Eating for a Summer (Horse) Body

Eating for a Summer (Horse) Body

Tuesdays with Tony

It’s hot out. I was working on my tan on the driveway at the Clinic the other day, and I could barely lay on the asphalt for 10 minutes. That made it extremely difficult to force the humans to drive around me. Overall not a great experience. It got me thinking about the conversations about eating for summer that go on around here. There are a lot of food conversations that happen at the Clinic, which obviously gets my attention. Most of the horse food conversations are along the lines of feed them less. That’s good basic advice, and we can tweak it to be even more appropriate for really hot weather.

What’s in a Feed?

Let’s start with what’s in feed. I’m going to focus on concentrates, or what you humans commonly call grain. Concentrates have protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Ideally, no matter the season, you are only feeding enough concentrate to cover the things they aren’t getting enough of from roughage. 

Ration balancers are called balancers because they balance the deficiencies of a roughage-based diet. They don’t add a lot of calories, which is great for easy keepers. But some horses need more of a concentrate, like Purina Strategy or Nutrena Safe Choice, to make up the calorie difference between what work is taking out and what they are putting in with hay. Those calories come from protein, carbohydrates, and fats. 

Each of those creates heat when the body uses them for calories. Fat creates the least heat when broken down. This means if it’s summertime and your horse runs hot, consider adjusting the diet to be higher fat (with the help of my Docs of course). Don’t go willy nilly adjusting diets without professional input. 

Vitamins and minerals are really, really important in the summertime. Know another word for some of those minerals? Electrolytes. Sweat is chock full of electrolytes, and horses sure do know how to sweat. A good concentrate provides a solid base of the electrolytes needed to perform that task. More on that in a moment. 

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Roughage

As a cat, I was not designed to be much of a hind gut fermenter. It’s one of the reasons we very rarely do that most common of horse things: fart. So banal. I can’t even imagine. Don’t even get me started on dog farts. Ugh!!! Anyway, I have gleaned a lot of roughage knowledge living in an equine (and soon to be all the animals) clinic. Roughage is incredibly important to horses. That fermenting hindgut needs it to stay happy. That being said, fermentation causes a pretty significant side effect (besides gas): heat production. 

If you’ve read my extended works, you know I talk a lot about roughage in the winter helping keep horses warm, quality roughage preventing colic, and on and on and on about roughage. I’m about to drop more roughage knowledge on you humans. In the heat of summer many horses will back off hay consumption. They’re smarter than I think! Now I’m not saying a horse can suddenly go to less than the magical 1.5% – 2% of bodyweight per day of hay. What I’m saying is they will very often drop themselves back to that minimum percent all on their own. You may notice more hay in the stall, or left in turnout. 

This is very true of hay, but does not count for grass, and that’s where they make up the difference if given a choice. Horses will increase their consumption of water-filled grass stems. Processing water helps to cool the body by keeping it well hydrated so it can sweat better. Also, fresh roughage, like grass, has less bulk than hay once it gets to the hindgut.

Many of you in my area have access to great pasture and so you may not have noticed a decrease in hay consumption. For those of you who do notice it, there are a few things you can do to help your horse continue to consume all the blessed forage without creating as much heat. First, try using short-stem forage like beet pulp or hay pellets and soaking them in water. That gets them roughage and water, double whammy! You can also try adjusting the type of hay you’re feeding. You may normally feed a lot of alfalfa, but your horse says Orchard is way better in the summer (or vice versa). Be sure the addition or change is gradual, though. No unscheduled visits with my Docs!!

Electrolytes!

Really, really, really important that your horse gets enough electrolytes in the summer! Horses sweat, and they sweat a lot. This goes along with the gas thing for me: I don’t get it. Sure, my paws may experience a bit of dampness, but I most definitely do not pour buckets of water from my skin. That sweat that’s pouring from the skin is chock full of potassium, sodium, magnesium, and in an oddity of horses, protein. If you’ve ever had a day where you just sweat buckets, then you know you simply don’t feel good when all those electrolytes are depleted. There’s a reason for that: those same electrolytes help your nerves work. 

Humans mainly lose sodium when they sweat, and so plain ol’ salt works to replace most of your losses. Horses, as aforementioned, require a few more items. Most of the commercial electrolyte brands for horses take care of these needs pretty well. If you and your horse are aiming for high level stuff, like grand prix anything or eventing at the FEI levels, then I would recommend you get an equine nutritionist involved to be sure you’ve got all you need. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

The rest of you can go with a scoop (2 ounces) of just about any electrolyte. Again, for most horses, the protein loss is covered by what’s in the concentrate they eat. It’s important to be aware of the need for protein, though, if you’re in a sweat-intensive activity. I find the protein thing kinda cool. Horse sweat contains protein because it needs to get out of the hair coat to the outside world where it can evaporate and do its job. You humans don’t have protein in your sweat because you don’t have all that much hair. Mother Nature is such a great problem solver!

Water

I don’t have much on this subject because it should be obvious. Make sure your horse has access to all the water they want. One great way to unexpectedly see my Docs during the heat of summer is to not provide a good water source. This is a great way to cause a huge impaction colic. That’s all I have to say about that.

Summer is hot. If your horse seems to be feeling it more than most, talk with my Docs. They can help you adjust things to make it all a little more bearable. 

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. The newest video is out on my YouTube Channel. It’s all about how to hold your horse for the veterinarian in various situations, and why. It’s a great way to both improve your horse knowledge and your ground skills, another double whammy! You’re welcome. Just make sure you subscribe to the Channel so you get notified when new videos come out!

 

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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Cellulitis and Legs

Cellulitis and Legs

Tuesdays with Tony

Why do horses like to do things as a crowd? As an independent-minded cat, I certainly don’t follow a crowd, but horses, they seem drawn to what others are doing. Where am I going with this, you ask? It seems that things come in groups. This week has been cellulitis week. Colic weeks are usually understandable. The weather got cold (usually the culprit), or hot (sometimes the culprit). However, the weeks of ‘everyone has cellulitis, or lacerations, or eye ulcers, or random fevers’ are less easy to explain. Since this has been the week of cellulitis, let’s talk about cellulitis.

 What is Cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that develops in the soft connective tissues beneath the horse’s skin.  It can occur anywhere on the body, but most commonly occurs on limbs and more specifically, on hind limbs. Bacteria enter through a cut or laceration on the skin and spread quickly. Bacteria are such small little critters; they can weasel their way inside through a tiny little break in the skin. It could be so small that it was never even recognized even by the most diligent of owners.  I’m sure I would notice a small cut on my skin. I do have cat eyes, after all. Lucky for you all, I perform “CAT” scans on all of your horses when they come into the clinic and alert the docs to any areas of concern to help prevent any problems for your horse in the future.  That being said, it is very easy for small cuts to go unnoticed and allow bacteria to enter and infection to spread, thus resulting in cellulitis.

