How to Help Your Vet Manage a Colic – Part 2

How to Help Your Vet Manage a Colic – Part 2

Tuesdays with Tony

If you missed the first half of my blog on how to help your vet manage a colic, click here to read it first! Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Wake me up when you get back and we’ll go on to Part 2.

While Your Vet is Examining Your Horse

My doc may start by asking you some questions about what’s been going on, or, if your horse is really painful, she may need to start working on him immediately. A typical colic exam includes these things: a physical exam, passing a nasogastric tube through your horse’s nose and down into his stomach, an ultrasound of his abdomen, palpation per rectum to feel his internal organs, and bloodwork.

These are all pieces of the puzzle to determine what is causing the colic and how best to treat it. Some types of colic can be treated on the farm with pain control medications and laxatives. Some need to be brought into a hospital for IV fluids and more involved medical treatment, and some kinds of colic can’t be resolved without surgery. Listen carefully to what my doc tells you is going on and her instructions.

After the Vet Visit

  • You’ll want to continue monitoring your horse frequently. Exactly how frequently will depend on what my doc finds – at least every few hours in a very mild case. Colic signs can worsen quickly, so you won’t want to miss anything. Yes, you may have to miss work or lose some sleep during the night. Trust me; as a cat, I know what I’m asking for on losing sleep. That’s how important this is.
  • Check for manure production. You’ll want to keep your horse somewhere you can see when he passes a new pile of manure. Pick out a stall or a small paddock so you can tell new piles from old. Don’t turn him out in the back 40 where you’ll have no idea if he’s pooping enough.
  • Follow my doc’s re-feeding instructions. This will probably mean a gradual reintroduction to feed to ensure the colic doesn’t start again. Yes, your horse will look at you like he is staaarving and you are cruel, but remember, it’s just tough love and it’s what is best for him.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

The DON’Ts (and the NEVER EVERs in a million years)

  • Don’t give your horse banamine without talking to my doc first. Banamine is a pain medication that will mask some signs of colic. This can make it hard for my doc to get an accurate assessment of the severity of the colic. Banamine can also have a toxic effect on the kidneys if your horse is dehydrated, so it is best to let her make the decision if it is appropriate to give. Also, don’t give extra banamine after the first dose if your horse is still painful. If your horse still isn’t comfortable, it’s a sign of a more serious colic, and more banamine won’t do anything to help that.
  • Never give banamine in the muscle! It can cause a horrible infection if injected into the muscle. While it doesn’t happen every time, it is definitely not worth the risk! Trust me, I have seen the disgusting result. If my doc instructs you to give banamine, you can give it by mouth, even if what you have is the injectable liquid.
  • Don’t walk your horse to exhaustion. While a little walking is good for gut motility (5-10 minutes every hour or so), there is no need to walk for hours, and it can end up dehydrating your horse further
  • This is a big one – NEVER attempt to put a hose anywhere, either down his throat or by rectum. This is a sure-fire way to injure your horse. Don’t give your horse an enema – the horse’s rectal tissue is delicate and at risk for a rectal tear, which can be fatal. An enema will almost never even reach the location of the colic in an adult horse anyway. Don’t try to syringe water or oil into your horse’s mouth either. You could end up aspirating some into the horse’s lungs, which could lead to a fatal pneumonia. Sadly, I have seen these awful conditions caused by well-meaning, but misguided owners. JUST DON’T DO IT.
  • If you have to trailer your horse to the hospital, don’t ride in the horse compartment with him. A rolling colic can be dangerous in confined quarters, and there isn’t anything you can do to help him while enroute.
  • If your horse goes down in the trailer on the way to the hospital, don’t stop. I know it’s scary but keep driving to the hospital – that’s where my docs can help him. While we’re on the trailer topic: don’t tie them in the trailer! If they do go down, being tied can put them in a really bad way, and can make it much harder to get them out at the hospital.
  • Don’t discount colic surgery if my doc says your horse needs it. Many horses go on to have long, healthy lives after colic surgery, so don’t think there is no hope. There are often no restrictions on future athletics. Horses that have had colic surgery have gone on to compete in the Olympics, or in 100-mile-long endurance rides like the Tevis Cup.

If you are not sure what to do, just phone one of my docs. They are always there to help you. Working together and intervening early are the best ways to give your horse the best possible outcome.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Have you seen the latest video over on my YouTube Channel? If you aren’t subscribed to that (as well as this blog, of course) you might be missing out on some great stuff! While my cat blog is far superior to everything else, of course, the humans work pretty hard on giving you lots of amazing doctory info in both their videos and their Podcast. Just click on the blue words to check out each of these amazing free resources. And you’re welcome, as always. Now, back to my nap.

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 Help Your Vet Manage a Colic – Part 1

How to Help Your Vet Manage a Colic – Part 1

Tuesdays with Tony

I see a lot of stuff as the Springhill Equine Clinic Cat, and it seems to me there are few things that strike more fear into the heart of a horse owner than colic. Colic is a catch-all term for abdominal pain and can be caused by a variety of different things in your horse’s belly, ranging from a mild gas colic to a serious lesion that requires surgery.  I’m not sure why horses don’t just puke on the carpet (or a keyboard, I love puking on keyboards, very satisfying) like I do whenever they start to feel colicy, but my docs say that’s not how it works. Colic will never be a fun time, but here are some ways to help your horse (and my docs!) so things go as smoothly as possible.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Be Prepared

