repercussions of bad dental care. Often this means a horse not eating for days to weeks after a dental float, serious health problems from bad sedation choices, and missed issues often in the back of the mouth. Not to mention, you are out money for a service that was performed badly. 

Okay, I know that was a lot, but it’s enough to get my hackles up. Also, good, consistent dental care is the single greatest thing you can do for your horse to help them have a happy, long life eating normal food. As those teeth decline, feeding becomes a huge challenge. Take care of them early and often, and you will save a ton of money on feed over the lifetime of your horse. This doesn’t even include the benefit of improved communication while you’re riding them.

Deworming

Last but not least in the basics of horse healthcare is deworming. By this I do not mean place a deworming product in your horse’s mouth every month, six weeks, at the farrier visit, based on the lunar calendar, or some other crazy horse-person archaic deworming schedule. That’s right, I’m talking about you, horse people. Proper parasite management involves knowing fecal egg counts. This allows targeted deworming of the horse’s dropping the most parasites around their world, and NO one else. 

Let me also state right here that just because one horse is high doesn’t mean all the other horses on a property are. This is so 1990’s thinking. Be hip and modern. Use fecal egg counts to guide deworming. For Florida, this means check fecal egg counts once yearly generally during what counts as our Winter, Spring, or early Summer. Only horses with high egg counts are dewormed. In the late Fall, everyone gets dewormed with an ivermectin/praziquantel product. My Docs recommend Equimax for a variety of reasons. That’s it. See, I just saved you money, time, and argument with your horse over taking their dewormer. 

Know how to get all this stuff for your horse, save time and money, and have my awesome group of humans keep track of all of it for you? Sign up for our Wellness Program. Time is running out to get in on the plans. Signing up is easy. Just go here: https://springhillequine.com/wellness-sign-up-sheet/ and do the things. Now go back to perusing the internet for the thing it does best: cat videos!

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. If you aren’t subscribed to my YouTube Channel, you are missing out on a ton of free amazing video content. New videos go up all the time, so subscribe so you see my new videos as they are released!

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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Horse Poop

Horse Poop

Tuesdays with Tony

So tell me, what’s the deal with you horse people and constantly checking out your horse’s poop? Seriously, horses should just cover that stuff up like cats do. My docs tell me that monitoring a horse’s fecal material daily is actually very important. Apparently they haven’t been telling me, but they check out mine too when they clean my litter box. Humans are so strange! Since I discovered this, I’ve learned that a horse’s poop can tell you a lot about their overall gastrointestinal health, so maybe it’s not so weird. From color to consistency to frequency, all poop matters. Here’s what I found out:

Color

When we think of horse manure we think of nice round, brown poop balls. However, as veterinarians and horse owners, we can see all different colors of manure. From the usual brown to green to red and black and everything in between it has all been seen before. But what do these colors really mean, and when is it time to be concerned? Manure reflects what has been consumed by the horse. There’s something to be said about the saying, you are what you eat. If the majority of your horse’s diet is fresh, green alfalfa, you can bet that when you see a fresh pile of manure from your horse it’s going to be green. If the majority of your horse’s diet is coastal hay you would expect to see light brown manure.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Where we start to worry is if we are seeing odd colors like red or black. Red/orange-tinged manure could be a result of the consumption of red leaves/foliage. Alternatively, it could be the result of a frank bleed in the lower part of the gastrointestinal tract. A bleed in the gastrointestinal tract can be life-threatening and requires immediate veterinary attention. It’s not uncommon to see blood in dog and cat feces, which is commonly caused by a parasitic infestation. When horses have parasites, we don’t see blood in their manure. Blood in horse manure is very concerning and should not be left unattended.

Similarly, black manure can be an indicator of a life-threatening problem for your horse. Black in manure is an indicator of digested blood meaning it has traveled from the upper gastrointestinal tract (including the stomach) through the entire GI and has been digested resulting in black, tarry fecal material called Melena. It can be an indicator of a stomach ulcer that’s actively bleeding, or ulcers in the small intestine, both of which can lead to perforation of the gastrointestinal tract and resulting in a septic, very sick horse.

