Worms

Worms

Tuesdays with Tony

 

 

This week, let’s talk worms. I should have done this topic for Halloween. Worms are creepy, crawly, icky, and you humans hate to even think about your horse having a single one of them. A huge motivation for this week’s topic comes from this article I saw in one of the Doc’s science magazines: Importation of macrocyclic lactone resistant cyathostomins on a US thoroughbred farm. That’s a fancy way to say they found strongyles on a farm in Kentucky that weren’t killed by Ivermectin, and, even scarier, the parasites came in horses imported from Ireland. To keep your horse safe, this week we go from Mythbusting to Proper Parasite Procedure: Wisdom of Worms by Tony the Clinic Cat.

The Worms

Let’s talk parasites. The biggies we worry about in horses are large strongyles, small strongyles, ascarids, bots, pinworms, and tapeworms. Sure, there are others, but these are the ones that cause problems, and formulating a plan for these takes care of all those others. I’m talking to you, neck threadworm. I hear all kinds of craziness about the neck threadworm.

Know what kills neck threadworms? Ivermectin. And it kills them really effectively with ZERO documentation of resistance. This will be the end of my neck threadworm soapbox. Moving on to other soapboxes…..Large strongyles, bots, and tapeworms take a long time (in worm time anyway) to have babies. This means strategically deworming once yearly takes care of all your deworming needs here. It also means it’s really hard for them to develop resistance to drugs. Ascarids are mainly a young horse issue so skip to the babies section if you want to learn about them.

Pinworms are super annoying, and are generally addressed only when they’re an issue. Short answer for them: call my Docs if your horse is itching their tail. That leaves small strongyles. We base most of our deworming program on these guys.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Deworm all the time: MYTH

Every time the farrier comes. Every month. Once then again in two weeks, then again in two weeks. These are just a few of the very wrong deworming schedules I hear from my throne at the front desk.

Rotate different dewormers. Give Ivermectin all the time. PowerPac every horse. Give them Strongid, then Ivermectin. These are just a few of the wrong deworming drug scenarios I hear from that same throne.

What’s the correct answer? Fecal Egg Counts. This is how you tell what parasites are having fun in your horse’s GI tract, and how many of them are in there partying down. My Docs recommend every new-to-you horse gets a fecal egg count before deworming, and that every single horse gets a fecal egg count in the Spring. Using this fecal egg count, my Docs will then put your horse in the low, medium, or high shedder category.

Around 85% of the horses at Springhill Equine are low shedders!! That’s a lot of horses who don’t have a lot of worms. And our goal is to let those low shedders keep some of their worms. That’s right. We want some horses to have some worms. Low shedders have an immune system that keeps those worm numbers down, which lets us have a population of parasites that don’t get exposed to a lot of drugs. When this group mates with a strongyle that has resistance, the babies come out without resistance. The Docs even have a fancy term for this: Refugia.

Deworm the Right horse at the Right time!

“Ok Mr. Smarty Cat,” you say, “what am I supposed to do now?” As Mr. Smarty Cat I, of course, have an answer. If your horse is a low shedder, you deworm once a year, in the Fall, with a combination Ivermectin and Praziquantel product. The two brand names in the US are Equimax and Zimectrin Gold. Word of caution about Zimectrin Gold: some horses react very strongly to the carrier, so my Docs recommend Equimax. Why Fall? Because that’s when worms are old. By deworming them when they’re old and frail the drugs can kill more worms with less effort.

If your horse comes up as a medium or high shedder on that fecal egg count, they’re going to get dewormed in the Spring, and maybe again in Winter. That’s a call for my awesome Docs. That will most likely be with a plain ol’ Ivermectin. It will not be 5 days in a row, once with this drug, then wait two weeks and go with a different drug. It will be once with an Ivermectin. In 10-14 days after that ivermectin, a fecal egg count should be checked again. Why? Because I said so. And also because there has been documented resistance to Every.Single.Drug available to deworm horses. By checking that fecal egg count in 10-14 days, you can be sure Ivermectin is still working on your farm. It’s cheap insurance. That way you don’t end up like the super fancy Kentucky thoroughbred farm with very drug-resistant parasites.

