Eye Problems Part 2

Eye Problems Part 2

Tuesdays with Tony

Are you ready for Eyes Part 2? Really, eyes could be a 5 or 6-part blog, but for now we’ll keep it to two. These will keep the most common eye problems horses have in the spotlight, so you know what to look out for. Conjunctivitis, abscesses, and lacerations happen often, and almost always on the weekend. If it hasn’t already been ingrained in your head, I’ll say it again: Eye problems are ALWAYS an emergency!

Conjunctivitis

The conjunctiva is the mucous membrane that covers the inside of the eyelids and lies over the white part, or sclera, of the eye. When this tissue becomes inflamed, the result is conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis can have similar clinical signs to other common eye problems, including corneal ulcers, uveitis, and abscesses.

Horses with conjunctivitis often will have tearing from the eye, generalized redness, and swelling. It’s not uncommon for horses with conjunctivitis to be seen rubbing their eyes, making them more prone to developing corneal ulcers. As usual with horses, conjunctivitis can be caused by a number of different reasons, like allergies, insect hypersensitivity, and other environmental irritants. Conjunctivitis can also lead to secondary ocular problems such as obstructed tear ducts, which can require veterinary attention to resolve. 

Treatment of conjunctivitis includes anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, and occasionally, anti-biotics. Topical anti-inflammatories can be dangerous if there is any kind of insult to the cornea and can result in a small scratch becoming a large, melting, sight-threatening ulcer. Therefore, it is never a good idea to treat an eye before your veterinarian assesses the eye and prescribes the appropriate treatment. Similarly, treatment of an obstructed tear duct requires veterinary involvement. If performed incorrectly, there is risk for rupture of the tear duct. 

If your veterinarian suspects that your horses tear duct is obstructed, they will sedate your horse, as most horses HATE this process. They will then insert a small tube into a tiny hole in your horse’s nostril and flush a solution of saline and usually steroid up the tear duct to dislodge any mucous that has accumulated. I find it to be utterly disgusting, but for some reason the docs and techs love to do this. They say it’s rewarding. Humans.

Antihistamines are often prescribed if your horse has an overall allergic appearance. You know what I’m talking about, the itchy mane with hair missing and the crusty tail, those guys really need antihistamines. As a cat with allergies, I can tell you how important it is to control the itchiness before it results in a skin or eye infection. An easy way to help protect your horse’s eyes from external environmental factors is placement of fly mask. Some horses really just don’t know what’s good for them and often like to remove their fly masks. Don’t be afraid to ask my docs about the fly masks out there that are significantly more difficult for horses to remove.

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Stromal Abscesses

Probably one of the most frustrating eye problems a horse can get is a stromal abscess. This is when bacteria or fungus gets trapped within the layers of the cornea and the top layer of the cornea heals, allowing the organism to reproduce and grown within the deeper layers of the cornea with no way out. Abscesses are extremely painful for your horse and result in extreme squinting and copious tearing, often with mucoid discharge present as well. These horses tend to be head shy and do not want anything or anyone near their eyes.

An abscess within the cornea is usually easily diagnosed by a yellow-white circular infiltrate surrounded by edema, and occasionally blood vessels. Recognizing an abscess early is extremely important when it comes to successful treatment. Also, recognizing that treatment will be long, intense, and likely expensive is very important. You as an owner must be upfront and open with your veterinarian about your willingness to be involved in treatment and your budget.

Treatment almost always includes placement of a subpalpebral lavage, along with every 2-hour administration of 4-6 eye medications around the clock for several weeks. These things are exhausting, let me tell you. When we have one here at the clinic, I literally get no sleep, which is saying something for a cat. Neither does the horse or my minions. This is a lot to take on at home, so think hard about your willingness to get up at midnight, and 2 am, and 4 am, etc. to go give your horse more eye meds. It will take over your life, so that’s why we encourage you to let us handle it for you. We have more people to share the load. 

One of the most important goals of treating an abscess is to control the inflammation. Once the inflammation is under control, the abscess has a chance to heal. Sometimes, medications will be injected directly into the conjunctiva or abscess itself to facilitate die-off of the organism and allow for healing to occur. These things can take 6 weeks or longer to heal. It’s a long hard road but, if it caught early and treated aggressively, they can heal, and sight can be normal.

If an abscess does not heal despite intense treatment, or if it’s been left too long without treatment, enucleation may be recommended. This is when the entire globe of the eye is removed. Sometimes enucleations are the best option for the horse and the owner, and sometimes it’s the only option.  