Consistency

The consistency of manure can tell us a lot about their overall health. Horses should have formed, moist, shiny fecal balls that form a nice pile when passed. A very common symptom my veterinarians see is diarrhea. Diarrhea in and of itself has multiple different consistencies. There can be normal fecal balls with liquid diarrhea throughout, cow-patty diarrhea, the kind of diarrhea that splatters everywhere, and the liquid kind that paints the stall walls. Whatever kind of diarrhea a horse has, it’s not normal. It’s not always easy to pin-point the cause of the diarrhea and it can take a lot of trial and error to figure out exactly what’s causing it.

Springhill Equine Veterinary ClinicOne of the most common causes of diarrhea in horses is sand. You’re probably saying to yourself, there is no way my horse has sand, Tony, he lives on lush green pasture year-round and never has access to sand. You would be wrong. Somehow, someway, all horses find a way to consume sand. When they consume enough sand, it causes irritation of the colon as it moves which can result in diarrhea. Sand Clear is a great way to prevent the accumulation of sand, but once a horse has excessive sand in his GI tract the only way to resolve it is to pass a nasogastric tube and administer psyllium and mineral oil for three consecutive days.

Another cause of diarrhea can be bad dentition. Horses who have not had their teeth floated regularly or who have dental issues can have trouble masticating (chewing) their forage, leaving long stems to be digested. Those stems act like fingernails scraping a chalk board, causing inflammation and irritation of the GI tract resulting in diarrhea.

Horses can also develop irritable bowel syndrome. Sometimes it’s impossible to figure out what is causing diarrhea, and for that we use the term irritable bowel syndrome. Furthermore, parasitism can be a cause of diarrhea. Whatever the cause, diarrhea is not a symptom to be taken lightly and always requires the evaluation of your horse’s veterinarian. It can lead to dehydration, severe illness, colic and death. Always consult your veterinarian if your horse develops diarrhea.

You’ve read my blog so you are familiar with colic and what causes colic. But did you know that your horse’s manure can also indicate that a horse may be prone to colic? Hard, dry, small fecal balls are an indication that a horse is not drinking enough water. Recall my blog from a couple weeks ago about leading a horse to water and making it drink: here is the time where that really comes into play. Dehydration is a major component in equine colic.

When a horse doesn’t drink enough, their manure become hard and dry and it makes the likelihood of developing an impaction increase tenfold. If you notice that your horse’s fecal material seems a little more dry than usual or the balls are a little smaller than normal, that’s your first sign that you need to get more water into your horse.

Occasionally the docs will see mucus-covered fecal material. This can look like long stringy worms or even spaghetti woven in and around the fecal balls. Mucus in horse poop means that the manure has been sitting in the gastrointestinal tract for too long because there’s not enough moisture to move it through.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

You should know what normal poop looks like for your horse. Pay attention when it changes and know that any change in consistency can be an indication that your horse needs to see your veterinarian.

Frequency

As a crazy horse person, you probably know your horse’s pooping habits better than you know yourself, which means you know exactly how many piles of manure your horse usually passes in a 24-hour period. Sometimes, if a horse does not pass as much manure as usual it can be something as simple as your horse’s diet has changed and he is not eating as much as usual. Maybe he usually has a pasture block available but that has been consumed and a new one has not been set out yet. However, a decrease in manure production can also indicate that your horse has something more serious going on.

The question to answer is, is manure production decreased because feed intake is decreased or is it decreased because there is something causing the GI tract to move slower? If it’s because of a decrease in feed intake, why isn’t your horse eating as much? Or if it’s because the GI tract is moving slowly, why is that? Knowing your horse’s usual routine, their normal diet and how much they usually drink is essential to noticing if your horse has an issue. It is also essential in knowing if your horse is passing manure more frequently than usual.