Babies

Now, babies are different. Babies should be dewormed at 90 days of age with either pyrantel, fenbendazole, or oxibendazole. There are some reasons to pick one drug over the other for some farms so I HIGHLY recommend talking with one of my Docs before you start down this road. Babies are most susceptible to a class of parasites called ascarids. These guys love, love, love to learn how to survive any dewormer thrown at them. That means we have to be super careful with deworming programs for them to make sure we don’t help them learn all about dewormers. The good news is nearly all horses develop natural immunity to ascarids by about 12-18 months old. Fecal egg counts are super important for managing these guys!! You definitely want to talk with my Docs about that for your babies.

It all sounds complicated, but the answer is quite simple: bring poop to the Clinic. Start with a fecal egg count. From there my Docs will formulate a custom plan for your horse, and your farm. That plan will help you have happy, healthy horses for years to come!

Until next week,
~Tony

Want even more wisdom? Check out all my other blogs. I’ve been doing this for a very long time. You can also listen to the humans on something called a podcast. You can listen right here on my website, or subscribe to Straight From the Horse Doctor’s Mouth wherever you get your podcasts.

 

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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Teamwork continued

Teamwork continued

Tuesdays with Tony

This week I am going to take you all back to elementary school when you all learn about teamwork. You learn about it at a young age and it ends up playing a role throughout your life.  Who knew when your teachers were talking to you about the importance of teamwork that years later you would be reading a blog, written by a cat, about the same thing? I’m a cat, cats don’t do teamwork. However, as you all know, I have put together one of the best teams around to take care of your horse and they really thrive on teamwork. This is why it is so important that my doctors work as a team with your farrier, your trainer and any other professional you have working with your horse to provide top notch care and achieve results based on a common goal.

Farrier

You’ve heard the saying “no hoof, no horse”. Your horse’s hoof care is imperative to his wellbeing. Farriers play such an important role in your horse’s soundness. From proper trims to specialty shoeing, they can really make a huge difference in a horse’s movement and performance. Having a farrier and veterinarian who are willing to work together towards a common goal will allow for any problems or issues with your horse to be addressed quickly, efficiently, and effectively.

If you’ve ever had a lameness exam performed on your horse, you know that the docs always start by looking at your horse’s hooves. They will pick them up, test them for soreness with this big metal clamp thing, and they will look at the angles and shape of the hoof. Once the lameness exam is complete, they may even perform nerve blocks in which they inject anesthetic around nerves. This causes anything below the nerve to go numb, just like Novocain for a dental procedure.  With the nerve blocks, the docs can determine if the problem stems from your horse’s feet or is further up his leg.

If the lameness is from the hoof, it can usually be resolved with proper shoeing. Diagnostic imaging, such as radiographs, will likely be suggested. These can show the docs and your farrier the angle of your horse’s coffin bone within his foot along with his hoof/pastern angle. Changes to trimming and shoeing can be made based on your horse’s lameness exam and radiographic images. This is why it is essential that your veterinarian and farrier work together. Your farrier is extremely knowledgeable about all things horse feet, and your veterinarian is extremely knowledgeable about all things horse feet and lameness. Therefore, putting both their brains together to address you horse’s issue will certainly help resolve it quickly.  Take it from this cat, have a farrier who is willing to work with your veterinarian. It will save you a lot of time, money, and heartache in the long run.

Beyond lameness, it is super helpful when you have a farrier who is willing to work with your veterinarian in the event of an injury or illness.  One incidence in particular I can think of is laminitis. A quick diagnosis and corrective shoeing can be the difference between life and death when it comes to laminitis. Excuse me while I get on my soap box for a minute, but I feel it is necessary. Find yourself a farrier who knows his/her limits and is willing to say, I don’t know or I’m not comfortable with that. That farrier is worth his/her weight in gold and could be life saving for your horse.  Having a farrier who is humble enough to admit this will allow my docs to employ a farrier with the appropriate skills to apply corrective shoeing. As you all know, my docs love to educate, so if your farrier isn’t comfortable with what your horse needs, my docs will be happy to teach them. If your farrier doesn’t tell us that he isn’t comfortable with performing what your horse needs, my docs won’t know that he/she needs direction. This could be disastrous for your horse. Ok, soap box over now.

Trainer

Your trainer is a wealth of information. They know horses and they know your horse. They can tell when a horse isn’t performing his best. Having a trainer who is quick to notice when something is amiss is priceless.  No one knows your horse better than you, but your trainer can provide you with an outsider’s perspective. They can be present to communicate with your veterinarian when you may not be able to be there.