Lacerations

If you have ever owned a horse, then you’ve probably had a horse who has sliced his eye lid almost clean off. They find the most random places to do this too: screw eyes, bucket handles and hooks, double ended snaps, tree branches, horse trailers, fences, literally just about anywhere you can think of, a horse has lacerated his eye lid on it. You can be the most cautious owner in the world and your horse will still find a way to lacerate his eye lid. 

Looking at the lacerated eyelid, it might seem like a simple fix to just finish off the job and trim the flap off. Please, for the love of cats, do not do this! Your horse needs his eyelids! Their eyelids protect them from when they stick their heads in places they shouldn’t, they act as a lubricating system to the eye, and protect them from UV rays from the sun. Horses need their eyelids. Do not, I repeat, do not cut off their eyelids.

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Always call your veterinarian if you notice a lacerated eyelid. The sooner they come out to fix it, the better. After a while, the flap will start to lose blood supply, and once that happens, fixing it may not be an option. When your veterinarian comes out, they will assess the damage, which 9 times out of 10 looks significantly worse than it is. They will sedate your horse, clean up the eyelid, and put it back together with sutures. They will also examine the eye itself to make sure there was no damage done to the eye. You will likely have instructions to apply topical antibiotic and administer anti-inflammatories daily. Sutures have to be removed after several days, as they can cause trauma to the eye if left in longer than directed. The best part about eye lid lacerations is, after your horse looks like he has been in a bar fight for a couple of days, you’ll barely notice anything ever happened and they heal up fantastically.

Eyes are the window to the world and your horse needs them just as much as you do. So, who are you going to call when your horse has an eye problem? YOUR VETERINARIAN! This cat could go on and on about eyes, so if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call the clinic.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. If you want to really get deep into horse eyes, you should listen to the podcast the humans do. It’s called Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth, and they have several in-depth episodes on eyes. You can find them here on the Podcast Page, or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Every horse owner should be listening to this fantastic free resource! In addition to reading my cat wisdoms, of course. Goes without saying.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Eye Problems Part 1

Eye Problems Part 1

Tuesdays with Tony

“Granny, what big eyes you have!”

“All the better to see you with, my dear!”

This doesn’t just apply to wolves and Little Red Riding Hood. Typical of prey animals, horses have giant doe eyes that sit toward the side of their heads and protrude out into the environment. Along with nearly wrap-around vision, having wideset eyes makes horses more prone to eye injuries. As you all know, eye injuries are always an emergency, and you should always call your veterinarian at the first sign of an eye problem.

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Given the importance of eyes and the numerous illness and injuries that can affect the eye, this will be a two-part blog. This week we’ll discuss Uveitis and Ulcers, and you’ll have to tune in next week to see what we’ll talk about then. That’s me building antici-purr-tion. And that’s a cat joke.

Uveitis

Equine Recurrent Uveitis, otherwise known as ERU, is a disease of the eye that can affect any horse of any age, breed, or gender. That being said, there are certain breeds that are more prone to ERU, like Appaloosas. Let’s break down each word of Equine Recurrent Uveitis. Equine, that one is simple, equine means horse. Recurrent, means occurring often or repeatedly. Finally, Uveitis, that one is a little more complicated. Uveitis basically means inflammation of the eye. More specifically, it’s inflammation of the layer of the eye that lies between the retina and the sclera and cornea which includes that iris, ciliary body and choroid. So ERU is inflammation of a horse’s eye that occurs frequently.

Signs of ERU are often very subtle. They can range from mild, clear discharge from the eye to thick mucoid discharge. There may also be occasional swelling of the conjunctiva and eyelids. More obvious symptoms can range from cloudiness of the eye to squinting. As you can imagine, with chronic inflammation come other underlying problems. Frequent inflammation results in the development of scar tissue which can affect the lens of the eye leading to cataract development and blindness. Similarly, uveitis can result in decreased drainage of the fluid within the eye which can cause an increase in ocular pressure. As the pressure increases, glaucoma develops and blindness occurs, and you can imagine the headache your poor horse must have. This stuff is painful!