You wouldn’t think that a horse passing manure more frequently than usual would indicate a problem, but it certainly can. If, for example, your horse is passing a lot of small little piles of manure, that could indicate that your horse is struggling to pass an entire pile. Frequent, loose piles of manure can indicate that your horse is developing a more serious problem such as colitis. Any change in your horse’s usual routine and manure output is cause for concern. It should be watched carefully, and it’s always a good idea to get your veterinarian involved when you notice a change.

So now you’ve learned, as I recently did, that poop can tell you a lot about your horse’s overall health. It can help you catch problems that might be brewing before they become a big issue. Keep keeping an eye on the poop, and don’t hesitate to call my docs if you have a question about it. And no, it’s not weird to have pictures of horse poop in your phone to show other people. Horse people do it all the time. Right?

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. If you want to learn more about runny poop, the humans have a podcast that covers all kinds of stuff about diarrhea that you never realized you wanted to know. You can find it over on the Podcast Page. And honestly, if you don’t listen to Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth every two weeks, you’re missing out on a TON of great horse knowledge. I’m just saying.

 

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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A Tale of Two Colics

A Tale of Two Colics

Tuesdays with Tony

This week I’m going to do a rare thing for a cat…I’m going to express approval. I’m giving a gold star to Springhill’s client, Kathy, who knows just how to handle something all horse owners will have to deal with at some point. A few weeks ago, Kathy’s horses Haley and Saratoga both had an episode of colic within a few days of each other. Don’t worry, they’re both fine now.

Both of Kathy’s horses are on the Springhill Wellness plan, so my docs know their routine healthcare is up to date, and Kathy doesn’t have to pay an extra emergency fee if she has an after-hours emergency. My docs were so impressed with how Kathy handled both colic episodes that I decided to talk about what she did right in these situations.

Haley

The first colic was Kathy’s gelding Haley. Haley, who is 17, has had several mild colic episodes over the years, despite Kathy’s good care and appropriate feeding. Because of this, Kathy has a plan in place for Haley. The morning of his colic, Kathy saw him laying down quietly and less interested in his breakfast than usual. She gave the clinic a call as soon as she noticed he was uncomfortable to discuss what she saw with my docs. She took Haley’s heart rate, which was normal at 38 beats per minute, and reported it to us. My docs talked with Kathy about the signs Haley was showing and agreed that it was a mild colic that Kathy could monitor. After checking with my docs, Kathy gave the recommended dose of banamine by mouth. She then monitored Haley carefully throughout the day. She held him off feed but encouraged him to drink water. She checked his comfort and kept a close eye on how much manure he passed and how much water he drank. She updated the clinic throughout the day on Haley’s status. If needed, we were all ready to change plans and make a visit to Kathy’s farm to treat the colic. Fortunately, Haley felt better quickly and was back to his normal self without needing any more treatment.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Saratoga

The second episode was Kathy’s 30-year-old mare Saratoga. Because of her age, and the fact that she’s never colicked before, Kathy knew that Saratoga should be examined by one of my docs. Saratoga was showing more pronounced colic signs than Haley – she was down and rolling – and Kathy called the clinic as soon as she found her. One of my docs immediately headed out to examine Saratoga. She performed an ultrasound exam and a trans-rectal palpation to determine the cause and severity of Saratoga’s colic. Saratoga had a mild large colon impaction, not uncommon in times when the weather is changing. My doc passed a nasogastric tube to re-hydrate Saratoga and administered some IV medications to help her through her discomfort. Fortunately, Saratoga’s colic was a type that could be managed on the farm and wouldn’t require hospitalization or surgery. My doc suggested that Kathy offer Saratoga a bucket of water flavored with a handful of grain to encourage her to drink and help break up the colon impaction. Kathy monitored Saratoga carefully throughout the day and hand-walked her for 5-10 minutes every hour to encourage intestinal movement. The mare stayed comfortable and regained her appetite, though she was allowed only very limited food until she started passing normal manure. Kathy was joyously mucking lots of manure out of the stall the next morning and Saratoga was back to her normal self!