In my experience trainers are a wealth of information, some good and some, well, not so good. Having a trainer who is willing to listen and learn is invaluable. I’ve been present when some trainers come through the clinic, and I can’t help but shake my head at their old school ways. I know you all have read my numerous blogs on colic, but when a trainer comes through saying they’ve been walking a colic for the last 4 hours and it still isn’t better, I can’t help but face-paw. I know you know not to do that but sometimes trainers are a little late to get the new info.

On the other hand, trainers are really amazing at picking up when your horse is mildly colicky and they are usually very comfortable in administering medications.  That being said, a trainer who is open to listening to your veterinarian, learning new things, and making changes to their daily routine for the better of your horse, is irreplaceable. Just like with your farrier, my docs are ready, willing, and able to educate them so they can provide the horses under their care with the best and most up-to-date veterinary care. In doing so, my docs are able to help you and your horse stay in tip top condition all while preventing any unforeseen issues down the road.  As horse people who have worked with trainers for years, my docs know just how important it is to have a trainer who is willing to be a part of your horse’s care team.

Other Professionals

Other professionals, including, but not limited to your veterinary dentist, equine massage therapist, equine transportation team, and grooms/stable hands are all part of your horse’s team. While my docs provide a wide array of veterinary care including dentistry, lameness, acupuncture, and spinal manipulation, they have informed me that not everyone is as blessed to have a team that provides it all. This means you may have to have a different person out for all the different treatments your horse needs.  Having professionals who are a part of your horse’s team who are also willing to communicate with all the other professionals in your horse’s life is going to make your life and your horse’s life run that much smoother.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

On occasion, there may even be more than one veterinarian involved in your horse’s care, so having two veterinarians who communicate effectively about your horse is incredibly important so that nothing gets missed. Two heads are better than one, right? Well, sometimes, but not always. In my opinion, stick with one veterinarian or one veterinary clinic where all of your horse’s records will be kept. That way you won’t run into issues like missing or duplicate vaccinations, expired coggins the day before a show, or incomplete medical records. It can get very confusing and frustrating for everyone involved when there are too many chefs in the kitchen. Find a veterinarian or clinic you are comfortable with and stick with them.  Veterinarians are not like underwear; you do not need to change them every day.  As for all the other professionals in your horse’s life, just like your farrier and your trainer, find those who are openminded, want to learn more, want to communicate with each other and your veterinarian and want to be a part of your horse’s team.

Remember: teamwork makes the dream work!

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. The humans are always busy working on podcasts. Stroll on over to the podcast page here and listen to what they have to say. I know I always find something new to listen to. And make sure you subscribe to my blog before you go. You can do that by scrolling down just a bit further to the purple box.

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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Bleeders

Bleeders

Tuesdays with Tony

Bleeders. Nothing ruins a good run like seeing blood at your horse’s nostrils. This week we’re gonna chat about Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage, or EIPH. That’s the fancy acronym doctors use to describe bleeders. EIPH is complicated! Hang on for a wild ride with some really good prevention stuff at the end.

Bleeding while running seems like a bad plan

It seems like a theme to life here at the Clinic. Horses have some serious design flaws, and bleeding from your lungs because you ran too fast certainly seems like one of them. As an apex predator, I do have to run down the occasional mouse out in the shed, but I’ve never encountered bleeding from my lungs. When I asked my Docs about this, I was blown away by the explanation (total airway pun there. I do crack myself up). 

Fast-running horses move air out of their lungs so quickly, they literally suck the air across the blood vessel wall. What the what?!? That’s just crazy. When horses are running fast (cats too, just in case you didn’t think we were athletes), the guts are a huge component of breathing and heart rate. As the inside front foot hits the ground, the guts push forward on the diaphragm, pushing the air out of the lungs, and causing the heart to contract. As the hind feet push off to propel the horse forward, the opposite happens. The guts move back in the abdomen and pull air into the lungs, and give the heart room to expand. This means horses aren’t moving air in and out with their muscles alone, that massive GI tract is throwing its weight around. This all works in a very delicate balance. Anything messes that balance up, and poof you’ve got blood cells on the wrong side of a blood vessel wall.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Small bleeds

A cat could lose himself in Google Scholar for days looking at EIPH research. You don’t think I spend all my time just sleeping on the keyboard, do you?? Anyway I spent a long weekend with no humans around diving deep into EIPH. The literature is kind of scattered on the early stages of EIPH. This is not because no one is looking! Completely shameless plug here for supporting basic level science research. This is how curious cats find the answers to life’s questions! 