Prevention and treatment of uveitis flare-ups are key. Unfortunately, there is no cure for ERU and long-term prognosis is guarded. Prevention is difficult but keeping your horse in a UV-resistant fly mask is your best tool. Catching symptoms early can help reduce the effects and control the pain. Systemic anti-inflammatories including bute and banamine can help during a flare up. However, topical application medications including steroids such as dexamethasone, topical atropine and/or topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatories including diclofenac reduce inflammation and minimize damage. Surgical implantation of a cyclosporine implant slowly releases the immunosuppressant for up to 3 years and reduces the occurrence and severity of ERU.

As I mentioned earlier, end-stage uveitis can result in cataracts and glaucoma, ultimately causing blindness. It can also result in shrinkage of the eye to the point of complete loss of the eye. Treatment of an end-stage uveitic eye is a salvage procedure and includes injection of medications including the antibiotic gentamicin or the steroid triamcinolone into the globe. The result of such injections kills the eye, causes complete blindness but also reduces the pain associated with ERU. Alternatively, a severely uveitic eye may be a candidate for enucleation where the globe is surgically removed. Either way, the ultimate goal for end-stage uveitis is to alleviate all pain associated with the eye.

Ulcers

Corneal Ulcers are a frequent occurrence in horses. I swear, they must find any bush or tree or shrub and intentionally stick their head directly in it with their eyes wide open. Horses really aren’t the smartest creatures on the planet. The smallest piece of sand or tiny little branch can wreak havoc on horse’s eyes, and a small abrasion on the eye can result in a defect of the cornea and a corneal ulcer. Corneal ulcers can range from superficial to deep and even can risk perforating the eye completely. A perforated eye can be disastrous for both horse and owner.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Corneal ulcers can present similarly to uveitis. You may notice tearing, swelling, and squinting. If you ever notice any of these signs, it is your cue to call your veterinarian. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, just call your vet. An ulcer that is treated quickly and effectively can heal within days. Left untreated, a corneal ulcer can become a melting ulcer, or worse, can perforate the eye within days. Once diagnosed with an ulcer, your veterinarian will prescribe a very specific treatment regime that can range from 2-3 times a day medications to every 2 hours medications, depending on the severity of the ulcer. Trust me, they do not prescribe every 2 hours medications just for fun. They know exactly how much effort it takes but they also know that if you follow their instructions, it is very likely that the ulcer will heal and your horse will have a functional, seeing eye.

Occasionally, treatment may require the insertion of a subpalpebral lavage. A subpalpebral lavage, or SPL, is a system made up of tubing that is placed through your horse’s upper or lower eyelid and held in place by a footplate that rests inside the eyelid along the conjunctiva. The tubing is then weaved through your horse’s mane and a catheter with an injection cap is secured to the end. This system allows for easy medication administration directly to the eye without having to manipulate the eye itself.  SPLs are reserved for severe cases which require frequent administration of numerous medications.

While corneal ulcers can be simple and resolve quickly, they can also cause major problems and lead to long-term dysfunction of the eye. I cannot stress this enough: if you think your horse has a problem with his eyes, call your veterinarian immediately

Stayed tuned for next week’s Part 2 on eyes.

Until then,

-Tony

P.S. If you can’t wait a week to learn more about eyes, head on over to the Podcast Page and scroll down through the Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth library. There are several episodes on eyes, more than enough to tide you over for a week. There are nearly 100 episodes altogether so far, which is a lot of horse doctor knowledge. That’s nearly as valuable as cat knowledge. Nearly.

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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Antibiotic Resistance Refresh

Antibiotic Resistance Refresh

Tuesdays with Tony

When you’re the supervising feline of a veterinary clinic, you know the amazing lifesaving things that antibiotics can do. You also know what a CATastrophe it would be if we didn’t have them. Plenty of things make a cat grumpy, but few things ruffle my fur quite like misuse of antibiotics that might lead to antibiotic resistance!

Let me explain how antibiotic resistance works and how we can avoid it. Antibiotic resistance doesn’t mean that your horse’s body becomes resistant to antibiotics, it means that the bacteria no longer respond to the antibiotics designed to kill them. They ignore the antibiotic treatment and continue to grow and reproduce, making your horse’s infection worse. When the bacteria become resistant, the antibiotics don’t work anymore, and your vet is left with few options to treat your horse’s infection. Infections caused by resistant bacteria are difficult or even impossible to treat.

Anytime antibiotics are used, it can contribute to bacteria developing resistance. Usually, the benefits usually outweigh the risks when the antibiotics are used appropriately. But if used unnecessarily or incorrectly, it increases the chance of creating antibiotic resistance. These mistakes are really common, so be careful you aren’t making them. And this stuff applies not just to your pets’ antibiotics, but also for the ones your doctor prescribes for you. We need our antibiotics to keep working so my docs can keep saving lives!