  • Know how to recognize the signs of colic – Rolling, pawing, looking at the flank, and laying down are the most common signs, but horses can also show more subtle signs such as not wanting to eat, kicking at the stomach, restlessness, stretching out as if to urinate, increased respiratory rate, and reduced manure production. If you notice any of these things, give my doc a heads up so she can advise you what to do next.
  • Call my doc! Even if you aren’t sure she needs to come out yet, it’s best to discuss what’s going on. If you wait too long, it could turn a mild problem into a severe one. Generally, colic is much more easily (and economically) treated if you can catch it early. A severe colic may have no chance of survival if you don’t pursue treatment immediately.
  • Get yourself an inexpensive stethoscope and learn how to listen to your horse’s heart and gut sounds. You can find one for as little as $20 and my doc can show you how to use it! Practice ahead of time, don’t wait for an emergency to happen. When you call my doc, it’s very helpful to tell her what the heart rate is – it helps to determine how serious the colic is. A horse’s normal heart rate is around 26-46 beats per minute (much slower than yours, and waaay slower than my thrillingly fast kitty heartrate of 170 beats per minute) You can hear it best on the left side, just behind his elbow, about where the girth rests. A high heart rate is often a sign of a more serious colic. His gut sounds can be heard on both sides of his belly, high and low, in front of his hips. A normal horse has active rumbles all over his belly, and you shouldn’t have to listen for much longer than 15 seconds to hear some. Again, practice ahead of time to get used to his normal sounds. Keep a thermometer around, too. Practicing ahead of time will also help you keep track of what your horse’s normal temperature is, so you’ll be more likely to notice a problem. Normal temperature is usually between 98.5 – 100.5 degrees F.
  • Have a transport plan. If your horse needs to get to the hospital for surgery or medical treatment, who is going to trailer him there? If you have a trailer, can it be hooked up quickly and ready to go? Are the tires and lights good? You don’t want to have to worry about these things when the colic is happening, trust me.
  • Consider a major medical insurance policy for your horse. Colic surgery can be very expensive, around the mid to high 4 figures in north central Florida. Insurance can be surprisingly affordable, especially compared to the cost of treating a colic. It’s a very sad thing to have to euthanize a horse that could have been treated. When your horse is sick, the financial part is the last thing you’ll want to have to worry about. There are also colic programs from Platinum Performance and SmartPak that will cover a significant chunk of the surgery cost if your horse is enrolled.
  • Be familiar with the idea of colic surgery. While hopefully you never have to use this option, you should make sure you don’t have any misconceptions about surgery. Decades and decades ago, colic surgery was less common than it is now. Some people still have the idea that colic surgery doesn’t have a great success rate. But the truth is, the survival rate for colic surgery is about 90%. Most horses can go back to athletic careers a few months after. Another misconception is that older horses can’t handle surgery well. Studies have shown that postoperative survival rates for older horses are about the same as younger horses.

 While You’re Waiting for the Vet

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

  • Give my doc good driving instructions or an accurate GPS address to find your barn. The importance of well-marked street numbers visible from the road can’t be overstated! Keep your phone close in case she needs to contact you. If the house might be hard to find, especially at night, get someone to stand by the driveway or meet at a landmark to help direct her to where your horse is.
  • Have a well-lit area available for my doc to examine your horse. It should be a safe place to work and free of obstructions. Have a clean water source available in case she needs to pass a nasogastric tube into your horse’s stomach. It helps to have a power source available to plug in equipment. Also, this feline thinks you ought to put the dogs away so there are less slobbery distractions.
  • Take away your horse’s food until after my doc has examined him. This includes grass, too. It’s okay to leave him water, though a colicky horse usually won’t be interested in drinking.
  • Keep an eye out for manure. The amount of manure your horse has passed, and whether it’s a normal consistency, is useful info for my doc. If possible, collect some of the manure for her to inspect, as it might offer a clue about the cause of the colic. But, a common misconception is that if a horse is passing manure, the colic has to be getting better. That’s not always the case, since there are about 100 feet of gut inside your horse. The manure could be further back than the site of the problem or obstruction.
  • You don’t have to continuously walk your horse, especially not for hours and hours! That can do more harm than good. A little walking (5 or 10 minutes at a time) can help to improve the activity of the intestines. But it’s okay to let him rest calmly. Laying down isn’t going to cause a twisted gut – that’s an old wives’ tale. If your horse is rolling violently and you can’t keep him up, your own safety is the priority, so it may be best to put him in a safe place and stay back until the vet arrives.
  • Think about possible causes. Do you have a new batch of hay? Has your pasture changed recently? Anything else different in your horse’s lifestyle?

In Part 2, we’ll go over what will happen while my doc is examining your horse, and what to do after the vet visit, so keep an eye out for that one!

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Are you subscribed to my blog? Don’t rely on Facebook to let you know it’s here. Be a good human and scroll down to the purple box. You can do it, just a little more. As a reward, I’ll email you my blog every Monday, a day early!

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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Cold Weather Horse Challenges

Cold Weather Horse Challenges

Tuesdays with Tony

The first cold snap of the year is always dreadful for us thin-skinned Florida cats. There are several topics that classically arise this time of year including blanketing recommendations, colic concerns, and barn management.

Blanketing

Currently, the number one question we are hearing around the clinic is whether or not to blanket the horses. There are several things to take into consideration when making that decision. First of all, if your horse is clipped, they are more likely to need that extra layer than one that is not. General recommendations are that if the overnight low is in the 50s to use a light sheet, and if it is in the 40s to use a light/medium blanket. If it’s in the 30s or below you will need a heavier blanket, but thankfully that’s a rare occurrence in Florida!

 

  Low in lower 50’s Low in lower 40’s Low in lower 30’s 20’s or below
Clipped Sheet Light blanket Med Blanket Move Further South
Not Clipped Naked Naked Naked  

 

If your horse is not body clipped, you will likely not need to blanket at all, with a few special considerations. Horses with underlying conditions, like PPID (aka Cushing’s), or those that are underweight may have more difficulty regulating their temperature. In general, horses should also have access to a shelter from excessive rain and wind in order to tolerate a drop in temperature.

After blanketing, it is always smart to check each animal to make sure they are not sweating or overheating under a blanket. There is a greater health concern of a horse overheating under a blanket than being too cold without one!

Colic Concerns

With cold weather changes, there is unfortunately an increased concern for colic in horses. This weather change from warm to cold is often accompanied by decreased drinking by the horse. In the past, bran mashes were fed during this time to prevent colic. Unfortunately, this is no longer a good idea (was it ever?!) because introducing a different food your horse is not accustomed to can be a perpetrator of colic itself! Instead, adding water to your horse’s normal feed is recommended. If you’re feeling cold, you can even add warm water!

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Monitoring feed intake and manure production is also essential during this time. We often give extra hay when the cool weather starts for a few different reasons. For one, the pastures are not growing as well and adding hay is often necessary to meet daily forage requirements. Additionally, we know that eating forage can contribute to keeping them warm (hindgut fermenters, blessing and a curse). As we add in more hay, we need to make sure that manure production isn’t slowing down, as this can be a first early sign of an impaction. It’s important to feed a high quality hay during these times as lower quality forages, such as coastal, can be a common culprit in colics.

Covering All The [Frozen] Bases

Those of you unlucky enough to have lived through a winter in the dreaded north realize that barn maintenance during cold weather is imperative. When temperatures reach freezing levels, it may be necessary to disconnect hoses and leave a steady drip from the spigots to prevent pipes from freezing. Breaking thick ice out of water troughs and buckets can also be a common occurrence, and sometimes the hose itself is too frozen for refills, so you have to carry water back and forth from the stalls to the spigot.