What Kathy did right:

  • Called the clinic as soon as she noticed the colic
  • Gave banamine only after discussing it with her vet and being told the correct route and dose
  • Knows how to take a heart rate
  • Has her vet out when it’s recommended that a visit is necessary to provide treatment
  • Monitored her horse’s comfort, manure production, and water consumption
  • Updated the clinic on her horse’s status after the visit
  • Has her horses on the Springhill Wellness Plan so she never needs to pay an emergency fee

Are you prepared to handle this situation purrrfectly like Kathy did? If you’re not sure, give my docs a call! They are always happy to talk about measures you can take to prevent colic, and to help you deal with it if it occurs.

Until next week,

Tony

P.S. If you want to learn way more about colic than I’m willing to write down for you (cats have limited willingness to type) you have to listen to the recent podcast episode the humans did about colic. You can find it on the Podcast Page up in the menu bar, or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Trust me, it’s worth a listen.

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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How to Lead a Horse to Water (and get him to drink)

How to Lead a Horse to Water (and get him to drink)

Tuesdays with Tony

One of the best ways to keep your horse healthy is to make sure he stays hydrated. Good hydration can keep him performing well, help his organ systems function, and reduce the chance of colic. But have you noticed that self-preservation is not one of your horse’s best skills? Many of them don’t drink enough water when they’re traveling, in a new place, or when the weather changes. Not that I blame them – my fine feline tastes make me picky about flavors too.

In the summer, your horse needs to drink to replace water lost during sweating and exercise. In the winter, he is probably eating more dry food material like hay, and less moisture-rich grass. Dehydration can result, because his food is naturally drier and there is less stimulus to drink when its cooler outside. My docs have seen a lot of colics lately with the weather changing. An average sized (1000 lb) horse should drink about 5-10 gallons of water a day, so keep a close eye on how much yours is consuming. Here are some tips to encourage him to drink more, whether it’s summer or winter.

  1. Provide fresh water

Make sure your horse’s water source is always fresh and clean. Check all your water troughs, buckets, and automatic waterers daily. Replace the stale water and scrub all your water sources out regularly. Algae can grow quickly around here, and debris can fall into the containers and rot. Even worse, I’m sure you have all seen the dreaded pile of manure accidentally deposited in the water bucket – gross! Your horse is sure not going to drink that.

  1. Think about the water container

Some horses are picky about what they will drink from. Some drink better out of a trough or larger bucket. If the bucket feels too narrow to him, he may not want to put his nose in. Make sure there’s no metal hardware or handle that might be in his way. Offer him several container options to keep him drinking well. But, it’s best to get him used to drinking from more than one type of container. If he only has a trough at home and you’re away at a show where he has no choice but a water bucket, he may not drink enough.

You’ll also want to provide at least 2 sources of water for your horse, in case something happens to one of them. For example, a bucket could tip over, an automatic waterer could break, or the dreaded pile of manure in the bucket could occur.

  1. Flavor the water

Some horses can be encouraged to drink by offering flavored water. We use this strategy more for certain occasions like traveling to shows or on extra cold days, rather than on a daily basis. But when you need it, this can work great! Any time you are concerned your horse might not be drinking enough, you can give it a try.

There are a variety of flavorings that can be used. My favorite is to put 3 handfuls of whatever grain your horse loves in the bottom of a full water bucket – I call that “Sweet Tea”. Many horses love the taste of grain-flavored water and will drink the full bucket to get to the small amount of grain in the bottom. Other flavor options include Gatorade, apple juice, a little molasses, or even peppermint oil. Every horse will have different tastes, so experiment with what your horse likes. Always provide plain, unflavored water as well, in case your horse doesn’t like the flavored water. Check with my docs before doing this if your horse has any metabolic disease, insulin dysregulation, or history of laminitis and might not be able to tolerate extra sugar in his diet.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

  1. Bring water from home when traveling

Many horses get used to the flavor of their usual water at home, and don’t drink as well when the water tastes or smells different at a new place. An option is to bring water from home in a water tank or plastic containers so he can drink the same water he is familiar with. Another way is to disguise the flavor of the new water by getting your horse used to drinking water flavored with grain/apple juice/Gatorade like we just discussed in #3, and add the same flavoring to the new water. Hopefully he won’t be able to tell the difference.