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Mistake Number 1

One of the most common mistakes many horse owners make is not finishing the entire course of antibiotics that their horse is prescribed. Here’s how it often happens… your horse is prescribed an antibiotic by a veterinarian, and you give it very diligently for several days. Then, you start noticing that he is improving, and you think, GREAT, the antibiotic is working and my horse is cured. Here is where the mistakes begin. 

It is extremely common for owners to see their horse improving and decide to discontinue antibiotics before they have finished the full course. DO NOT do this! Antibiotics are prescribed for a specific length of time. During this time the bacteria are being killed, which is why your horse begins to improve.

What happens when you stop antibiotics early is that some of the bacteria have not died yet, but they have been exposed to the antibiotic. When you stop the antibiotic, they start to reproduce again and the next thing you know, your horse is showing signs of infection again. When you see the signs return, you might try to start the antibiotic again. But this time, your horse does not improve. You call one of my docs out and they recommend a culture and sensitivity test which shows that the bacteria are now resistant to the antibiotic that previously worked on your horse’s infection. 

By discontinuing antibiotics before the full course was administered, antibiotic-resistant bacteria or “superbugs” are formed, and now the superbugs are reproducing. The superbugs recognize the first antibiotic and laugh at it when you try it again, as they have developed superpowers to prevent the antibiotics from killing them. Now we have a superbug that needs an even stronger antibiotic. Hopefully, this time, you have learned your lesson and give the entire course of prescribed medication. But sometimes it takes you humans more than once to learn your lessons! So you repeat the above scenario with stronger antibiotics, and a super-superbug forms. It isn’t long before there are no antibiotics left that the bug is susceptible to, and now your horse has a resistant infection that cannot be treated. 

Mistake Number 2

Mistake number two may be even more common than mistake number one. Do you have old leftover antibiotics lying around your barn somewhere? I bet if I cat-scanned your farm I would find some!

Here’s how it goes… You notice your horse has an infection and think, well, I have some of that old antibiotic in the tack room, I’m sure that it would be fine to treat my horse with that and I’ll save a little money. Never administer an antibiotic to your horse willy nilly! Even if it was once prescribed for him. ALWAYS call my docs first. You might think you’re going to save money, but this sort of thing often causes expensive and difficult problems that could have been avoided.

Different types of infections are caused by different types of bacteria. The bacteria causing your horse’s lung infection may be a different species than the ones that infect a skin wound. The antibiotic that will treat one kind of infection may not touch another. If you choose the wrong antibiotic, it not only wastes time and lets the infection get worse but is a great way of causing antibiotic resistance. Chances are you don’t know the right dose for that antibiotic either. So DON’T use what you have laying around the tack room, and DON’T buy something random at Tractor Supply. Don’t even get me started on expired antibiotics!

Mistake Number 3

Yeah, I know that it would be easier if you could just dump the antibiotic tablets in your horse’s grain and he would eat them all up. You don’t like giving them directly in his mouth, and neither does he. But what usually happens is that the horse picks through his grain and doesn’t like the taste, so he only eats part of the antibiotic dose. The bacteria are not killed when they are under-dosed – that only makes them stronger and more likely to become resistant.

The best way to make sure he gets the whole dose is to syringe it directly into your horse’s mouth. My docs will show you how and teach you tricks to get it done. Many of the common antibiotics they use can be dissolved in a little water inside a big plastic syringe and given just like a dewormer. You can even add flavorings like molasses to sweeten the deal. But your horse must receive his ENTIRE dose to avoid problems. If you find that you really can’t administer the antibiotics that were prescribed, my docs will find you another way to treat your horse and avoid antibiotic resistance.

Mistake Number 4

Sometimes people call asking for antibiotics to treat their horse and yet my docs have never even seen the horse. Not only is this illegal for my docs, it’s also very dangerous for your horse. If my docs prescribe your horse an antibiotic for an ailment that they have not examined your horse for, they are risking their veterinary license. Not to mention you are putting your horse at risk for developing antibiotic resistance. 

A common misconception is that all infections are treated the same. This could not be further from the truth. Some bacteria thrive in an environment without oxygen, some thrive in an environment with oxygen, others have super strong cell walls that require stronger antibiotics, and others are more easily treated. Even further, some infections are a mixed bag of multiple different bacteria. The only way for one of my docs to have any idea of what kind of infection your horse has is for them to see your horse. And did you know that viruses NEVER require antibiotics? Giving antibiotics for a viral infection just wastes money and creates antibiotic resistance.