Don’t worry too much about the temperature of your horse’s water. If you want to use a bucket heater to keep it from freezing solid, that’s fine. But studies have shown that horses will drink water that’s 35-45 degrees F preferentially over warmer water, even when it’s sub-freezing temperatures outside. Further proof that cats are superior, if you ask me.

Let’s be sure to be extra Thankful on Thursday that we don’t need to walk to the barn with a hammer to break ice out of water buckets here in Florida! And for those of you in cold climates, I’ll think about you while I’m basking in the sunshine.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. If you really want to take a deep dive into cold weather stuff, the humans have a podcast episode on this very topic. You can find it over on the Podcast Page, just scroll down the episode list all the way back to Season 1, Episode 15. Or you can subscribe to Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth wherever you get your podcasts. I know, it’s so much good stuff, it’s hard to take it all in. 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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Blocked Goats and Sheep 101

Blocked Goats and Sheep 101

Tuesdays with Tony

A few weeks ago, we talked about being extra careful to monitor your male cats’ litter box usage due to the risk of urinary obstruction. We’re now going to talk about a similar topic in a different (louder, much less refined) species: goats and sheep. While the general problem is the same, the specifics are a bit different, so let’s get into it.

This disease is an unfortunately common one of the castrated male small ruminant, and is known as obstructive urolithiasis, though more simply called urinary blockage. For the purposes of this review, I’ll mostly be talking about goats because they tend to be the main pet species around here, but the same things apply to sheep.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

A quick terminology review for the uninitiated human: intact male goats are known as bucks, intact male sheep are known as rams, and castrated males of either species are known as wethers. There’s a saying that goes around the sheep and goat circles: “friends don’t let friends have pet wethers.” I don’t know why anyone would want to be owned by anything other than a cat, but perhaps I’m biased.

Wethers have a bad habit of accumulating grit and stones in their urinary tract due to diet and inadequate water intake. The disease is most common in the castrated males because the lack of testosterone prevents widening of their urethra at specific points. This means there are a few very, very narrow areas along the offramp from the bladder where they can get a fatal traffic jam!

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so let’s go over prevention of obstructive urolithiasis in wethers. Well, it can start as simply as when they become wethers. Waiting to have a veterinarian surgically castrate a buckling until he’s 6-7 months of age is ideal as it will give him more time for his urethra to mature and widen. The important caveat to this is that bucklings can become fertile as early as 3-4 months of age, so they’ll need to be separated from female goats (including their mother) for that time to prevent unwanted pregnancies. If separation is not possible, surgical castration at 3-4 months is still preferred over banding as birth control for pet animals.

If you do have a wether, especially if he was castrated very early, the easiest and most effective prevention strategy is to ONLY feed him roughage and browse. Translated: no grain; none, zero, zilch. Pet wethers don’t need it, ever. Also, avoid feeding them too much alfalfa hay. Instead, feed them a nice grass hay and let them browse. Goats are natural browsers and prefer eating shrubs, bushes, and trees that are more than 6-8 inches above the ground. They would absolutely love to clear wooded areas of your property for you, and that browse is the healthiest thing for them to eat.

There are dietary supplements that can be used in certain situations, especially if goats need to be on concentrate feeds for showing or other reasons. Talk to your veterinarian for details about what is best for your herd, but your average pet wether will do his best by just browsing the pasture and being supplemented with a decent quality grass hay.

There are a few different types of stones that goats can develop, but it will be difficult for them to develop any stones if their urine is dilute. This means you have to encourage your goats and sheep to drink water, and monitor them to make sure they do.

Springhill equine veterinary clinic

There should be multiple clean water sources in each area where livestock are housed, and they should be cleaned out regularly. White water tubs draw your human eyes to dirt and debris, since you don’t have discerning taste like a cat does. Automatic waterers are great, but only if they work well and are clean. Sheep especially will be unwilling to leave the flock for a faraway water source, so make sure there are multiple sources near the food to limit competition.

Even with proper dietary management and plenty of water sources, some wethers are just unlucky–they don’t have 9 lives like me–and they can still develop this condition and block. So now let’s talk about how to figure out if your goat might be blocked and what to do about it.  

First off, any time a wether isn’t acting like himself, the very first thing to rule out is urinary blockage. Watch him for a bit to see if you can see him urinating or trying to urinate. If you have the ability to move him to a freshly bedded stall, that will often be enough to encourage a goat to urinate. I get it, a fresh litter box is one of life’s greatest joys. Vocalizing while urinating is not normal for goats or sheep, neither is parking out and positioning without producing any urine. Seeing either of those things most definitely warrants a call to that veterinarian you have a great relationship with.

Now, here comes the not-so-exciting news. Most of the time, urinary blockage in wethers requires referral to a hospital for surgical management. If it’s his first time blocking and he isn’t super down in the dumps yet, your veterinarian may be able to come out remove something called the urethral process, which is the final part of his urinary tract, and sometimes is the source of the blockage. This procedure requires sedation and pain management and should only be done by a veterinary professional. Many wethers will block again after this procedure, and soon, but it can sometimes buy time to get them to a hospital for surgical management.

If urinary stones are obtained from removing the urethral process or found in the preputial hair, they should be submitted to the scientist-type humans for analysis. This stone analysis, plus a review of diet and management, are the necessary steps to determining what interventions the wether will need to prevent re-obstruction in the future. Calcium carbonate stones are very hard to manage, but removing sources of high calcium like alfalfa can be beneficial. Struvite type stones can be managed by acidifying the urine through dietary supplementation as directed by your veterinarian.

There is no one plan that will work for all goats or sheep, all stones, or all situations to prevent re-obstruction. The best plan is good husbandry and management of all goats: stop feeding grain, offer grass hay or pasture, and make sure they have more than adequate access to clean, fresh water. Use a goat or sheep-specific mineral and not one meant for horses or other livestock. Management matters, as does having a great relationship with your veterinarian.

If you’re in Springhill’s practice range, that veterinarian can be Dr. Speziok. She offers Herd Evaluations for goats and sheep that allow for the creation of an individualized management plan for your specific situation. Give my minions a call at 352-472-1620 to make an appointment.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. As a goat person, you’ll definitely want to check out the goat videos on my YouTube Channel. My docs will teach you how to do a FAMACHA score to check for parasites, check your goat or sheep’s body condition score, and more. Make sure you subscribe to the channel, as new content goes up every month. 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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Horse Shows and Drug Rules

Horse Shows and Drug Rules

Tuesdays with Tony

This isn’t going to be a blog about what you think it’s going to be about. I like to keep it interesting because I’m a cat, and that’s how we roll. Today I’m going to talk about the guidelines that exist for using medications at horse shows, and some things you humans should think about when using medications.