 Clinical Signs

Have you ever seen an elephant’s leg? Well, I have (I mean, we’ve all seen pictures, right?), and let me tell you, elephant legs are GINORMOUS! I know what you’re thinking: Tony, why are you talking about elephants? This is supposed to be a blog about horses. Bear with me, I want you all to picture what an elephant leg looks like. It’s huge, it is relatively straight, and it doesn’t have the nice contours that horse legs have. Imagine walking out to your horse one day, and you notice one of his legs looks like an elephant leg. That’s what a horse with cellulitis looks like.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 Cellulitis is not your typical stocking up of legs. Stocking up usually occurs in at least 2 if not 4 legs, whereas cellulitis is almost always localized to one leg. Horses with cellulitis are very painful, to the point that they will not put any weight on the affected limb. The limb will be hot to the touch, and even more painful. The skin will sometimes ooze and crack from all the swelling. You may notice that your horse becomes lethargic, he may run a fever, and may even decide he doesn’t want to eat. Man, cellulitis must be a pretty bad deal if a horse doesn’t want to eat! I know I have to be all out of sorts if I am going to miss a meal. 

 Diagnosis

If you suspect your horse might have cellulitis, the first thing you’re going to do is call my docs so they can come out and assess the problem. While acute cellulitis is not life-threatening, if left untreated it can quickly become a life-threatening situation and should always be treated as an urgent matter. Diagnosis may be made on physical examination alone, however, it is important to rule out other possibilities such as fractures. My docs may recommend radiographs or ultrasound to rule out other reasons your horse may be so uncomfortable.  Similarly, they will likely want to run bloodwork to assess white blood cell count as well as other organ function to determine the severity of infection. Once all the information has been gathered, a diagnosis is made.

 Treatment

Once a diagnosis has been made, treatment can begin. Treatment is targeted at treating the infection, controlling pain, and reducing swelling. Antibiotic therapy may include intravenous and/or intramuscular injections; however, oral antibiotics are usually the first course of treatment. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as bute or banamine are used to help control pain and reduce inflammation. I’ve said it before and I am going to say it again: dilution is the solution to pollution, meaning, water, lots of water. Cold hosing the affected limb is a vital part in treating cellulitis. It reduces inflammation and relieves pain. Controlled exercise, while it sounds horrible to me, is also an important aspect of treating cellulitis. My docs may also recommend bandaging this affected limb as well as the support limb to decrease swelling and increase circulation to promote healing. Occasionally, hospitalization is necessary, and surgery can be required. However, if recognized and treated early, at-home treatment for cellulitis can usually be successful.

 Complications

As with everything horse-related, cellulitis can’t just be simple and an easy fix. There are certain complications that can develop, especially if left untreated. The biggest complication (and one of major concern) is support-limb laminitis. This, as you all know, can be a big problem and can even be life-threatening. Support-limb laminitis occurs because the horse does not want to put any weight on the affected leg and is therefore bearing all his body weight on the other 3 limbs, and more specifically, a significant amount of weight is placed on the limb opposite the affected limb.

 Without being able to rest the other limbs appropriately, inflammation develops in the horse’s foot and can result in laminitis. Laminitis can lead to rotation and sinking of the coffin bone and can be extremely painful, not to mention, expensive to treat. Why horses evolved to walk around on 1 finger is beyond me and supports my belief that cats are the superior species.

 The swelling associated with cellulitis can also lead to sloughing of the skin on the affected leg. This opens up the limb to further infection, which can affect the deeper structures within the limb and require intensive, long term treatment including hospitalization, antibiotic therapy and daily bandage changes. All of this can end up being very costly for your horse. Unfortunately, these complications can occur despite everyone’s best effort to treat cellulitis quickly and effectively. 

 Prognosis

If recognized early, and treated promptly by my docs, cellulitis can resolve quickly and without complication, getting you back in the saddle in no time. However, as you can see, there are some very serious complications that can occur. Most horses can recover without secondary complications.

 It’s important to note that once one episode of cellulitis occurs, it does then make your horse more prone to cellulitis in the future. In some cases, horses will develop scar tissue in the affected limb resulting in a limb that is larger than the others. It is also possible for cellulitis to lead to lameness, which mean cellulitis can be career-ending for some horses. Strict management of horses who have had cellulitis in the past is imperative. These horses tend to do best with ample turnout, sometimes even 24/7 turnout. I sure wish my minions would allow me to have 24/7 turnout!

 Horses who have had cellulitis also benefit from a strict exercise program. Apparently, they need to move around a lot, including long warm-ups and long cool-downs. And as always, cold water therapy will help these guys in the long run. Thank goodness cats aren’t prone to cellulitis… exercise and cold water, no thank you!

 Moral of the story is, if you think your horse is developing cellulitis, call my docs immediately so they can get your horse on the right track to recovery.  Remember, it is always better to call and have my docs out for something small, before it becomes a bigger issue with further complications and a less-positive outcome. 

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Are you following my YouTube Channel? The humans are putting out all kinds of great videos, the most recent of which is about how to hold your horse for the veterinarian for various things. They’ve got all kinds of stuff over there, so make sure you subscribe and get the new video every month. You can thank me later with a nice cat treat.

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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5 Preventable Reasons for Unplanned Vet Visits

5 Preventable Reasons for Unplanned Vet Visits

Tuesdays with Tony

My Springhill docs love seeing our clients and horses. So do I, because that means more adoring fans bringing me treats and attention. Our favorite reason to see you is for routine stuff like vaccines and dentals, instead of emergencies, and I bet you would agree! Of course, Springhill is always there for you if something unexpected happens, but we are happier if things are going well for you and your horses. As for me, I’ve found that I get more treats if you lot are in a good mood. Emergency vet visits tend to bring things down a bit, so let’s talk about how you can avoid them.

It’s unfortunately pretty common for my docs to treat illnesses or injuries that could have been avoided with a little preventative action. Of course, it’s not possible to prevent every issue, because horses are ridiculously talented at self-destruction. But if you could protect your horse (and your pocketbook), wouldn’t it be worth putting in a little effort now? Here are my top 5 preventable reasons your horse might need an emergency visit, and how you can avoid them.

1. Lacerations from Unsafe Fencing

Your horse is looking around right now for something to cut himself on. I recommend doing an inspection of every space that your horse has access to at least once a month. Basically, if you wouldn’t want a two-year-old kid messing with it for safety reasons, you probably don’t want your horse messing with it either.

Things like barbed wire, old rusted-out car bodies, nails sticking out of walls, broken gates, ancient farming implements, broken buckets, and that sort of thing should be removed from the horse’s pasture, paddock, and stall. Even if the horse has been grazing around it for years without a problem, it only takes one instant in time to produce a dramatic injury. I see it all the time.

Take a good look at your fencing. If it’s barbed wire, I guarantee there will be a laceration in your future, and you should either replace your fencing now or start a savings account called Vet Bills (you should have that savings account anyway, but that’s another blog). Horses are not like cowstheir skin is not as thick, and their fight-or-flight instinct is much stronger. If a horse finds himself tangled in wire, he will immediately struggle and pull until he frees himself, even if that means leaving most of the skin from his legs behind.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Your fence doesn’t have to be anything scary like barbed wire for your horse to find ways to injure himself. Board fences look great and generally do a good job keeping horses in, but are prone to board breakages and nails backing out, leaving beautiful laceration opportunities. Walk those fence lines periodically with an eye out for not just broken boards, but also backedout nails. 

The cost of fixing broken fences or replacing barbed wire? Probably cheaper than a weekend emergency visit from your veterinarian. Especially if it happens twice. Or three times.