I never want to find out what it would be like to live in a world without antibiotics, and neither should you. A lot of these problems we’ve talked about are avoidable simply by making sure you have a veterinarian examine your horse prior to treatment, following your vet’s orders, and calling them if you are having trouble with the prescribed treatment. The future of equine healthcare, cat healthcare, people healthcare, and every other kind of healthcare depends on it!

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Have you been to my YouTube Channel lately? I’ve got hours and hours of free horse knowledge waiting for you there. It’s way more beneficial than bingeing on Netflix, and easier to share with your friends: win-win!

 

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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New Deworming Study Conclusions

New Deworming Study Conclusions

Tuesdays with Tony

As a regular reader of my weekly words of wisdom, I’m sure you’re aware of my strong feline feelings on deworming. However, I shall summarize it briefly. Deworm less. A lot less. Like, deworm-once-a-year less. This is accompanied by, do fecal egg counts to determine if any horse needs more deworming, and even then it’s only going to be a total of twice yearly. Where did all my purrfectly amazing feline knowledge come from? Science. The Gluck Center at University of Kentucky, and more specifically the hard work of a prodigious parasitologist, Dr. Martin Nielsen and the other humans who work in his lab. You may have seen a recent paper from his lab that looked at parasite egg shedding and numbers in an incredibly detailed way in a herd of horses who haven’t been dewormed in 40 years! This week, let’s talk about the work of Dr. Dr. Ashley E. Steuer. She’s the lead author on this paper. And no, I didn’t type Dr. twice on accident. She’s a DVM and a PhD! Also, cats don’t make mistakes.

What They Looked At

Gluck is a super cool place to geek out on horse scientific stuff. They’ve got research going on all sorts of things. As part of that research, they have a herd of horses maintained on pasture that never get dewormer, and hasn’t since 1979. 

For this paper, they asked the following questions: 

  1. Do horses shed more parasite eggs at different times of year? 
  2. Do young horses shed more than mature or aging horses? 
  3. What species do they shed when? 
  4. When do foals start shedding? 
  5. Do pregnant mares shed more eggs right before foaling? 

If you want to read the entire paper, which I recommend, you can click here. For the rest of you, I’ll give you my synopsis below.

Seasonality

Some work has been done on the question, do horses have a season to their egg shedding? Apparently that work was mostly done long ago in a land far, far away (England). This work was done in a very different climate: Kentucky. The horses were monitored for a full twelve months, and Kentucky, being Kentucky, was kind enough to have four seasons. (My native land of Florida only has Summer, and a brief not summer, then back to Summer.) This allowed for evaluation in a truly hot season, and a for-real cold season, with nice middle of the road seasons as well. Drum roll please: no real difference was seen in the adults based on time of year. This is different from what the British studies found, and may be a reflection of different types of climates or a change in parasites. Well, that’s interesting!

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Young Horses and their Shedding

Boys are ickier than girls. That was my fine feline conclusion. Foals shed a combination of Parascaris, and Strongylid sp. Young foals shed predominantly S. westeri as expected and boys do it earlier and more; girls are less and longer. Boys were just plain higher than girls on the other two. There was a hypothesis put forward that it may be because colts eat more poop than fillies. Think about that the next time one of them wants to give you a cute little baby kiss. Foals start shedding eggs pretty quickly, and peak at around 6-8 months of age. Foals were also susceptible to Anoplocephala sp (tapeworms), but it seems to take them 4-6 months to even get them. I felt like foals just like to spread their parasites around. It does make sense since their immune systems aren’t quite fully on-line yet, but jeesh, do they have to go contaminating everything? 

What About Pregnant Mares?

There’s work in cows and sheep to show an increase in parasite egg shedding around the time of calving and lambing. Based on the work on these horses, that doesn’t seem to hold true for horses. The very smart human (I mean, she is a Dr. Dr.) did caution this was a small group of horses. I say this is even more reason to do a fecal egg count before deworming! Why spend the money, and the time, and the aggravation deworming your mama mare if you don’t have to? Science says see if she’s even shedding parasites at all.