Yes, You Can

The number one comment I hear from the front desk is, I can’t give any medication. I have a horse show coming up. Yeah, I know you thought I was going to say, What do you have that doesn’t test? My Docs are definitely not down with that kind of thinking, so I don’t hear a lot of that around here. However, if you say this to one of my Docs, they’re likely to reply that you don’t need to go to that horse show if this is your question. 

Back to the real topic here. Most organizations have guidelines in place for using appropriate, safe amounts of medications for horses showing. These guidelines allow the use of pain relievers like bute, Banamine, or Equioxx, and some other medications like dexamethasone. The rules also allow for veterinarians to treat minor emergencies like simple eye injuries, small lacerations, or mild colics while still allowing the horse to compete, IF the veterinarian feels that’s okay. Good drug rules work hard to ensure the welfare of the horse first and foremost. 

It’s important to remember what a competition involves for horses. There’s travel to the venue, sleeping in a strange bed, potentially lights on all night long, likely a high workload, and managing a nervous human, to name just a few. I know many of you humans take an Advil or two at a horse show. That’s reasonable. These guidelines allow your horse to have that same benefit.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Know Your Rules

The best way to follow the rules is to know the rules. Start by finding out the organization you will be showing under. Some common examples are USEF, AQHA, AERC, and FEI. No two organizations are the same, even the ones that do essentially the same events. For example, NSBA and AQHA rules have some slight differences. There can also be differences based on level of competition. USEF and FEI rules may be in effect at the same horse show for horses doing different levels. You may be showing preliminary level eventing, but your barn mate may be doing the 1*. You guys are going to have very, very different drug rules. In a moment I will explain why that’s a big deal. 

Be sure you have a firm understanding of the rules you will be competing under. If you aren’t sure, reach out to my Docs. They can often help you interpret the sometimes confusing language of drug rules. Discuss things with your trainer or other professionals who’ve been competing for a while. This will all help you get an understanding of what you can and can’t do.

Happy Horses

Let’s go over some scenarios to help you understand how to approach the use of medications at a horse show. 

Scenario 1: Your horse, Dobbin, is 18 years old and has been there, done that and is now teaching you, novice human, how to do the things you want to do. Dobbin has some minor aches and pains typical of the age, but is well managed at home with lots of turnout and a good warm up. You’re at your very first away show, which means Dobbin is in a stall for most of the weekend without his usual nighttime turnout. The showgrounds also have a lot of hard surfaces like concrete and asphalt. 

This is an appropriate place to add in NSAIDs like bute, Banamine, or Equioxx. Once again, talk to my Docs about the best way to do this. My Docs will help you decide which one is the right answer for Dobbins, typically with some trials long before the horse show. My Docs will also help you determine the best time to start and stop medications before and after the horse show. Most of those drug rules I talked about put limits on how long medications can be given. Bute is typically 5 days in a row, for example. My Docs will also help you come up with a plan to manage Dobbin’s temporary environment with non-medical things like walks and stretches. Drugs aren’t the magic answer, they are a support system. 

Scenario 2: Your horse, Flicka, is 4 years old and at her first horse show EVER, and it’s a scary, terrifying place, and she might lose her mind at any moment. She quit eating altogether this morning and now you’re pretty sure she’s colicky. 

This is where what I like to call the “vet clause” comes in. Many of the event rules give veterinarians the ability to treat Flicka for her colic, while still allowing you to compete with a short “time out.” Typically that time out is 24 hours. My Docs only authorize return to showing in cases similar to this where we have a horse with a relatively minor problem. They aren’t going to sign off on a major colic continuing to show. However, we all know horses are horses and they do stupid things. Similar to the Dobbins scenario, my Docs would also help you formulate a non-drug plan to help Flicka handle the stress. Long walks, frequent small meals, and, unfortunately, the thing no human is good at, patience will likely be the prescription here. 

The Big Dog: FEI

I’m going to end with a bit about FEI rules. FEI rules are tough and have zero give. A lot of this is because these are the rules that govern the Olympics, and the Olympic Committee is serious about drug use. If you are going to be showing under FEI rules, please, please, please for the love of all that is cat schedule a chat with my Docs. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

There are a whole lot of things you can’t do even 14 days out from a competition. And their drug testing is incredibly sensitive. Residual bute in a feed bucket which is then used to feed an FEI horse can cause a positive drug test. This means you have to be careful with even the other horses in the barn. No sharing anything! Many supplements, especially if they contain herbs, can cause positive tests. Moral of the story here: ask lots of questions, and don’t assume anything is legal. Also, my Docs can help you navigate the maze of FEI rules and passports (but don’t get me started on passports).

I know you guys hear the word ‘drugs’ and think bad. However, the appropriate use of some medications can make the competition world a better place for horses. Schedule a talk with my Docs to go over your goals, hopes, dreams, and fears, and they can help you come up with a plan!

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. I just scratched the surface on this. If you want a deep dive, go listen to the podcast episode the humans did on this topic. It will clog your brain up with knowledge. You can find all their episodes over on the Podcast Page, or you can subscribe to Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth wherever you get your podcasts. Speaking of subscribing, you should scroll down to the purple box and subscribe to my blog before you go listen to that podcast. Yes, that’s 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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Heartworms 101

Heartworms 101

Tuesdays with Tony

Good morning, Humans. It’s the first of the month: have your pets had their heartworm prevention?

Did you know that heartworm prevention is less prevention, and more treating the problem before we know it’s there? Let me back up a few steps – sometimes my cat wisdom can get a little quick for the average human mind. 

What Is A Heartworm?

Heartworms, otherwise known as Dirofiliara immitis, are a frustrating parasite of dogs and cats that exist in the circulatory system and are spread by mosquitoes. They have been found in every state in the U.S. other than Alaska, and are especially problematic in the southeast. In most areas of the country, heartworm disease can be transmitted year round. Though mosquitoes are less prevalent during cooler months, they can fly indoors and find shelter in warm buildings to keep the lifecycle going. 