2. Lameness Caused by Poor Hoof Care

Laminitis, navicular syndrome, hoof abscess, tendon injury, white line disease, thrush, hoof cracks…. these are all types of lameness problems that can be caused or worsened by poor hoof care.

Your horse’s hooves should be trimmed every 4-6 weeks. Find a great farrier and stay on schedule. Letting them grow too long between trims is detrimental to the health of his feet and legs and can cause serious lameness problems. For example, a long toe and a negative palmar angle can exacerbate pain coming from the heel area, so a horse with navicular problems will be very sensitive to these measurements. 

Imbalance in a horse’s feet is one of the most common risk factors for tendon and ligament injuries. When the toes get too long, it puts excess stress on the tendons and ligaments at the back of the heel and up the leg. That can cause cumulative long-term damage as well as increase the chance of a major blow out of the tendon. It’s especially important for horses with conformational challenges to stay on top of their hoof care, since they are at increased risk for damage.

Hoof hygiene is important to prevent hoof diseases. Keep your horse’s feet picked out regularly. Stalls and paddocks should be kept picked out, so his feet aren’t constantly exposed to urine and manure that degrade hoof tissue. If the weather is wet and the field is muddy, provide a way for the feet to dry for at least part of each day. Know how to recognize thrush, white line disease, hoof cracks, and other common hoof disorders.

It’s easier to make necessary changes to maintain soundness than to reverse years of wear and tear that have already caused lameness issues. This also makes long term sense for your wallet. Preventative care is usually a lot cheaper (and more successful) than trying to fix long term problems. 

3. Some Colics

Okay, I’m not saying you can prevent every colic. There’s no way, since your horse is…a horse. But let’s work on reducing the number of them you’ll have to deal with.

Buy good quality hay. I know, I know, hay is so expensive. But so is an emergency vet visit. Poor quality hay can cause colic, especially impactions and diarrhea. It probably won’t provide the nutrients your horse needs either. Trust me, it’s not worth trying to save a few dollars.  

Make feed changes slooowly. If your horse has only been eating pasture, introduce hay very gradually. Coastal hay especially should be started slowly, since it’s known to cause a type of colic called an ileal impaction. Throwing a bunch of hay at a GI tract that’s been used to green grass is a recipe for an unscheduled vet visit. Absolutely DO NOT put a roll of coastal hay out when your horse isn’t already eating it. We would love to avoid coastal hay altogether, but it’s economical, so many people feed it. If you’re going to feed coastal, add some legume hay (that’s alfalfa or peanut) to your horse’s diet to dilute out the bad effects of the coastal. A flake a day is generally sufficient.

Keep your horse well hydrated. Especially when the weather changes, there’s a new shipment of hay, or you’re traveling with your horse. I wrote a whole other blog on it, which you can find here.

Prevent sand accumulation. The sand your horse picks up while grazing can accumulate in his colon, causing very serious colic issues. Don’t wait until he is colicky to do something about it. My blog has some suggestions for how to prevent and treat sand, which you can find here. I know, more free cat knowledge!

4. Tooth Problems

When was your horse’s last dental exam? If it wasn’t within the last year, it’s time to schedule. Don’t wait for your horse to start dropping feed and losing weight. That’s not the time to do a dental, those signs mean you already have major dental issues. Worn or uneven teeth can be prone to fracture and infection, which can turn into a complicated, expensive problem. Bad teeth can also cause riding problems like head tossing, resisting the bit, problems flexing or bending, and failing to work well, all due to pain from his teeth.

Don’t go looking for some fancy supplement for your underweight horse if you haven’t taken care of the basics first. That’s a waste of money. The average horse should have a dental exam and float once a year by a veterinarian. 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, or been improperly floated by a layperson. Start early and stay current with your horse’s dental care.

5. Preventable Chokes

“Choke is when your horse gets something stuck in his esophagus and can’t swallow it. Dental problems can cause a horse to choke if he can’t chew his food as well as he should. If he has sharp points on his teeth or other abnormalities, he won’t be able to chew easily, and may try to swallow his food before it is adequately ground up and moistened. This is even more likely with older horses who may be missing teeth. Reason number 1 million to get your horse’s teeth floated once a year by your veterinarian

Choke can be caused by hay, grain, treats like carrots and apples, or non-food objects. Certain feeds such as alfalfa cubes or beet pulp must be pre-moistened with water prior to feeding. If they are fed dry, your horse can easily choke on them. Soak alfalfa cubes and beet pulp in a bucket of water for at least 20 minutes prior to feeding. Your horse will get more hydration and be less prone to chokea win-win. Some things, such as corn on the cob, must never be fed as treats due to the risk of obstruction they present.

Some horses are feed-gulpers. They try to eat so fast that they don’t chew their feed enough before they swallow. You’ll want to find a way to slow him down to avoid a choke. Wetting down his grain or hay will make it less likely to get stuck. Putting large smooth rocks in your horse’s feed bucket will make it harder for him to grab big mouthfuls. Some horses may relax and slow down a bit if they are separated from other horses at feeding time. And remember to schedule that dental exam with your veterinarian since tooth problems are a common cause!

Trust me, it’s ALWAYS cheaper to do the preventative care and avoid the emergency visit. Don’t try to save a buck now and regret it later. Give my docs a call if you have questions about any of these things. Remember, our goal is to NOT see you for an emergency!

Until next week,

~ Tony

P.S. Have you subscribed to my blog? It’s the big purple box right down there, below this. Be a good human and scroll down a bit and subscribe. Don’t rely on Facebook to deliver my knowledge nuggets to you. They’re even less reliable than cats, and that’s saying something.                                

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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Hurricane Prep Refresher

Hurricane Prep Refresher

Tuesdays with Tony

We’re already in hurricane season, can you believe it? Somehow, it’s already six days into June. Every year I like to remind you all how to best be prepared in case a hurricane heads this way. I’ll leave the preparations for the human side of things to those experts, but let’s talk about having a plan in place for your horses and other furry creatures.

First and Foremost: Paperwork

Everyone hates paperwork, but I can’t tell you how important it is that you have your horse’s, dog’s, cat’s and other farm animals’ paperwork up to date and in a safe, easily located spot. Often, if a state of emergency is put into place, the requirements to get out of the state of Florida are lifted to allow for faster evacuation. This is all well and good because they won’t be checking for Coggins, health certificates, rabies certificates, etc.

But how do you plan to get back into the state once the SOE is lifted? Right, you’ll need all that paperwork. So, do yourself a favor now and get your horse’s Coggins up to date. It will save you a ton of money, heartache and hassle should you need them urgently. Once a Coggins test is pulled, it usually takes at least a week for us to get the results back. If you wait until it’s time to evacuate, you won’t have a current Coggins, and the lab will probably be shut down for the storm. Coggins are good for an entire year from the date they are pulled, so if you get it now, you’ll be good long past the end of hurricane season.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

It’s not just the State of Florida. Most evacuation facilities will not allow horses to stay there without a current Coggins and current vaccinations, including rabies, flu, and rhino. You’ll want your horse’s encephalitis and West Nile vaccines up to date as well, and these are not yearly vaccines, they’re every six months. With hurricanes comes rain, with rain come standing water, and with standing water comes mosquitoes. Trust this old cat, you don’t want your horse to get encephalitis or West Nile.