  1. Position the water near the food

If your horse must leave his food to go to his water source, he may be less inclined to drink. Most horses are all about the food! Make it easy for him to take sips while he’s eating by placing his water close to where he is fed. The food going through his GI tract will have more moisture in it, reducing the chance of an impaction.

  1. Soak hay and grain

Wetting down your horse’s hay and grain can get extra water into your horse’s system. You don’t have to soak the hay for a long time before feeding it – even spraying it down just before feeding can help increase its water content. You can add a little water to your horse’s grain as well, to make it a mash or soup consistency. Bonus, this helps to decrease the chance of choke and suppresses dusty respiratory allergens too.

  1. Warm the water in colder weather

Some studies have shown that in cold weather, horses will drink more warm water than cold water. If its chilly out, or if you live somewhere that water freezes (Oh the horror!), considering offering your horse warm water.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

  1. Supplementing with salt

Adding a small amount of salt to your horse’s diet can stimulate his thirst and encourage him to drink more. Start by adding 1-2 teaspoons of table salt (sodium chloride) to his grain 1-2 times a day. If you find that his water consumption has increased and he is better hydrated, you can slowly increase the amount of salt up to a maximum of 1-2 tablespoons daily. If he isn’t drinking more than before, stop the salt and try a different method.

There are a couple of situations where salt supplementation shouldn’t be used. Don’t give salt when your horse won’t have access to water for a while, like when he is traveling a long distance. That could actually cause him to become more dehydrated if he’s not able to drink. While diseases that require sodium restriction aren’t common in horses, it’s best to check with one of my docs before adding salt to your horse’s diet, especially is he has any existing health conditions.

Give these ideas a try and find out what works best for your horse. Then comment on my facebook post to tell us what your favorite strategy is! As always, if you have any questions, my docs are happy to talk. 

Until next week,

~Tony

 P.S. Have you been to my YouTube Channel lately? There are new videos going up every couple of weeks these days, with tons of great horse stuff. I know you humans are into that sort of thing, and I don’t want you to miss out. You’re welcome.

 

 

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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Foaling Prep

Foaling Prep

Tuesdays with Tony

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend. I spent my weekend napping and recuperating from all my weekday napping. It’s a tough life, but somebody’s gotta do it. Anyway. Last week we talked about breeding your mare. This week I want to talk about the main event: foaling and foals.

Everyone loves foals! And what’s not to love? They’re absolutely adorable. Their disproportionate ears, long wobbly legs, fuzzy little tails, and tiny little feet make them almost irresistible. However, foals will break your heart in a split second. I’ve seen it firsthand. The act of foaling out is very dangerous and can be life-threatening for both the mare and foal. Luckily, most of the time foaling occurs without issue, but it’s important to be prepared for those rare times when foaling does not go as planned. 

Dystocia

Dystocia is an all-encompassing word for difficult birth. A dystocia can be life-threatening to both the mare and foal. Typically, a dystocia involves the foal being positioned inappropriately, therefore making it impossible for the mare to pass the foal through the pelvic canal. Once the mare’s water breaks the foal should be expelled within 30 minutes, 45 minutes max, before the life of the foal is at risk. If the foal is positioned incorrectly, it can put stress on the mare, leading to tearing and bleeding.

Your veterinarian will be able to assess your mare and foal to determine the severity of the dystocia. Sometimes it’s possible for your veterinarian to manipulate the foal into the correct position allowing for a normal birth to occur. However, if they can’t do that, sending the mare to a referral hospital may be necessary. When this decision is made, it’s extremely emergent and both the life of the mare and foal are in jeopardy. If you think about it, by the time the mare’s water breaks, you realized there is a problem, your veterinarian comes out, and the decision is made to refer, a big chunk of time has already passed. That’s why it’s always best to be prepared ahead of time, have a plan set up, and potentially even bring your mare to a facility to foal out where there is a veterinarian on staff should a problem arise.