The Cycle of Doom

Speaking of lifecycle, let’s talk about these annoying little critters and what makes their world go round. Heartworm larvae live in the bloodstream of infected animals, which are then sucked up by a mosquito when they are bitten. While in the mosquitoes’ body, the larvae mature into an infective stage. When that mosquito then bites another susceptible animal, the larvae move into the tissue where they develop for 1-2 months. After that, they move into the bloodstream where they take a few more months to mature into adults and travel into the great vessels of the heart where they live, work, and breed, making baby heartworms to release into the bloodstream to be picked up by another mosquito and infect more animals. 

But The Drugs Handle Everything, Right?

Now, the real rub here is this: the heartworm prevention products that we have actually work by killing the developing larvae in the tissue before they turn into adults. These products cannot kill mature larvae or adults. 

To make matters worse, we can only detect that a pet has a heartworm infection after the heartworms have reached adulthood, as the antigen we use to detect them is produced by adult female heartworms. So, rather than “preventing” heartworm infection, what we’re really doing is stopping the infection in its tracks while we can, before the nasty parasite gets too big for our medications. 

To look for the adult heartworms, we do a blood test that just needs a few drops of blood and generally takes a few minutes to run. Your animals should have that test done every year routinely because of the long period between infection and the ability to detect disease. If we do find a positive test, then we have to pursue heartworm treatment, which is a 3-9 month process that involves expensive injectable medications to kill the adult worms and treat the symptoms of infection. This treatment is only available for dogs, us cats get the short end of the stick as we don’t handle the injectable medication well. 

Many dogs and cats are infected with heartworms without showing clinical signs for months or even years, so don’t try to tell me you don’t need to test your dog because they “seem fine.” Listen to your vets’ advice, test your pets yearly, and most importantly, maintain them on heartworm prevention all year round!

I asked about the first of the month at the beginning of this blog because most preventions are given monthly. My humans tend to remember the first of the month to keep them on schedule, and also recommend setting a recurring reminder in the calendar app of your choice. 

Heartworm preventions are prescription products (this means you have to bring your pet to the doctor at least once a year to continue getting them) and are generally very safe. Most of them also work to kill intestinal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms, so they have a double effectiveness in keeping all the nasty creepy crawlies away from and out of your pet. 

Be Consistent! 

The most important point is this: heartworm prevention must be given consistently all year round because if the developing larvae in the tissue gets beyond 1-2 months of age, we cannot prevent the heartworm infection from setting up shop in the heart. When this happens, we don’t know about it until at least 6 months later when we do a routine test. At that point it’s too late for prevention and we need to talk about treatment, which is long, expensive, and not without side effects. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Heartworm Mythbusting

You may have some preconceived notions about heartworms that are probably wrong. So let’s break some of them down. 

The first myth I’d like to bust is that cats don’t need to be on heartworm prevention. First off, cats are the most important creature in your house and deserve the best of the best. Cats can most definitely get heartworm disease, but we can’t treat it. We also have a harder time diagnosing heartworm disease in cats because, being the superior species that we are, we often do a good job of killing off female heartworms in our hearts. We don’t do as good with killing the male heartworms, which still cause disease but don’t have the antigen that is tested for. This means false negative tests with cats are not uncommon. The very best thing to do is have your cat on heartworm prevention every month all year for life. 

The second myth we should talk about is that if your animal is “indoor only,” they don’t need to be on heartworm prevention. Let’s first hash that term out. Dogs are almost never truly indoor-only. They go out for walks, into a back or front yard, or at least onto a patio. Cats are more frequently inside, however many go on patios, sit by open windows, go into garages, and go outside at least to get from the house to the car when going to the vet. Unless your pet lives in a literal bubble and never sees the light of the sun, they are at risk of being bit by a mosquito in the short sessions of outdoor time they do have. Also, mosquitos do in fact have wings, and can get inside your home quite easily. This means even your truly indoor-only pets are at risk. 

The final myth I’ll debunk today is that if you spend part of the year outside the southeast, you don’t need to give heartworm prevention while you’re away. I’ll point you back up to the beginning of the blog where I remind you that the way heartworm preventions work is by killing developing larvae in your pets’ body while they can still be killed, not by preventing them from ever getting there in the first place. Hopefully learning this helps you remember to give your pets heartworm prevention all year round and to make sure to get them tested at the vet every year. 

As always, if you have questions, my human staff–*ahem* veterinarians–would be happy to help you find the best products and plan for your furry friends. 

Until next week, 

~Tony

P.S. Have you subscribed to my blog yet? Don’t rely on Facebook to deliver my incredible cat thoughts to you. Be a good human and scroll down to the purple box and put your email address in there. I promise I won’t spam you, I’ll just send you my blog every Monday. 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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The Sinister Sarcoid

The Sinister Sarcoid

Tuesdays with Tony

It’s almost Halloween, are you in the mood for a scary story? There are few things that make my docs’ skin crawl like the sinister Sarcoid. So what is this ghoulish growth on your horse’s skin? Let me share a little Tony wisdom with you about this weird, not quite cancer, but definitely tumor, that horses get, and veterinarians hate. 

What Is It?

Long story short, a sarcoid is a skin tumor caused by a virus. They’re really common – actually the most common tumor that horses get, with 2% of the equine population estimated to be affected. Any color, sex, or breed of horse, donkey, or other equid can get them. You may have seen one before – they often look like warty, crusty, bumpy skin growths, but there’s a lot of variation in their appearance, and they can get nasty, aggressive, and ulcerated as well. More on that later.

Sarcoids are caused by a bovine papillomavirus, basically a cow wart virus. It’s thought to be transmitted by flies, from infected cattle or other horses. It’s that virus part that makes them so tricky to deal with, since they don’t act quite like other types of tumors.

Sarcoids can stay small for years and just look like a wart or a patch of bald skin. Then they can start changing – and things can get ugly fast. As they enlarge, the skin can ulcerate, attract flies, and become infected. They can look like open sores that won’t heal. While they’re a kind of cancer, the only good news about sarcoids is they don’t metastasize. That means little bits don’t break off to go form new tumors elsewhere on the body. If you see a horse with multiple sarcoids, each one of those is its own separate little hell creation, not a spawn. 

Recognizing a Sarcoid

Sarcoids can have many different appearances, and in the early stages can be hard to even notice. There are 6 different types.

Occult sarcoids look like a circular hairless area, or where the hair color or thickness is the only change. They’re easily confused with rub marks from tack, or with other skin conditions like ringworm. Some occult sarcoids stay the same size and appearance for years before starting to change.

Verrucose sarcoids are mostly flat and usually look grey and wart-like. They can be flaky or have dandruff-like material that rubs off. Sometimes there are small nodules within the skin, or they can crack or ulcerate.