Now that you have all that paperwork updated, have your vet print you out a history of everything that’s been done, and put it somewhere safe and dry. It doesn’t hurt to put a copy inside your trailer, and another copy in your house or barn. Cell phones and email don’t always work during storms, so a paper copy is the way to go. Similarly, get your dogs and cats up to date on their vaccinations because shelters and boarding facilities will not take them without it.

Location, Location, Location

Speaking of shelters and boarding facilities, plan ahead. Have a shelter and boarding facility in mind and make sure they allow all the animals. Find out what kind of documentation they will need for your animals and talk to your veterinarian about the best time to get it. Many human shelters do not allow animals, so it’s essential to have a plan for where your furry friends will go if you end up having to go into a shelter. Boarding facilities fill up fast, so you’re better off reserving a space before a storm is imminent and not needing it than having nowhere to go with your fur-kids. We don’t like to think about having to leave our homes and our safe spaces, but sometimes we’re left with no choice. Having to leave is tough; having to leave without a place to go is downright scary.

Feed

Coming from a cat who is a food hound, make sure you have plenty of everyone’s food on hand. At least seven days’ worth, but honestly, with how difficult it has been to get things recently, you might want to consider having two weeks’ worth of food. Even if you’re staying home and riding it out, having extra food is a solid plan. Just ask the folks over in the Florida panhandle last year how long it took for their feed stores to open back up. Just make sure you rotate your feed and don’t keep the same bags for a long time. It definitely has a shelf life!

It can be hard to travel with a lot of hay if you don’t have a tractor-trailer and, well, a lot of hay. Still, I advise you to take all the hay you can safely carry. And ‘safely’ means that it can’t fall on your horse(s), even if you slam on the brakes, and you can keep it dry. If you have a stock trailer with open slats on the sides, make sure you tarp the hay tightly. And if your tarp was purchased in a year that starts with 19, go buy a new one, because it won’t survive the trip. Even if you don’t end up needing all that hay, someone else might, and we are all horse people. And horse cats. We look out for one another.

Water

Water, oh water. It is essential to life. I know you are thinking, but Tony, you said hurricanes bring lots of rain and water. Yes, I did say that. But that’s not water you or your animals should be drinking. Flood water is unsafe for drinking, and usually has sewage, oil, and a ton of other contaminants in it. You don’t even want your horses to stand in flood water, trust me. It’s an infection nightmare.

 So, once you know a storm is coming, fill up all your water buckets, barrels, cans, and pots. Fill up your muck tubs (after cleaning them thoroughly of course). Make sure your water troughs are full. Anything that’s clean and holds water, fill it up. Most places can’t get water without electricity, so until power is restored, you and your animals will have to rely on your water stores. You might have a generator that runs your well, but don’t rely on that 100%. Chance favors a prepared mind.

Fuel(s)

Speaking of generators, make sure you have plenty of fuel on hand. IN APPROVED SAFETY CONTAINERS!!! Don’t be one of “those” people I’ve seen filling up water jugs or laundry detergent containers with fuel. Fuel will melt through most plastics (it takes about thirty seconds for gas to eat through a milk jug). Be sure to have enough gasoline, propane, and diesel to power your generator, tractors and vehicles. You will likely need to use your hand dandy tractor to remove fallen limbs and trees once it’s safe to do so. And if evacuating is necessary, your truck will need fuel to get out of the state. You all know that when there is a hurricane a-coming, finding fuel is next to impossible locally, so have enough to get you far away from where the storm is headed. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Missile Reduction Pact

Finally, in preparation for the season, spend some time outside picking up any debris that may be laying around. Pick up tree limbs, lumber, fence posts, really anything that could become a flying object during a storm. Secure everything so that wind can’t catch it and send it Tomahawk Missile style through your pasture, barn or house. Have a debris removal company come and pick up any other unwanted stuff. It may save you or your animal’s lives. Don’t forget the jumps in your arena, or the obstacles on your course, or the barrels in your ring. Even a medium hurricane can send a two-by-four through a concrete block wall, so you don’t want anything flying around your pasture.

Hurricanes are never a fun time. You can make them less stressful by simply being prepared and having a plan. If you have questions or concerns give the clinic a call, my people are happy to talk to you about how to best be prepared in case of a storm. Don’t you worry, we will be here right along side of you riding it out and will always be available should you have an emergency. That is what we do.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. I have several other blogs on this topic. Some of them talk about whether to bring your horses in or leave them out (it’s complicated), tips for identifying your horses as your (both for insurance purposes, and in case they get lost), and a lot of other stuff. You can find them by clicking on the magnifying glass at the top and typing the word “hurricane” in the box. Or, you can listen to one of the two podcasts my humans have done on this topic over on the Podcast Page. You can also brush up on your equine first aid knowledge and bandaging skills over on my YouTube Channel. There’s a lot to think about with horses and catastrophes, so make sure you’re covering all the bases you can.

 

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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Think Like A Horse

Think Like A Horse

Tuesdays with Tony

Let’s talk about what your horse does all day while you’re at work trying to earn money to pay for feed, hay, that new saddle Flicka needs because the old one just doesn’t fit right anymore and he simply can’t be asked to canter on the right lead with old one, and the myriad other things horses love to spend your money on. Here’s what they’re doing: looking for ways to hurt themselves. I know you’ve long suspected it; I’m here to tell you it’s true. That’s what they do all day. And this wise cat has some advice to thwart your horse’s thoughts of lacerations, colics, and general mayhem and chaos. 

Your Labor

The good news is that most of this costs very little. It mostly costs your time and brain power, and since primates are known for their large brains, this should work out well.

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Fences

Number one cause of all horse injuries: fences. Now some of this can’t be helped and is due to horses being horses and thinking very fast flight is suddenly necessary because a leaf fell. They should embrace their inner cat and think about the best way to attack that leaf, not blindly run away from it. Sometimes when they’re running away from imaginary scary things, they run into fences. 

You can do some things to make sure this works out as well as possible. First, look at your fencing. If it’s barbed wire, I guarantee there will be a laceration in your future, and you should either replace your fencing now or start a savings account called Vet Bills (you should have that savings account anyway, but that’s another blog. No really it is, and you should check it out after you finish this one). 

Your fence doesn’t have to be anything scary like barbed wire for your horse to find ways to injure themselves. Board fences look great and generally do a good job keeping horses in, but are prone to board breakages and nails backing out, leaving beautiful laceration opportunities. Walk those board fence lines periodically with an eye out for not just broken boards, but also backed out nails. 

This brings us to wire fencing. This has some advantages, like your horse can’t itch their big old butt on it and break a board into a spear which they can then send through various parts of their body later. They can, however, stretch that fence. Same as board fencing, it should be walked periodically to check for stretched areas, areas where the wire may have developed hoof-sized holes, and backed-out fence staples. 

Respect the Barrier

One way to minimize fence issues is to put hot wire on the fence in some way. This can be done as literal hot wire, or tape. Electricity is a good add to any fence. It causes your horse to have a little R E S P E C T for the fence. I don’t blame them. I once got zapped by a fence and it was a very unpleasant experience. 