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Cat Conclusions

What’s this all mean? Never deworm again? That can’t be true. Tony, you’ve gone crazy, you say. This is a study that looked at a very specific herd of horses and asked a very specific question about shedding of parasites. This study didn’t discuss the risk level of the parasite load in the horses in the study. It does give us great insight into parasite egg shedding patterns when there is no influence of dewormers. For this wise cat, it also makes me an even stronger believer in fecal egg counts before deworming any more than once yearly. 

P.S. My Docs recommend once yearly because it minimizes the risk of a deadly type of colic caused by Strongylus vulgaris (large strongyles), and the less deadly, more annoying gas colics that Anoplocephala sp (tapeworms) cause. This study did not look at risk factors for complications when not deworming for 40 years, it simply looked at what worms were there and how many of them. In general though, it seems horses tolerate their parasites fairly well so don’t deworm them every month!! 

P.P.S. My Docs are excellent at helping you formulate a parasite plan for your property, and your horse’s lifestyle. Don’t go all willy nilly. The drugs available now all have resistance. With a little bit of planning, you can help them last as long as possible. Give my minions a call at (352) 472-1620. 

Until next week,

~Tony

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Urban Legends of the Horse World

Urban Legends of the Horse World

Tuesdays with Tony

Let’s talk about some of my favorite topics that help horse owners spend money needlessly. I like to call these the Urban Legends of the Horse World. Some have a bit of fact, and I emphasize, a bit, behind them. Some are wild tales meant to scare children around campfires at night. Either way, I watch a lot of horse people spend a lot of money or time on them for no good reason. Don’t worry, Tony’s here to help you out.

Colics and Walking

I’m starting with this one since it’s one of my life’s missions to get humans to stop walking colicky horses! If your horse lays down to roll, it will NOT cause their intestines to twist. In fact, it’s the other way around. Horses become intensely painful and roll because their intestines twisted. I know you’ve heard this one from me before, and I’m saying it again. Do.Not.Walk.Your.Colic! Okay, I’m ambling down from my soapbox now.

Hindgut Ulcers

I’m prepared to face the wrath of the internet on this one. Hindgut ulcers in the way you are thinking of them aren’t a thing. Yes, my Docs see hindgut ulcers, but it’s rare and is ALWAYS secondary to massive doses of NSAIDs like bute. For the most part these drugs are safe, but if given in too high a dose for too long, they quite literally destroy the hindgut. For some horses, this is one dose at a high level, for some it’s 4-5 days of high dosing, and for some it’s weeks of overdosing. These drugs are easy to use all willy nilly, but it’s important to check in with my Docs about best practices. Horses with hindgut ulcers are incredibly sick, and it can be life-threatening. They don’t experience a vague sense of unease, or balk at your leg, or pick up the canter incorrectly. They try to die. 

Okay, now for the tiny kernel of truth behind hindgut ulcers. The more all the amazing gut researchers out there learn about the critters that live in the GI tract, the more they know they don’t know. I think they should ask a cat. We know everything. Just ask us! Anyway, what is very clearly known is that the bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa that live in there are all important, and are all delicate little flowers. Any little thing upsets them. There are a million solutions proposed for managing this upset. There are two that have science behind them: forage and Saccharomyces boulardii. That’s it. Not hindgut buffers, not magical hindgut happiness potion, not vaguely labeled hindgut supporters. Hay and maybe some yeast. Mostly hay. Want to keep your horse’s hindgut happier? Feed them more hay! 

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Stomach Ulcers

What? Are you crazy, Tony? Are you saying stomach ulcers aren’t a thing?? No. I’m not actually saying that. I am saying that a bajillion of the things out there that say they will fix it, won’t. Stomach buffers will help the symptoms temporarily, but not long term. Many of the wonder cures out there are buffers. Treatment is aimed at first knowing what kind of ulcers you’ve got: squamous or glandular, then targeting treatment to the type, then modifying life and diet to avoid recurrence. Wonder cures which involve two pumps or scoops or packets of something random do not factor in here. 

Joint Supplements. Okay, Supplements in General.

Let’s evaluate the size of a horse. I’m going to be kind and say the average horse weighs 1100 pounds. Yeah, that’s right, I’m saying most of you humans have overweight horses. Let’s look at the average supplement: 2 ounces. That’s the size of the scoop. That’s 0.00002 pounds per pound of horse body weight. Chances are good that supplement isn’t doing much. For example, when my Docs recommend flax seed for itchy skin, they recommend 1 POUND per day minimum. Think about what is in your supplement, and then the quantity you are feeding before expecting it to do a lot. The other thing about supplements is that they are the wild, wild west of the nutrition world. This is true for human supplements, too. Pretty much as long as you don’t say your supplement treats a medical condition, you can say it. My Docs can help you evaluate supplement choices, but know the answer will be just don’t do it 95% of the time. 