Nodular sarcoids look like firm bumps under the skin. They can be single or multiple and are usually easier to notice than the first 2 types. The skin will usually be intact over the nodule.

Fibroblastic sarcoids form nodules as well, but are more aggressive looking, and the skin over them is fleshy and ulcerated. Treating these early is critical.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Mixed sarcoids are a mix of the different types and are quite common.

Malignant sarcoids are the most aggressive type, and the scariest. They spread extensively through the skin and underlying tissues. These are often really ugly lesions – large and invasive with ulcerated nodules. They like to grow on the side of the face, the inside of the thigh, and the elbow. Thankfully, this is the rarest type, as they are very difficult to treat.

Battling the Beast        

Have I sufficiently horrified you? Want that thing gone from your horse? Yep, we hate them too. But it gets worse. Because sarcoids are caused by a virus, it’s not as easy as having my doc come out and cut it off. We would LOVE it if that worked. But even if my doc surgically removes all the tissue that looks like sarcoid, the “normal” looking tissue next to it can still be infected by the virus, and it can turn ugly next. Sarcoids often react poorly to negative stimuli, much like cats.

The approach my Docs take will depend on what that appearance of the sarcoid is. There are numerous treatment options, with no one option being suitable for every case. The appropriate treatment is dictated by the type of lesion and the location, so do yourself a favor and DON’T listen to that random guy on Facebook who tells you he’s got a lotion or potion that will clear any sarcoid right up. There are several types of (legitimate veterinary) treatments that are available, but unfortunately due to the tricky nature of sarcoids, there isn’t one silver bullet that is guaranteed to work, and many things that can make it worse.

My Docs may take a wait-and-see approach with the occult and verrucose variety, since poking that tiger may wake it up. If a sarcoid looks like it’s changing, early intervention is needed to treat it before it gets larger and more difficult to deal with. Treatment may involve topical ointments, injection of chemotherapy or immune modulators into the tumor, surgical procedures or lasers. Often, it’s a combination of these methods. There are also some specialty treatments like electrochemotherapy or radiation that can be very effective but are usually performed only at veterinary schools and require general anesthesia. It’s important to remember that any treatment may have to be changed or repeated if the sarcoid doesn’t respond well or comes back later. That’s just the nature of sarcoids and can happen despite everyone’s best efforts. Yet another reason why we hate them.

There’s no way around it, sarcoids suck. My very best cat advice: Control the flies around your barn and ask my Docs early if you find any weird skin growth on your horse.

Until next week,

~ Tony

P.S. Have you seen the Halloween Horse Costume video my docs made? It’s hilarious, and one of a ton of great videos that you’ll find over on my YouTube Channel. Make sure you subscribe while you’re there so you’ll get an alert when I post a new video. Much like reading my blog, it will make you a better horse human. 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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Things This Cat Wants You To Know

Things This Cat Wants You To Know

Tuesdays with Tony

As the resident King of The Countertop at Springhill Equine, I listen to a whole lot of conversations. Some are unique, but there are some very, very frequent repeats. As a cat who is constantly trying to make the world a better place for horses… Wait, that’s not true at all. I write this blog for the fame, fortune, and adulation of my fans, not for the horses. I am a cat, after all.

The real reason for me to go over these frequent topics is so my Docs have more time to scratch all my favorite spots in the proper way, as I have trained them. So, strap in and let’s visit some things you should know.

Colic

Stop walking them. For the love of all that is cat, please, please, please stop walking colics. It only exhausts you and the horse and doesn’t help the colic at all.

While we’re on the topic of colics, let’s talk about causes. The #1 cause of colic is not enough water in the system. Now I know there can be a whole lot of reasons for this, but taking the time to work on a plan for water consumption for your horse can prevent a lot of unwanted visits with my Docs. We all know you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. Using strategies like added salt in the grain, or, even better, adding lots of water to the grain, can dramatically increase water consumption without your horse even realizing it! Making sure your horse has access to and is drinking water when they’re working hard, or when it’s really hot out helps reduce impactions, too. When it’s cold out, again adding salt or water to the food puts water where it’s needed most. 

The #2 cause of colic in this area of Florida (and now’s the season) is the sudden appearance of coastal hay in front of your horse. Putting out a round bale of hay and turning your horse loose on it is like sending me to the all-you-can-eat Friskies buffett. It’s not going to end well for anyone! Coastal hay is a good roughage option as long as it’s managed well. Start with small amounts of hay, and gradually increase over 10-14 days until your horse is leaving some hay. Then you can put a round bale out. Along with that coastal hay, feed at least ½ flake of alfalfa or peanut hay daily. It helps keep the system moving smoothly. It also drives thirst, which makes them drink, and, well, we’ve gone full circle.

Horse Trailers

You should have one, or have very, very rapid access to one. Oh, and your horse should know how to load. Just this morning Dr. Lacher was speaking with someone with a horse emergency too far away for us to drive to. This area doesn’t have any veterinarians. This owner doesn’t have a horse trailer. I wish I could say this wasn’t a common scenario, but it’s nearly daily here. There are a myriad of reasons why your horse may need to trailer somewhere. From bad lacerations, to colics, to hurricane evacuation. Having a trailer, or a solid plan with your neighbor, is really, really important. 

Now that you know why you should have a trailer, make sure your horse loads in that trailer. This takes practice. Often it takes two people to get the process going the right way. Even more often it takes a professional to help you teach your horse to load. And despite your desire to yell, scream, and swear at your horse due to the insane stress levels you are experiencing due to their extreme commitment to not loading on the trailer, calmness is the answer. You can trust me on this. I specialize in naps. I know calm. 

Having a Plan

I’ve got two scenarios here. 

Scenario #1: Disaster Plan. You need one. You need one in general, but you really, really need one if you have animals. Horses drink a lot of water, and eat a lot of food. When the power goes out, water gets tricky if you’re on a well. If there’s a significant disaster, like Hurricane Ian, it can take a bit to get supply chains of feed and hay running back into an area. Think about what disasters are likely to hit your area, and make a plan.

Scenario #2: You die. I know, I know, no one likes to think about this part, but if you’ve got animals, you need to. Cats and dogs are hard enough to find good homes for, let alone horses. Take the time to do some estate planning so your family (who may not even be horse people) know what to do with them. Set aside some money in that estate plan to help with this, or to help your family find the right person to re-home them. There are so many animals who find themselves in a bad situation because their owners suddenly passed away. This is easily avoided with a modicum of effort on your part, and now that I’ve cat-splained it to you, you have no excuses. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Your Horse’s Diet

A much lighter topic than the previous one. Your horse’s diet should start with roughage, meaning pasture or hay. Concentrates should be an add-on from there. Those concentrates will balance all of the shortfalls of the roughage. You do NOT need supplements. I feel like you humans think supplements = love. Not true. Time spent with you grazing, or getting favorite itchy spots scratched, or a nice trail ride, these things are love. Not supplements. And when it comes to concentrates, the least expensive bag of feed is NEVER the cheapest way to feed your horse. 