By using electricity to define your fence lines, you will help your horse make wise decisions when galloping towards the fence, when thinking about where to itch, and when contemplating the best location for that next eyelid laceration. Electricity is most definitely your friend. 

Other Fun Injury Things

Horses don’t just confine their injuries to pastures. They also use their stalls! Take a walk around that stall periodically with an eye out for backed-out screws or nails, holes, water or feed bucket holders, or even water or feed buckets themselves. Once again, horses love to scratch on those buckets, causing them to bend and even break. You might have thought the bucket was okay, only to find Flicka squished it and caused the hanger to bend into the perfect eyelid laceration tool. 

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Another fun one is the actual walls of the stall. This is particularly true of wood walls. Leave it to a horse to roll, and kick a leg through that loose board, get stuck, and break their pelvis (actual emergency Springhill Equine has attended to). From stall mats, to bucket hangers, to fans, to rafters, check it all! 

Don’t Forget the Horse Trailer

Horse trailers can be fun locations to get injured, too! Check dividers, floors, ceilings, and walls for anything sharp. In fact, check the floor a LOT. It’s prone to bad things happening. Remember, your horse is bored being driven down the road by you, the human, with nothing to do but look for an opportunity for injury. Spending ten minutes now may save a vet visit later!

Need help putting your horse vision goggles on? My Docs can definitely help here! They have seen a whole lot of ways horses LOVE to hurt themselves and can often spot new, fun things they’re going to try. Take a moment at your next routine visit to have them check out your farm with you. I know they much prefer looking for things during a scheduled visit then seeing you on an emergency!

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. The humans have a podcast episode called Expecting the Unexpected. They went into way more detail about all the ways horses can complicate your life. You can find it, and all their podcast episodes, over on the Podcast Page. It’s a great resource, if I do say so myself.

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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When It’s Not Just A Hoof Abscess

When It’s Not Just A Hoof Abscess

Tuesdays with Tony

If you have horses, chances are you will deal with a hoof abscess at some point. Have you noticed that horses can be pretty dramatic creatures, and don’t often keep their feelings to themselves? Horses generally have the opposite of a poker face, unlike cats. If that little pocket of infection is causing pressure in his hoof, he will definitely let you know about it! A horse with a hoof abscess can look almost as lame as if he had broken a leg.

It’s usually pretty good news if my doc comes out to see your 3-legged lame horse and tells you she found a sub-solar abscess. Of course you don’t actually want your horse to have an abscess, but compared to some of the alternatives, it’s generally a pretty easy thing for my docs to take care of. They would much rather be able to tell you it’s just a hoof abscess rather than an injured tendon or even a fracture. My doc will try to locate the abscess and open it up to drain it and relieve the pressure. Occasionally, she’ll need to soak or poultice the hoof for a few days to draw the abscess out. Usually, as soon as the abscess is drained, your horse will start feeling better and will be on the road to recovery.

But what if it’s not so simple? Most hoof abscesses are infrequent, uncomplicated, and resolve quickly. But there are situations where abscesses don’t behave how you want them to (very cat-like behavior, I admit). Some abscesses linger and don’t heal, and some keep coming back. Some aren’t just a hoof abscess at all, but a much more serious problem. You’ll want to know when your horse needs more than just the basic treatment, so you can avoid a potentially life-threatening situation. Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

The Repeat Offender

Once drainage is established, a “normal” hoof abscess should begin to dry out and fill in with healthy tissue, and your horse’s lameness should resolve within a few days. Some horses seem prone to abscesses though – you finish treating one and a couple months later, he gets another. If your horse seems to have abscesses pop up frequently, in the same foot or in different feet, there is usually a reason. Here are a few common culprits.

The first thing to do if your horse seems prone to abscesses is to check the hygiene of his environment and the condition of his feet. It’s important to provide a clean environment for your horse. Standing in manure, urine, or mud will degrade hoof tissue, and allow bacteria to enter the hoof and form an abscess. Horses with feet that aren’t in good shape can develop hoof cracks or white line disease, both of which allow an entry point for infection. Regular trimming (every 4-6 weeks) will help to maintain a good barrier. Make sure your farrier has the hooves well balanced and the toes don’t get too long. Those are common problems my docs see in horses with repeat abscesses.

Horses with chronic laminitis often have compromised blood flow to the feet, which makes it harder for them to fight off infections. Their white line is often abnormally stretched out, making it easier for bacteria to enter the foot. A horse with untreated Cushing’s disease may have a reduced immune system, making him susceptible to infections. He’s also prone to laminitis, making it a double whammy. My docs can check your horse out for laminitis or Cushing’s and recommend a treatment plan.

Another possible cause of recurrent abscesses in the same foot is a keratoma. A keratomas is a slow-growing benign tumor inside the hoof wall that can cause pressure necrosis of the bone, leading to chronic abscesses. You won’t see much from the outside, so my docs will recommend x-rays if they want to check for one. A keratoma can be removed surgically, and the hoof wall will grow back normally over time.

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The Abscess That Won’t Resolve

This is a different situation from the repeat offender, and potentially a dangerous one. You think you find and drain the abscess, and your horse should be feeling better, but a couple days go by and he’s still quite lame. You may still see swelling and drainage as well. This abscess just won’t quit! You’ll want to take this situation seriously.

A ”normal” abscess is when the pocket of infection occurs in the area underneath the sole. Drain it through the bottom of the hoof, and it usually resolves without needing antibiotics. That’s how we want it to go. A deep abscess can travel up and burst out of the coronary band instead of through the bottom of the foot, which can take longer to resolve, and may recur if it doesn’t fully drain. Even an abscess that drained through the sole may recur if the hole seals over too soon or gets plugged up with dirt. The least severe possibility is that the abscess needs to be opened again.

Much more worrisome is an infection that has involved one of the important structures of the hoof, like the coffin bone, or a joint or tendon sheath. This can look like a regular hoof abscess in the beginning, but it doesn’t resolve when it’s drained. An infection of these structures is life-threatening, so you’ll want to have my docs out promptly if signs linger. A regular hoof abscess can develop into an infection of the coffin bone, called septic pedal osteitis, if it’s deep in the foot and isn’t able to find a way out. Septic pedal osteitis can also occur due to a puncture wound, for example if your horse steps on a nail. Don’t discount this possibility if you don’t see an obvious nail hole – they’re often very small and hard to find.

Another source of infection may be a coffin bone sequestrum, which occurs when a small piece of the bone dies and festers until it is removed. It’s also possible to have a foreign body like a small piece of wood or metal stuck in the foot. None of these scenarios will heal until the infected material is located and removed.

Anytime you suspect your horse has a hoof abscess, it’s best to call my doc out. Hopefully it’s just a simple treatment, but like with most horse problems, prevention and early intervention can help to keep things from getting worse and usually ends up less expensive than waiting to fix big problems.

Until next week,

~ Tony

P.S. If you want to learn more about your horse’s feet, check out some of the videos over on my YouTube Channel. My docs have a whole library for you over there. Don’t forget to Like and Subscribe, and tell them Tony sent you!