Anyway, a pretty decent association has been made between inflammation and EIPH. Fungus in the airways plays a role, and Winter/Fall seems to, as well. Oddly, bacteria don’t seem to matter. The research also shows that lots of these horses start out with tiny bleeds, the lungs scar and develop more inflammation, and they bleed worse. It is well documented that age is a huge factor in EIPH with older racehorses being way more prone to having career-limiting episodes. 

What’s it all mean??

Great, you say, but what does this mean for horses? Never fear, I have wisdom to drop. Many of you have heard of giving furosemide (Lasix) to bleeders. It works, but it only works OK, not spectacularly. Furosemide makes the blood thicker so it’s harder for it to cross those blood vessel walls. It does this by dehydrating your horse a little bit. If you’re going to use it, make sure you talk to my Docs about managing this dehydration, and the potassium loss that goes with it. 

The way, way more important thing to do is prevention! Those fungi I talked about earlier? Those come from the air. Keeping horses in really well-ventilated spaces is a huge preventative measure for not just EIPH, but also all kinds of respiratory challenges. Think about hay bags on the trailer, stabling at equine events, arenas (especially those indoor ones). All of these are great ways to put your horse in an area with massive amounts of fungus traveling through the air. 

What’s a human to do? Wet your hay down, especially if you’re feeding it from anywhere higher than the ground. Keep your stall meticulously clean and dust free. This goes for anytime, really, but in particular those indoor stalls at horse shows can get NASTY. Think about the ammonia smell that knocks you down as you walk in the doors. All that ammonia is murder (literally murder) on lung cells! Finally, encourage show management to keep arenas appropriately watered down to keep dust in the air to a minimum.

Confounding factors

EIPH rarely shows up all by itself in older horses, and by older, I mean horses over 4 years. It’s really, really important to do what’s called a Bronchoalveolar Lavage (BAL) on these horses to make sure all the lung things are taken care of. In one study nearly half (!!!!!) of all the barrel horses tested had asthma and EIPH. You can give that horse all the Lasix you want; it’s not going to run any better because it still can’t breathe! Lameness is also strongly associated with EIPH. What I’m saying is don’t go all cowboy tough on this one. Talk to my Docs!!!! This is complicated and you need help to keep your horse performing at their best.

EIPH is way more than a little blood from the nose. Manage your horse well, and they’ll have years of performance ahead of them. You know where to go for help with that. My awesome Docs are just a phone call, email, or even a text away.  

Until next week,
~Tony

P.S. The humans have a great podcast on this topic called Airway Issues. You can find it over on the Podcast Page if you’re not already subscribed to the podcast. If you want to step up your game on this stuff, that’s a great resource. Trust me. I’m a cat.

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 Team at Springhill Equine

The Team at Springhill Equine

Tuesdays with Tony

In case you all missed it, a few weeks ago, everyone here at the clinic up and abandoned me and Teenie for a weekend.  Yes, you read that right, they left us all alone to fend for ourselves. Well, not really, they had a kitty-sitter come and feed us and medicate me, but don’t think for a second that I didn’t protest their absence.  When they came back, they explained to me that the reason they left was to go on a team-building trip. That’s all well and good, but aren’t Teenie and I part of the team too? Then they explained that they went kayaking and that it involved water and getting wet, so I finally understood why they left us. Team building is such an important aspect to the well-oiled machine that is this clinic.  So, this week, I want to talk to you about the people in my clinic that make the gears turn and allow us to come treat your horses every day.

The Office Staff

When you call the clinic during the day you will get the girls in the office. They are the first line of communication between you and the docs. They control the schedule. And let me tell you, sometimes they can be really strict! They keep the docs on point making sure they get to their appointments on time, bill and collect money appropriately, and answer all your questions throughout the day. Furthermore, they keep the financials of the clinic up and running. Without them, the doctors and technicians would be lost.  Not to mention they make sure my feeding schedule is set and I receive my insulin daily, as you all know I am extremely demanding when it comes to food. Thankfully, I have them wrapped around my little paw.

Beyond keeping the docs in line, the office staff processes, packages and mails lab work. When we have a horse hospitalized, they will also administer medications as per the docs instructions. Similarly, when you call and request a medication for your horse, they get doctor approval and then get the medication prepared for you to pick up. I have been thinking about getting my own Facebook/Instagram page, but then I am reminded, I don’t have thumbs so making posts would be rather difficult. Nonetheless, Springhill Equine has both Facebook and Instagram which are primarily monitored and run by the office staff. I suppose I could employ one of them to manage my page, but I’ll just take over Springhill’s page when I want to. As you can tell, the office staff is essential to the everyday ins and outs of running the clinic.