There are a whole lot of urban legends out there in the horse world. For 99.999999% of the horses in the world the right answer is a good diet based on 1-2% of their bodyweight as roughage, only enough concentrate to supplement vitamins, minerals, and protein to support workload, clean water, and turnout and/or exercise to keep the body moving. The rest of it separates your money from your wallet. Horses do that well enough already! Talk to my Docs for help sorting out the urban legends from the truth. 

Until next week,

Tony

P.S. If you are thirsty for knowledge on the things I talked about here, you should go listen to the podcast my humans do. They have a whole lot more to say about this stuff than I do. To be fair, I’m limited to 1,000 words, and they can talk for 30 minutes to an hour. I’m not staying awake that long unless I’m blocking traffic in the Clinic parking lot. Anyway, you can find all 90+ episodes of Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth by clicking here, or subscribing wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll thank me later. 

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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Equine Podiatry

Equine Podiatry

Tuesdays with Tony

It was so wonderful to see everyone at our seminar Thursday night! I haven’t been feeling like myself lately. Seeing all of your smiling faces really lifted my mood and made me feel much better. It’s been so long since we’ve been able to have in-person events, and I’m excited that we are starting up monthly seminars again.

This week I want to recap Thursday’s seminar topic, Equine Podiatry, just in case you missed anything. I consider myself one extremely lucky cat to be in the presence of such incredible doctors every day. Dr. Staples is no exception; she has been a wonderful addition to the Springhill Team and her knowledge of all things horse feet far exceeds that of mine, which is saying a lot. Dr. Staples is an Equine Podiatrist (which means she’s both a Veterinarian and a Certified Journeyman Farrier), and Thursday night’s seminar was an introduction to all things equine podiatry. We discussed everything from anatomy and conformation to common issues and diseases.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

You all know the saying, “no hoof, no horse,” and there is no truer saying. The number of soundness problems my docs see that start from hoof problems is tenfold. Conformation plays a huge role in how the anatomy of your horse’s hoof is affected. No horse has the perfect conformation or the perfect feet, but what you do with the imperfections can pave the way for your horse’s comfort and soundness.

A normal hoof will have a straight hoof-pastern axis. It will also have even wall height medially and laterally with a frog centrally set that hits the ground evenly and lightly. When a horse has a normal hoof, they are more capable of withstanding the pressures applied to the foot and leg with movement. A normal hoof will have a 3-5 degree positive palmar/plantar angle which allows the horse to move his feet in ways that the digital cushion can support and that the tendons and ligaments are not overly strained.

Sloping hooves have a broken back hoof-pastern angle often because the horse has a long pastern. These horses are your flat-footed horses. Their frogs often hit the ground with more force and absorb more of the concussive forces. Horses with flat feet lose a large portion of their squishy digital cushion, they are prone to long toes and underrun heels. This also makes them more susceptible to have a negative palmar/plantar angle of their coffin bone. The more negative the palmar/plantar angle, the more tension is placed on the tendons and ligaments which can lead to tears and injury.

Upright hooves result in a broken forward hoof-pastern angle, which gives the appearance of a club-like foot. It doesn’t necessarily mean the horse if club footed, it means the hoof is extremely vertical, the frog rarely hits the ground, and the toe of the sole ends up taking on most of the concussive forces when the horse moves. These horses are often foot sore at the toe because as the horse moves, it’s basically stubbing his toe with every step. An upright foot also put undue stress on a horse’s tendons and ligaments which can lead to soundness problems, including tears. Cats are made perfectly and never have issues with conformation or anatomy, so learning about how a small change in structure can result in catastrophic problems for a horse really made me appreciate 1) cats, and 2) our farriers for keeping these horse feet in working order.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Dr. Staples talked a bit about different diseases that can affect the hoof, and how conformation can cause abnormal forces, which can lead to disease, and how disease can lead to the hoof structure becoming abnormally shaped. Systemic diseases such as sepsis or endocrine diseases (including Cushings) can lead to hoof problems.