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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Foal Abnormalities

Foal Abnormalities

Tuesdays with Tony

Boy oh boy, or maybe I should say girl oh girl… Nope that’s not it either. Foal oh foal, that’s it! I swear it’s been raining foals at the clinic. We’ve had at least one foal a week in and out of the clinic, and that doesn’t count the ones that are just here with their dam while the dam is getting re-bred. It also doesn’t include the ones we have seen on the farm. It’s been foal madness. And we love foals! They remind me of my kitten days when I was full of life, bouncing around all the time, causing trouble for everyone. Gosh, those were the good old days. Foals, as you all know, are usually feisty little boogers with the energy we all wish we had. However, as always with horses, foals have their own set of problems that can end up in life-long issues and may even be life threatening if not addressed quickly.

Angular Limb Deformity

Angular Limb Deformity (ALD) in foals is a relatively common problem that occurs within the first few months after birth. ALD causes a foal’s leg or legs to deviate from midline. They may angle in or out, or in some cases, both in and out. Most frequently affected joints are the carpus (knee), fetlock, and hock joints.

ALD is most commonly caused by incomplete ossification of the cuboidal bones of these joints. This means the small bones that make up the joints have not developed completely prior to birth. Incomplete ossification can be caused by placentitis, colic, metabolic disease, and/or premature birth. Similarly, after birth, if a foal has tendon and/or ligament laxity, they are prone to developing ALD.

I’m sure you’ve seen your fair share of fancy performance horses with crooked legs, and trust me, so have I. However, it’s important to address ALD in a foal while the opportunity exists. There’s a small window of time that ALD can be addressed and potentially fixed, resulting in “normal” limb conformation. This is extremely important because any deviation from “normal” conformation can result in a lifetime of joint pain and arthritis, starting at a very young age.

Mild ALD can be managed early on with bandaging, corrective shoeing, exercise, or in some cases, restricted exercise. Each case is different, and your veterinarian will definitely want to assess the foal and take radiographs to determine the best course of action. If conservative treatment is not effective, it’s possible that surgical intervention may be necessary. Surgery is not without risk, and it’s essential that you, your veterinarian, and your farrier are all working together on your foal. Really, that 3-way team should exist for every horse all the time, but that’s a different blog.

Once ALD has been diagnosed and treatment started, frequent check-ups from your veterinarian will be imperative. It can be a long, tiring, expensive road, but it’s worth it to end up with an as close to “normal” foal as possible.

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Wry Nose

Wry nose, what a funny term! What the heck is a wry nose? Basically, wry nose is the most extreme deviated septum you’ve ever seen, and multiply that times about a million, and then put it on a horse’s face. Horses are born with wry nose; it’s not something that develops over time, or shows up later in life. It’s a rare condition, and the cause of wry nose is unknown.

Cases of wry nose can be mild to severe. Mild cases in foals typically do okay, but may struggle to nurse, and occasionally these can grow out of it. Severe cases risk the inability to nurse at all, difficulty breathing (these can both be fatal), and failure to thrive. It’s recommended that foals be examined within the first 24 hours after birth. During this examination the veterinarian will be able to establish if a foal has a wry nose and what the best course of action will be to fix it. They will also be able to ensure the foal is nursing well and received appropriate colostrum after birth.

If you want to read more about wry nose, and see some crazy cool pictures and radiographs of the malformed bone structures, check out this paper

Mouth

When your veterinarian comes out to examine your new foal, they’ll stick their fingers in the foal’s mouth. This is important, as it allows your veterinarian to recognize any abnormalities with the foal’s mouth. Occasionally a foal will develop a cleft lip or cleft palate during embryonic development. It’s necessary for your veterinarian to find this as it can cause difficulty nursing.

A cleft palate is dangerous in foals, as it allows for an open passage from the mouth to the nostrils which puts the foal at risk of inhaling milk as it nurses. Inhaled milk will result in aspiration pneumonia which is life threatening to the foal. Mild cases of cleft palate and lip can be managed with surgical correction, but severe cases do not do well with or without surgery and humane euthanasia should be considered.

Cases of parrot mouth and sow mouth are seen more frequently in ponies and miniature horses than in regular horses. That being said, both parrot mouth and sow mouth can and do occur in horses of all breeds and sizes. A horse with a parrot mouth has a lower jaw that is shorter than the upper jaw and is known as brachygnathia. Correction can be attempted when the foal is young. Whether the abnormality is corrected or not, a horse with parrot mouth will absolutely require regular dental care by your veterinarian.

Similarly, a horse with sow mouth will need frequent dental assessments and treatments by your veterinarian throughout its entire life. Sow mouth, or prognathia, is an undershot jaw. This is commonly seen in dwarf miniature horses and Arabians. It can lead to severe dental problems if left unaddressed. Foals can have difficulty nursing, and as horses get older they can have difficulty grazing. However, with appropriate supportive care, foals with either parrot mouth or sow mouth can go on to live very normal healthy lives.

If I’ve learned nothing else, I’ve learned that foals are delicate little flowers and require immediate attention if anything appears to be abnormal. Skeletal abnormalities such as we have discussed just barely scrapes the surface of problems that foals can have or develop. Here is my friendly reminder to always have a good relationship with your veterinarian, and rely on them for directions on what is best for your mare and foal.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Now that you’ve absorbed my cat wisdoms for this week, take a minute to poke around the rest of my website. Aside from my amazing blog, there’s a lot of other really useful stuff on here. Videos, the podcast, books, our Wellness Plans, all kinds of good stuff. This is my gift to you.

 

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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Fitness for Horses

Fitness for Horses

Tuesdays with Tony

Fitness. By far, not my favorite topic to discuss. My idea of fitness is moving from inside the clinic to outside, and maybe jumping up on the bench to sleep. This is acceptable for me since I’m a cat, rather than a horse who has a human imposing work expectations upon them. I would never bow to external pressures to do something like work. Those external pressures are important to understand if you’re asking your horse to do a job. The number one place injuries happen is at the point of fatigue. This week, let’s talk about how you know you’ve got your horse fit enough.

Start Slow!

This is a statement I can really get behind. If the fitness journey is just beginning, or if you are trying to assess where your horse is on the fitness scale, going slow is never the wrong answer. Slow can mean two things. 

First: literally slow. Add walking to your horse’s schedule. Thirty minutes of walking builds fitness without pounding on tendons, ligaments, and joints. Now, when I say walking, I mean walking like me heading to the food bowl, not me heading to my spot under the bush in front of the clinic to take a siesta. There’s a difference between ambling and walking with a purpose.

Second: add things slowly. There’s two ways to add stuff. You can add time, and you can add skills. Always add one at a time. For example, add a 3-minute trot set for two weeks before saying, “Ya know, starting piaffe this week sounds great.” 

How Do I Know It’s Going Okay?

As the saying goes with you humans, that’s the $64,000 question. Though with adjustment to current pricing from 1955 levels, it’s a $686,576.72 question. That is an appropriate use of Google, by the way. Way better than asking Google what you should do with your colicky horse. 

The answer is, there are several ways to know your fitness program is progressing. First, how does your horse feel when doing their job, and at the end of doing their job? For example, you had noticed Spot was really tired at the end of a weekend showing Dressage. That last day took all you had to get impulsion, relaxation, and all those other things Dressage judges go on about. With your new fitness program, how is that last day feeling? This is the ultimate test of a fitness program. Does your horse feel good doing what you wanted? If not, back to the drawing board to increase the work. 