Once at the referral hospital, there’s a possibility of your mare needing a cesarian section. A C-section involves general anesthesia which can be dangerous for the mare and foal. It has to be completed quickly and efficiently. Even if everything goes perfectly, it’s possible that the life of the mare or foal could be lost.  Dystocias can be very complicated and very dangerous, so be sure to talk with your veterinarian about the best plan for foaling out your mare.

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Red Bag

The term “red bag” is well-known and heard throughout barns. But do you really know what it means to have a red bag birth? I did some research and found out that a red bag occurs when there is premature separation of the outer placental membrane from uterine wall. When this happens, the intact fluid-filled chorioallantois protrudes through the vulva. The chorioallantois is red in color and is what gives the term “red bag” its name.

Again, we all know that a red bag birth is bad, but why is it bad? Well, when the outer placental membrane detaches from the uterine wall before it is supposed to, there’s a rapid decrease in oxygen being transported to the foal. Thus, the foal can suffer from lack of oxygen and could even suffocate.

When a foal does not obtain enough oxygen during the delivery process, they can be born a “dummy foal.” Dummy foals can exhibit abnormal behaviors after birth, including sleepiness, ataxia, circling, weakness, loss of a suckle reflex, and disinterest in the mare. As you can imagine a foal who is not interested in the mare and does not suckle is a foal who is in danger. Dehydration, weakness, and illness can set in very quickly.

Your veterinarian may elect to perform the Madigan Squeeze on your foal if he is showing signs of dummy foal syndrome. This squeeze resets the foal’s neurologic system and often can alleviate the symptoms associated with dummy foal syndrome. However, if the foal does not respond to the Madigan Squeeze, hospitalization and intensive care may be necessary.

The good news about a red bag is, if you recognize it early, you can reduce the risks by sharply opening the placental membrane. This will allow the allantoic fluid to be expelled and the foal will be able to breath the ambient air. That being said, it would still be in the foal’s best interest to receive supplemental oxygen post-foaling.

It is highly recommended to have your veterinarian on the way if you notice any complications during the foaling process. And as I already said, it may be in your best interests, and the best interest of your mare and foal to have your mare at a facility to foal out where there is a veterinarian available immediately.

Post-Foaling Complications

We’ve made it through the foaling without complication, so now you may be thinking, Whew, now I can finally enjoy my new bundle of joy! And you can and should, but there are post-foaling complications that you should look for.

Immediately post-foaling is the 1-2-3 Rule: your foal should stand within 1 hour, should be nursing by 2 hours, and 3 hours post foaling the mare should pass the placental in full. A foal who does not stand, will not nurse. A foal that does not nurse will become weak and dehydrated quickly. And a mare with a retained placenta can become extremely ill, become laminitic, and can end up not being able to care for their foal appropriately. If any of these milestones do not occur, you will need to call in your veterinarian for assistance.

Post-foaling complications don’t always have to be life threatening. Complications such as contracted tendons or laxed tendons occur frequently. While these complications may not be life threatening, they can be career ending before your foal’s career even begins. It can affect their conformation and put them at risk for tendon and ligament problems in the future as well as hoof problems as they develop. And we all know the saying, no hoof, no horse. If you suspect you foal has a problem with his tendons, be sure to call your veterinarian as soon as possible, as time is of the essence to get the problem corrected.

Finally, foals are extremely accident prone. They are curious and excitable, which can lead them to finding themselves in precarious positions.  Ensuring that the environment for your foal is safe is essential to avoiding accidents and injuries.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Now, buckle up, because foaling season is right around the corner! Get with your veterinarian to come up with the best plan for you and your horse and let the foaling begin!

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. If you want more foaling information, you should go over to my Podcast Page and listen to my docs talk about this stuff. They have 3 or 4 different episodes about it, and one of them is an interview with a Board-Certified Internist who deals with new foals, so she has all kinds of great info to share on the subject. Go ahead and check it out, it’s free and painless!

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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