Let me elaborate. A bag of ration balancer, which is what 90% of horses should be eating, is fed at 1 pound per day. It’s all nutrition, low on calories, and while the 40# bag might be $30, you only feed 1 pound per day. Sweet feed, which is a terrible plan for horses, needs to be fed at 10-15 pounds per day to meet the basic nutritional needs of the horse. It might only be $15 a bag, but you’re either feeding 1 bag every three days or you’re short-changing your horse on nutrition, which you’re then trying to make up for by feeding a bunch of supplements. 

So: good nutrition/ration balancer at less than $1 a day, or junk food and supplements for $5 – $10 a day. Make sense now? 

I hope this weekly drop of insane cat wisdom helps you make good horse decisions. Need help with colic prevention, disaster planning, trailer loading, or good nutrition? Give my Docs a call. They may not be able to estate plan with you, but they generally know someone who can help. And make sure you take a minute to scratch my back the next time you’re at the Clinic.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. If you really want to download a ton of high-quality horse knowledge into your brain, start listening to the podcast my minions produce while you’re driving to the feed store to get that ration balancer. It’s called Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth and you can listen to it right from your phone. You can find it over on the Podcast Page of my website, or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. I promise it will make you a better horse owner. Now, before you go down that rabbit hole, if you would just scroll down to the purple box and subscribe, I’ll email you my blog every Monday. That’s right, early access. Just for you. Enjoy the podcast.

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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Feline Litter Box Issues

Feline Litter Box Issues

Tuesdays with Tony

While litter boxes aren’t always considered “polite” conversation, they are a very important consideration in your feline guardians’ lives. And really, if you can talk about horse poop (and I hear those conversations all day long) then you can talk about cat poop. Work with me here!

ISO 5 bed/5 bath Cat Condo…

A good rule of thumb (or paw, as it were) is to have one more litter box location than the number of cats in the home. Notice I said location; that means that three litter boxes in the garage right next to each other don’t count! If you have one cat, they should have at least two different rooms they can go in to answer nature’s call. Ideally, litter boxes should be in open areas with multiple exit routes. And litter boxes should be cleaned daily. Maybe you think that’s a lot, but just imagine your only toilet option was one that was only flushed every other day–and imagine you had to stand barefoot in it!  

In general, cats prefer large, uncovered, unlined boxes with 2-3 inches of unscented, clumping litter. If your cat doesn’t fall into this preference category, try offering them a “Litter Box Buffet” where you place different combinations of box and litter type all arranged next to each other and let your cat tell you what their preferences are. Avoid putting litter boxes next to loud appliances such as water heaters and dryers, or in dead end areas like linen closets.

Indications of Problems

Oftentimes, the first sign of stress or illness in a normally fastidious feline is “inappropriate” litter box behavior. If you have a cat that starts using other areas of the house instead of the litter box, it’s very important to schedule a veterinary visit to rule out a medical issue before just assuming spite or malice.

If you have a male neutered cat between the ages of 1 and 10, a very important condition to be aware of is feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), also called feline idiopathic cystitis. Cystitis means inflammation of the bladder, and idiopathic means unknown cause. While the important research humans don’t have a definitive cause pinned down, they do know that stress and inadequate water intake are two major players in FLUTD. There is some research to show that cats affected with FLUTD have physiological differences in their stress response.

Cat Stress 

Stress can be hard to assess in my feline brethren. We train from a young age to appear unbothered and aloof on the outside, but it is true that we don’t handle change very well as a species (sound familiar?). A change in routine, new people or pets in the home, or unfamiliar environments (even rearranging the furniture) can all lead to stress which will manifest as litter box issues. Hey, it’s not perfect, but it gets your attention!

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

The best thing you can do for your cats, even before you notice litter box issues, is try to prevent and mitigate stress in the environment. Provide plenty of resources: multiple litter box locations, multiple clean fresh water bowls, scratching posts and other vertical locations, and play.

Another helpful tool is a product called Feliway. Have you ever seen one of your cats rubbing their cheek on a wall, coffee table, or you? Well, it’s not just because scritches feel nice. We have scent glands on our cheeks that release a pheromone that sort of marks things as “safe.” It’s a good way to mark our territory (you should feel quite honored if your cat marks you like that). Feliway is a synthetic version of that pheromone and helps extra-anxious cats feel a little less worried. It is an over-the-counter product and comes in a spray, collar, and room diffuser. The room diffuser works great in the rooms where litter boxes are, and the collar stays with the cat so it helps keep any area feeling safer.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Urethral Blockage

Especially in male cats, FLUTD can progress to a life-threatening condition called urethral blockage, or urinary obstruction. I know humans aren’t as intelligent as cats so I will spell it out very clearly:

If at any time your cat attempts to urinate in the litter box and is unable, they need to go to the emergency vet as soon as possible.

In this condition, the bladder becomes inflamed (remember that cystitis word?) and the inflammation travels down to the urethra. The inflammation and other factors can also lead to the formation of crystals and/or stones. Both of these components can lead to the urethral diameter decreasing to the point of blockage. This prevents the cat from peeing, and when that happens, toxins build up in the body and cause very serious disease.

This is more likely in a male cat because we have longer, narrower urethras compared to female cats. If blockage occurs, your cat must go to an emergency veterinarian and be sedated or anesthetized to have a urinary catheter passed to allow the bladder to empty. He will also likely need at least a day or two of hospitalized care and diagnostics to determine if his kidneys were impacted by the blockage or if he has urinary stones that must be dealt with.

Urinary Stones

The two most common types of stones that we see in the urinary tract are struvite stones and calcium oxalate stones. There are diets that can attempt to dissolve struvite stones, but calcium oxalate stones cannot be dissolved and may need to be removed surgically. These special diets mostly act by acidifying the urine and can also be used to decrease the risk of new stone formation along with increasing water intake.