A great way to determine fitness level is heart rate. This can be done with all sorts of fancy gadgets these days. However, it can also be done with a cheap stethoscope! Ask your horse to do the job you’re asking. If you’re a show jumper, ask them to jump an entire course, maybe even add in a fake jump-off. Don’t skimp. Do the level you are looking for! Immediately upon finishing, take a heart rate. Now wait 2 minutes and take the heart rate again. The heart rate should have dropped below 100 beats per minute (bpm), and should be below 60 bpm after 10 minutes. 

Temperature. This isn’t a straight-up indicator of fitness, but it can be important. There are lots of factors that go into a horse’s temperature. Fitness and the ability of the cardiovascular system to get rid of heat are a component. However, the temperature outside is also a really important factor. The important thing about temperature is to monitor it. It should go down, but it may take a while. For most horses, it should be back down to the 101F range by an hour after intense work. Racehorses may take longer, and I thought this was an interesting horse thing, their temperature may go up after they are done racing. Weird.

If you want to get super scientific, measuring blood lactate is a really, really great way to measure fitness. Lactate meters are very easy to use, and only a small amount of blood is needed to test. It’s kind of like my glucose measuring device for my diabetes. If you want to get super into fitness, talk with my Docs about lactate monitoring. 

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Sport-Specific Tasks

Every discipline with horses asks different fitness questions. It’s incredibly important to modify your horse’s fitness routine to answer those questions. If your reiner needs to collect, and extend, and hold their shape in a stop, then you’ve got to work on that. Dressage horses, especially at the upper levels, need so much core strength. You better work on that! Not to mention all that collection puts stresses on tendons and ligaments. They need to be ready for that stress, and not just thrown into it. This is where great trainers, riders, and veterinarians can help you. Having them help you identify sport-specific tasks and exercises to build strength and endurance is vital!

Don’t Forget the Human

Remember, you have to be fit to do the job, too! An unbalanced rider asking a horse to stop, turn, collect, jump, or any of the other things you ask puts that horse at a huge injury risk. Horses try hard to be good to you humans. Trying to lay down a slide while you’re hanging off the side puts extra stress on all the parts involved. Do your part. Work on your fitness, too! 

Fitness is hard. It’s designed that way. Need help evaluating your horse’s fitness? Want help designing a fitness plan? Call my Docs. From heart rate monitoring to lactate levels to soundness and competition readiness, they’re here to help you and your horse.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. My docs have some great fitness exercises over on our YouTube Channel. If you aren’t subscribed to that, you are missing out on some excellent video content! New videos come out all the time, so make sure you’re plugged in.

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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Bugs and Horses

Bugs and Horses

Tuesdays with Tony

Before I get started, I have to share a distressing interaction I had last weekend. A client was at the clinic with an emergency, and while the doc was working on her horse, the client asked me if I was still writing my blog, because she hasn’t seen it on Facebook lately. I’ll tell you the same thing I told her: Stop right now, scroll down to the purple box at the bottom of the page, and put your email address in there so you’ll get my blog every Monday. Facebook doesn’t employ a single cat, so they can’t be trusted to deliver important things like this blog. Or anything else, really. Over 3,000 people read my cat wisdoms every week, but only about 650 of you are subscribed. That’s reckless living, if you ask me. I’ll stop writing for a minute so you can go subscribe without missing anything.

Okay, on to other business. 

Dr. Lacher recently became a published academic author with the book, Pests and parasites of horses. She’s pretty much famous now. Well, she already was, what with the podcast and the YouTube videos, but now it’s a trifecta. I asked if she would autograph my copy and she said yes, so that made for a good day. I’m not sure how, as a cat, I’m going to read the book, but it will make a nice place to nap. Since it’s getting warm out, and the bugs are moving from low-level annoying to full-on Florida crazy, I thought I’d take this opportunity to chat with you humans about bug facts, fiction, myths, and legends.

What Bug Do You Have?

This seems like an easy question. For example, flies. We have flies, the black kind, you know the ones that are around horses, and every picnic basket. Not so fast! Even with your average-looking fly, there are a bunch of options! To start with, there are stable flies, house flies, and lesser house flies. Then add latrine flies, horn flies, canyon flies, and face flies. 

They all basically look the same, but if you want to get rid of them, you’re going to need different things to attract and catch them. If you have a pest bugging you, catch it. Don’t eat it like I do. Save it. No matter the type of bug, this will allow you, or your friendly neighborhood bug expert, to identify the critter so you’re targeting the right thing.

Where Does It Live and Breed?

Now that you know what kind of bug you have, you can target where more of that bug is made. Maybe. We’ll get to that. Targeting where bugs breed is the best way to manage numbers since adult bugs don’t live very long, no matter what they are. If there aren’t any babies, there aren’t any replacements, and adult numbers will go down fast! This works well for things like stable and house flies. These guys live near manure, or wet areas with lots of organic debris (think end of the wash rack). 

Identifying these locations and targeting them for treatment will make your fly problem go down in a hurry. However, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes it’s the neighbor sending bugs your way, or for some bugs, it’s simply impossible to control where they breed. For example, horn flies (see picture) need cow manure to breed, but they can then fly 5 miles to get to your horse and annoy them. You won’t be able to manage their breeding grounds unless you can control where the cows poop in a 5-mile radius around your farm. 

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Gnats, those tiny bugs that everyone HATES, are also the worst when it comes to breeding ground management. Gnats like “sandy soil with an organic component.” In other words, any horse farm where horses poop, or eat hay, or generally add organic things to the soil. I will refer back to the previous section again. Start with, what bug do you have? so you know where to start.

Straight-Up Killing Them

Okay, you’ve got something like gnats where you can’t manage breeding grounds, so death to the bugs is the route to take. Once again, let’s start with what bug do you have? Let’s go horse flies and other big ol’ biting flies like deer flies. Knowing that the bug you’re combatting is horse flies or deer flies helps you know how to attract them to their death. These kinds of bugs like dark things that move a bit if possible. This means those dark beach ball-looking things with a net around them (see picture of one you can buy from Horse-Fly-Trap.com) will sway in the breeze, attracting the bugs who will then fly into a catch container and die. This doesn’t work for mosquitos, gnats, or bot flies. This is why you always have to start with, What bug do I have?

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Don’t Touch Me!

So, we can kill the breeding grounds, and we can kill the adults, but what if neither of those works well? For example, with mosquitos and gnats, there’s just too many of the things, and they can breed just about anywhere! You simply can’t kill them all. This is where you have to go with repelling and avoiding. 

Again, know what insect you have, so that you have the right repellant and avoidance tactic. For example, mosquitos have preferred times of the day. If these are your problem, keeping your horse inside or in a different area for certain times of the day can massively reduce their exposure. If you think that repellant didn’t last long to keep mosquitos away, you’re right. There isn’t a repellant available that keeps mosquitos away for more than a few hours. There are, however, a wide variety of fly sheets on the market, and these work well to keep all manner of pests away from your horse just by having one on. 

They have an added benefit: you can spray these with long-acting fabric permethrins and repel bugs for even longer. Fly sheets and masks have an additional added benefit of coming in a wide variety of fun colors and patterns so that your horse can be bug free and a fashionista. Win-win!