Laminitis is a disease of the hoof that plagues horse owners. It is the 9-letter word of the horse world and is one word horse owners never want to hear. Systemic disease increases a horse’s likelihood of developing laminitis. Laminitis occurs when the Velcro (lamina) that holds together the hoof wall and the coffin bone became inflamed and starts to separate. Separation of the lamina allows for downward rotation and/or sinking of the coffin bone within the hoof capsule. Similarly, disease of the hoof such as white line disease can lead to the separation of the lamina and result in laminitis if it’s not treated quickly and effectively. Yet another cause of laminitis is injury to a limb resulting in inflammation of the opposite limb because the horse is putting most of his weight on the limb opposite the injury.

Not everything that affects the hoof results in laminitis. Conformation can affect how a horse’s hoof grows which can result in abnormal forces on the hooves. Conformation can be addressed by your farrier and changes in shoeing can be used to help compensate for the abnormal forces caused by poor conformation. Poor trimming/shoeing can also cause abnormal forces. Toes that are left too long or toes that are trimmed too short can cause soundness problems and put undue stress on your horse’s limbs. A good working relationship between your veterinarian and farrier is essential to correcting trimming/shoeing problems.

The number of problems that can affect feet is innumerable. Nothing is more frustrating for an owner than an abscess. Chronic abscesses are even more frustrating. The shape of a horse’s hoof can make them more prone to abscesses, the environment can be the cause of abscess, and irregularities such as tumors within the hoof capsule can lead to abscesses.  Flat-footed horses with long toes tend to develop abscess more frequently than horses with a normal hoof. Florida is a hotspot for hoof abscesses in horses. It’s wet 90% of the year. Horses are bred to be in drier environments. The constant wetness in Florida keeps horse’s hooves moist, and opens up micro holes in the foot that allows bacteria to seep in resulting in an abscess. If your horse is one of those horses who has repeat abscesses, I highly advise you to get your veterinarian involved. There could be a much deeper issue that requires veterinary intervention.

Occasionally hoses can develop benign tumors in their hoof which causes pressure points on the coffin bone resulting in bone loss and recurrent abscesses. These tumors are called keratomas. They can result in lameness, but they can also be present without issue. The only way to diagnose a keratoma is with radiographs. This is where your veterinarian can provide insight to the inside workings of your horse’s hooves.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

This leads me to my next soap box: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And this is where you all have to play your part. Be involved, be aware and know when you need to seek help. You know your horse better than anyone else which means you know when something is off. Your vet and farrier know your horse pretty well too, and having them involved in wellness care for your horse can prevent hoof problems and identify them early should they arise.

Routine blood work to screen for Cushings and routine radiographs that are shared with your farrier can help identify problems early on and help to resolve the complication before it becomes a major, potentially life-threatening issue. Communication between your veterinarian and farrier about your horse’s overall health and hooves can result in the prevention of disease and hoof worries. Therefore, take it from this old cat, have your horse’s feet attended to by your farrier every 4 to 8 weeks (depending on your farrier’s recommendations), continue wellness prevention with your veterinarian every 6 months, and don’t be afraid to call your veterinarian if you believe there is any change to your horse. I promise you, it will save you a lot of money, a lot of heart ache and potentially your horse’s life.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. You can find the video of the seminar over on my YouTube Channel if you didn’t see it live. There are a lot of other videos there that you might find useful, too. For example, you can Click Here to see a video that explains how to assess your horse’s feet and see if the angles are right. See how hard I work for you humans and your horses? You’re welcome. Just make sure you scratch my chin next time you see me.

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 Basics of Horse Health

The Basics of Horse Health

Tuesdays with Tony

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

The Exam

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

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

Vaccines

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

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

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

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

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

Coggins

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

Dentals

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

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

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

Deworming

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

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

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

Until next week,

~Tony

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

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Horse Poop

Horse Poop

Tuesdays with Tony

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

Color

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

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

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

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

Consistency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

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

Frequency

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

~Tony

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

 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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A Tale of Two Colics

A Tale of Two Colics

Tuesdays with Tony

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

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

Haley

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

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Saratoga

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

What Kathy did right:

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

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

Until next week,

Tony

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

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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

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

Tuesdays with Tony

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

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

  1. Provide fresh water

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

  1. Think about the water container

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

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

  1. Flavor the water

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

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

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  1. Bring water from home when traveling

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

  1. Position the water near the food

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

  1. Soak hay and grain

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

  1. Warm the water in colder weather

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

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

  1. Supplementing with salt

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

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

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

Until next week,

~Tony

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

 

 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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