You Can Lead a Cat to Water

Increasing water intake is an important measure used to prevent stones from recurring. Canned food has a higher water content compared to dry food, plus it tends to be way tastier. Many of us will even allow you to add water to our canned food. Some of us also love a good water fountain, and we absolutely need our bowls kept clean. Our whiskers are quite sensitive, so we prefer they don’t brush the sides of a bowl overly much. Getting wide diameter bowls lets us drink without a sensory overload. If you have a particularly finicky feline, flavoring one of the water bowls with water drained from canned tuna or with a tiny bit of canned food can also encourage water consumption.

I hope I’ve imparted to you the importance of a litter box in your cat’s life. While you may only think about it when you clean it out, we think about it many times a day when we have to use it. Pay attention to your cat’s urinary habits. If you notice a change, it’s because they don’t feel well, and they need to go to the doctor. And if you notice your feline friend completely unable to urinate, it is absolutely vital that they get to an emergency veterinarian, even if it’s a Saturday night and you had plans. After all, what’s more important than your cat? And don’t you dare say your horse…

Until next time,

~ Tony

P.S. Are you subscribed to my blog, or do you rely on Facebook to maybe show you that it’s here? If you aren’t subscribed, all you have to do it scroll down a bit more to the big purple box. Once you’re signed up, you’ll get an email every week with a link to my latest blog. All the very best humans are subscribed. I’m just saying. Scroll down. Purple box. 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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EMM/Chiro for Horses

EMM/Chiro for Horses

Tuesdays with Tony

As the Springhill Clinic Cat (i.e. an Intellectual), my day involves sleeping, eating, and monitoring my minions, but a lot of horses have physical jobs to do. Joint problems can really get in the way of that stick jumping, barrel turning, or trail rambling stuff. When joints malfunction, the neurological balance is affected, causing pain, muscle tension and restricted joint motion. None of that is good for your horse’s ability to do his job.

My Docs are great at keeping horses healthy, and they’ve got all sorts of ways to do it. One of my Springhill Docs is always going around bending horses in weird ways….and what’s weirder is they seem to like it. What’s up with this purr-plexing treatment? Well, you’d call it chiropractic if it was being done on a human. In Europe, you might hear it called Veterinary Physiotherapy. For horses in the US, we call it Equine Medical Manipulation (EMM). Same thing, basically. Whatever you call it, the goal is to improve the mobility and function of the joints, reduce pain, and ease muscle tension.

What Happens During a Session?

Since my Doc is, well, a Doc, she’ll do a thorough exam of your horse. She’ll look at his posture and how he moves, then do a whole lot of poking and prodding to feel his joints through their range of motion. She’ll feel for muscles that are tight and check your horse’s flexibility. She can tell from all that what joints aren’t working like they should, and then she’ll perform specific adjustments to improve them.

Horses usually get more and more relaxed as it goes on, and most will show their approval during the adjustment. They may lick and chew, take deep breaths, or shake their head around after a particularly good release of tension. I think the horses should just try purring, but my Doc says they don’t know how, and the licking is just as good. Anyway, the horses look like they really like the adjustment. I tried to get the Doc to give me an adjustment by weaving around her ankles, but she doesn’t seem to get my message.

What Does it Treat?

EMM treatment doesn’t replace traditional veterinary medicine, but it gives my Doc an additional way to diagnose and treat a variety of musculoskeletal problems. Here are some things it’s useful for:

  • Treating chronic musculoskeletal problems
  • Treating acute problems such as tension or stiffness
  • Maintaining fitness and performance, whether your horse is a sport horse or a weekend warrior
  • Maintaining comfort in older horses

The number of EMM sessions your horse needs depends on the condition being treated, how long the problem has been going on, and his age. Conditions that have been going on for a long time usually require more sessions and newer conditions can require fewer sessions.

Mythbusters!

Let’s talk about some misconceptions that get my fur in a knot!

  • The bones aren’t “out”. You’ve got to be kitten me! Can you see the bone sticking out of the horse? (If yes, you have a whole other problem) If not, the bone is not out. It’s still in! So, let’s stop saying things like that. My Doc will talk about “restrictions”, she won’t say things like “his hip is out”. What really happens is that reduced joint mobility causes negative effects on the joint itself, the nervous system, and the muscles and tendons surrounding the joint. These things lead to your horse having pain, abnormal posture, or poorly coordinated movement.
  • They’re not cracking Cracking would actually be really bad! What my Doc does is clear the restrictions around a “motion unit”, which is the bones of the joint and the soft tissues that surround them. That means she does a manipulation to help the bones, muscles, and other stuff move the way they are supposed to. Sometimes, you hear an audible sound when air pressure in the joint is released.
  • You don’t need a lot of force to adjust a horse. It shouldn’t look dramatic. In fact, good adjustments look kinda boring. Like, the horse is usually falling asleep by the end of it, and I’d be ready for a cat nap too. The adjustments are called high velocity, low amplitude, which means they are quick and precise, not rough. They are done in a very specific location at a specific angle. It takes a lot of training to learn this. You should be careful who you hire to adjust your horse.

Would EMM Be Good for Your Horse?

So how do you know if your horse could benefit from EMM? Horses can show lots of signs that indicate pain or discomfort. Deep breath, and here we go…. reduced performance, incoordination or uneven gait, poor attitude, tense muscles, abnormal posture, pinning the ears when saddled or mounted, hollowing the back, swishing the tail, behavior changes, sensitivity to touch, stiffness when bending, muscle wasting, decreased stride length, difficulty engaging the hindquarters, pulling against one rein, lack of flexibility, trouble flexing the poll, difficulty with collected gaits, lateral movements, or turning, and bucking. Wow, that’s a long list. How annoying.

My Doc tells me that unlike us cats (superior beings), horses don’t usually act like jerks just for fun – they’re not that creative. Sometimes they just hurt and don’t know how to tell us. When they act up, there’s usually a reason. It may be a training issue, but pretty frequently bad behavior is due to pain or discomfort.

One really common thing my Doc sees is tension lines in the neck. Horses should have smooth necks, even really well-muscled horses. If your horse’s neck has creases in the muscle, that’s a sign of a serious muscle spasm!

If you see any of those issues, it’s definitely time to call the Clinic. But the best thing for your horse is to have him checked out before there’s a major problem. It’s always better to keep him comfortable and working well than to wait until issues arise!

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Do you know about Spa Day at Springhill? You can drop your horse off here at the Clinic, and she’ll get EMM, acupuncture, and an FES session. She might even get her nails painted (no promises, but it has happened!). We recommend that you go get a massage and a petticure while you wait. Then you can pick her up and enjoy the both of you being calm and relaxed. At least for a little while tongue-out Call me to schedule it at 352-472-1620.

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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