A Word on Repellants

Okay, more than a word. If you’ve often thought that fly spray doesn’t work, you’re right. It really doesn’t work for long. Fly sprays (some) work great to temporarily repel bugs while you ride, or while your veterinarian works on your horse, or the farrier does their feet. None of them work well for hours and hours. Also, some bugs, like horseflies, don’t even acknowledge the existence of a repellent because they don’t find their prey that way. 

Know what doesn’t work? Barn fly spray systems. They only cause the flies to fly away while the spray is going, and it allows them to learn how to resist the chemicals in the sprays by showing it to them multiple times per day. Oh, and also, do you want to spray chemicals in your horse’s face all day, everyday? I’m putting a link here to a fun article by the other Dr. Erika, Dr. Erika Macthinger, about fly sprays and which ones worked the best. 

If you want the too long, didn’t read answer for the study: EcoVet fly spray did way better than anything else! Pro Tip: use a tanning mitt to apply it, rather than spraying it.

And Another Word on Feed-throughs

I hear my Docs get asked about this on a regular basis. In the United States, there are a few feed-through fly control options. These can be a great way to manage flies if you simply can’t fully control the breeding grounds. Resistance can form to these products as well, so they work best in a full-on fly killing program. 

Bugs are super annoying. I like to chase the odd house fly here and there. Any more than that and I’m checking in with my minions about pest management. Speaking of my minions, my Docs, and particularly Dr. Lacher, can help you manage your Pests and Parasites of Horses problems. Give the Clinic a buzz and they’ll set you up an appointment. Then you, your horses, and, most importantly, your cats, can be happier!

Want to purchase an amazing resource for pest management? Here’s the link to buy the book.

Sources I’m close to say it’s fantastic.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. There’s a pretty good video over on my YouTube Channel about managing flies. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of good videos there. Make sure you subscribe to the YouTube Channel, now that you’re subscribed to my blog. All of this amazing horse knowledge will make you a better horse owner, and that makes my life as a Clinic Cat easier. Everybody wins!

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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Twins: Double Trouble

Twins: Double Trouble

Tuesdays with Tony

This past week has been a busy one at the clinic for me. All my paddocks have been full, and all my stalls occupied. I’m exhausted, but it’s been very rewarding to see all the foals frolicking in the paddocks. We are well into breeding season and have been performing pregnancy check after pregnancy check. These appointments are stressful yet rewarding. As the doctors are scanning the uterus looking for one little black dot, the suspense could be cut with a knife. As a cat, I can feel it as the mare’s owner, the doctors, and the technicians wait, then I hear it: the cheers that mean that a little black dot has been found! It’s heartbreaking when the dot isn’t found. And maybe even worse than not finding the black dot is seeing two black dots.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Twins

Double the dots does not mean double the fun. Two black dots on a pregnancy check means that there are two embryos developing, and two embryos means twins. Unlike many other animals, twins in horses is not a good thing. Fortunately, the development of two embryos is not super common, but when it happens, it’s important to know early on. That’s why my doctors always highly recommend a pregnancy check 14 days after known ovulation. There’s a very narrow window to deal with twins. Between days 14 and 20 of pregnancy is the only time that twins can be managed without major risks. We’ll talk about management of twins while in-utero and what can be done to ensure the birth of a single healthy foal, but first let’s discuss what happens when twins are not managed in-utero.

At your mare’s 14-day pregnancy check, your veterinarian will thoroughly examine your horse’s uterus and ovaries via transrectal ultrasound to find a pregnancy and ensure that only one embryo is found. If two embryos are found, the suggestion will be to “crush” or “pinch” one of the embryos. A mare’s uterus is not capable of carrying two healthy foals to term. The likelihood of a mare having twins that survive to foaling is extremely rare. If a mare does foal out twins, it’s unlikely that one or both of the twins will survive for more than a day or two.

If twins are not detected between 14 and 20 days of pregnancy, aborting the pregnancy becomes one of the options early on. To do this, a medication is administered to the mare which gets rid of the Corpus Luteum. The Corpus Luteum produces progesterone which helps maintain a pregnancy. Once the Corpus Luteum is gone, the embryos won’t be able to survive. After 150 days of pregnancy, the Corpus Luteum no longer holds the pregnancy and endometrial cups take over to provide progesterone and maintain pregnancy. If twins are not detected until after 150 days of pregnancy, aborting one or both of the fetuses becomes extremely difficult and dangerous. Transabdominal procedures are performed to abort a fetus, which puts the other fetus as risk for abortion as well.

Incomplete Ossification of Cuboidal Bones

If a mare carries twins to term and both survive, it’s likely that they won’t be developed completely. Despite being born full-term, when twins are born, they come out as premature foals. One problem that premature foals have is lack of bone development. More specifically, the small bones of the carpus (knee) and hock do not develop before birth in premature foals and in this case, twins. During the development process in-utero, the cuboidal bones in the carpus and hock start off as cartilage and turn into bone in the later stages of development.

When twins are born, their bones usually aren’t developed, and they have a significant amount of cartilage present in these joints. If foals were like human babies and laid around all day, having knees and hocks made of cartilage wouldn’t be an issue because they wouldn’t be holding up 200 pounds on cartilage alone. When the weight of a foal is placed on cartilage, it crushes the cartilage so that when bones develop, they’re misshapen and will develop arthritis before the foal is even a few months old. As you can imagine, this leads to a very painful, difficult life for the foal from day one.

Lung Development

To go along with the prematurity of twins is the lack of lung development at birth. The last thing to develop before a foal is born is their lungs. That’s why we never induce foaling unless we absolutely have to. When twins are born and have premature traits, one of the largest concerns is their lung develop (or lack thereof). When their lungs are not developed appropriately, they can’t get enough oxygen to survive. Without supplemental oxygen they will not thrive, not grow, and will be prone to illness.

Other Developmental Issues

Because twins have to share a placenta that can’t fully support them completely, they are born small and are more prone to developing illnesses. Being small in stature makes nursing difficult and increases the risk of developing aspiration pneumonia. They may require an indwelling feeding tube and being fed every few hours via the tube. The mare may not develop enough colostrum to supply both foals with enough antibodies to supply them with a strong immune system. When a twin does not get enough colostrum, they require treatment with intravenous plasma to ensure they have appropriate antibodies to fight off diseases and illnesses. Twins will require intensive treatment, they often require hospitalization, and they are not easy. Moreover, they are not cheap.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

The moral of the story is, have your brood mares monitored early, monitored frequently, and appropriately cared for should twins be found on 14-day pregnancy ultrasound. While it might seem like you are getting more bang for your buck if twins are found, listen to your veterinarians and their recommendations if twins are found. It is, in fact, a life or death scenario for the foals and the mare.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. If you’ve ever read any of my post scripts, then you know about the Podcast and the YouTube Channel, and you’ve subscribed to both. You’ve also probably already scrolled down and subscribed to my blog. So, really, you’re plugged into all the things, and absorbing horse knowledge in every way that I have to share it. Pat yourself on the head, and give yourself a treat, becaue you are a 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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More Adventures of the Horse Doctor's Husband