 The Technicians

This past week was veterinary technician appreciation week. A week really isn’t long enough to show just how much our techs are appreciated. They deserved to be recognized every single day for their efforts. Teenie and I like to show our appreciation by vomiting daily, drooling all over the computer screens, and getting locked into places we are not supposed to be.  As you know, whenever my docs are working with your horse, they almost always have a technician with them. This is not only for the safety of my docs but for your safety and your horse’s safety.  Our technicians are first and foremost horse people. They are wonderful at reading horse language. This allows them to know what a horse is going to do before they do it. Knowing and understanding horse language allows them to predict when and how a horse is going to react to certain situations. This allows them to keep the docs out of harm’s way.

Beyond horse handling and communication, the technicians provide your horse with love and care as if they were their own horse. They love each and every horse. A major part of the techs job is to be prepared for every appointment. They arrive at the clinic before the docs, they look at the schedule and get everything ready to load on to trucks for the day. When the docs arrive, the techs go over the plan for the day, they check to make sure the truck is stocked and that all equipment is charged and ready to go. When we have horses that are hospitalized, they administer medications and provide treatments to any hospitalized patients.  The technicians are the doc’s right hand women. They are always one step ahead of them and always cleaning up after them. In case you didn’t know, the docs can be pretty darn messy. They expect me to clean it up but, I have more important things to do. Thank goodness they have amazing technicians who don’t mind picking up after the docs, and, well, me.

The Veterinarians

You all know my docs and you know what they do for you and your horses. I want you guys to know a little more about them though. Veterinarians go to school for at least 4 years before they even go to Veterinary School. Veterinary School is also 4 years long. So at the very least they have been through 8 years of school to become veterinarians. All the docs in my practice went on to participate in a year-long internship after veterinary school where they got to practice all they had learned while under the watchful eye of another veterinarian.

When you schedule an appointment with my docs they are giving you and your horse their undivided attention. They look over every aspect of your horse to develop a diagnosis and treatment plan going forward. What you probably don’t know is that even after your appointment is over, they are still thinking about your horse. They will often go home, research, and think about your horse for hours. So, while they may not be with you and your horse, I can promise you, cats honor, they are thinking about you and your horse. They worry, they internalize, and they grieve right along with you every step of the way. And they do it all because they love horses as much as you do.

 The Wild Card

Dr. Lacher’s husband, Justin, is the wild card on our team. He does a lot of different things. For example, he pays all the bills and does the bookkeeping so we can keep getting drugs and supplies to use on the horses. If you’ve been to one of my seminars, you’ve seen him running the audio and video equipment. You might have even listened to the podcast he hosts and produces with Dr. Lacher called Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth. Or maybe you’ve read one of the books he’s written about all the crazy horse things that happen around here, called the Adventures of the Horse Doctor’s Husband series. If you’ve watched one of the videos we’ve released, he was behind the scenes making it happen. Justin wears a lot of hats around here, but the most important one is Chief Cat Scratcher. It’s a critical role.

 The Cats

Not to be out done by any of the other team members, the cats, aka myself and Teenie, are an essential part of the Springhill Equine team. We provide hours of entertainment for everyone. We regularly get ourselves into trouble which keeps the team on their toes. Teenie enjoys bathing everyone in her drool and screaming demands for treats daily. I, on the other hand, prefer to keep things a little more lowkey and would rather wander down the street only to have the docs and techs come find me later.  Of course, you know yours truly provides you with this weekly blog, but did you know that when you bring your horse to the clinic, I also provide free “CAT” scans of your trailer?  When your horse is hospitalized it is up to Teenie and me to keep a close eye on him and alert the docs of any problems.  They say they check the cameras at night, but we know they rely on us to keep the horses in line.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Needless to say, the Springhill Equine Team is a group of fine individuals who have been selected carefully. Everyone plays an imperative role in your horse’s care and without each and every one of them, I would surely starve. It is the goal of the Springhill Equine Team to provide care and support to you and your horse, night and day, no matter what.

 Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. If you haven’t been listening to that podcast I mentioned, you can find on the Podcast Page. It’s what all the cool cats are listening to these days!

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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Melanoma

Melanoma

Tuesdays with Tony

As horse owners I know you all know every curve, every scar and every lump or bump your horse has. So, when a new bump pops up it can be concerning. Any time I have a new scratch or lump or scab the humans are all over me, making sure I am okay.  Frankly, it’s rather annoying. I am a perfectly healthy cat and don’t need them all over me all the time. I just need them to feed me and respond to all my demands.  While I’m aware of my health, horses, they just aren’t as smart, and they need you to keep track of them.  Monitoring new lumps and bumps can be lifesaving for your hose. This week I want to talk to you about a type of tumor that horses get that, for the most part, the docs will tell you not to worry too much about and just keep any eye on: Melanomas.

 What is a Melanoma?

A melanoma is a type of skin tumor that occurs mainly in grey horses but can rarely occur in other colored horses as well. These tumors can pop up on your horse’s body just about anywhere. The most common areas include the underside and dock of the tail, corners of lips, neck, and head. They can also be found in and around your horse’s sheath, anus and from your horse’s iris in his eye.

Melanomas can pop up at any age in any horse with little known about any predisposing factors other than your horse’s color. That being said, most grey horses will not start to develop tumors until they’re around 10 years old.  I am well into my teens, I am not grey, and thankfully, I am not a horse, so I think I am safe, but be sure to check on your grey horses.

As I mentioned, melanomas are part of owning grey horses. It’s usually advised to keep an eye on them for any significant changes.  However, it is important to understand that “keeping an eye on them” does not mean allow them to grow uncontrollably. In fact, if your horse has been diagnosed with melanomas, you should have my docs check on them at least twice a year, measure them and possibly even take some photos of them. This will help ensure that the tumor does not progress rapidly and cause long term problems for your horse.

 Treatment

While it is common practice to keep an eye on melanomas, there are other treatment options for them as well. One option is surgical removal. However, removal of one tumor will not prevent the development of other tumors. Likewise, if a tumor is too large or in a precarious location, surgical removal cannot be performed.

Injection with a chemotherapy agent is another treatment option. Cisplatin in the form of injectable oil or impregnated beads can be used around tumors to reduce the size of the tumor and allow for possible surgical excision. Treatment with cisplatin can be extremely effective, but it often takes several treatments and can get expensive.

Finally, there has been a vaccination developed for use in dogs that is still experimental in horses. The vaccine is created from your horse’s specific tumor, targets proteins in the melanoma cells, and stimulates an immune response. The vaccination shows promise for treatment of melanomas in horses, but more work is needed to prove its effectiveness.

Whatever form of treatment my docs recommend, it is important to start treatment early and not necessarily just keep an eye on it.  Ask my docs which method is best and how to start treatment if your horse is diagnosed with melanomas.

 Complications

 If a melanoma is left to progress without intervention, they can become obstructive.  Tumors around the head and neck can obstruct your horse’s airway and predispose your horse to choke. As you can imagine both of these conditions can be life threatening. If left to progress and grow, tumors around the anus can prevent your horse from passing manure.

Similarly, tumors in and around your horse’s sheath can lead to difficult urination. Remember our discussion about sheaths a few weeks back? Annual examination of your horse’s sheath will help the docs monitor your horse for tumor development, and if your horse in on one of our wellness plans, this examination is included.  (Here is my shameless plug to sign your horse up for 2021 Wellness today.)  If a tumor is allowed to progress and obstruct your horse’s sheath, urine scalding becomes a concern.  When your horse cannot fully drop his penis from his sheath he’ll still have to urinate, and urine will splatter in all directions including on his abdomen and legs. This can lead to burning of these areas which is very painful.

Melanomas that arise from the iris of the eye can also become obstructive, leading to vision and other ocular problems. Any kind of tumor in the eye should be treated immediately. If left to progress, your horse may lose his vision completely, may develop uveitis (inflammation), glaucoma, or may lose his eye completely.

Besides obstruction, melanomas can become ulcerated, particularly underneath the tail.  It is a warm, moist, dirty area and the perfect environment for these tumors to get really ugly and nasty really fast.  Unlike cats, horses are disgusting creatures who fail to groom themselves regularly. Anyways, since your horse is lazy and allows you to groom and clean him, you must be the one to keep the underside of his tail clean.  However, despite your most diligent efforts, melanomas are tumors and will do whatever they want, including becoming ulcerated, necrotic and/or infected.  Once this happens, they can be nearly impossible to treat and can result in my docs having to recommend humane euthanasia for your horse.

The takeaway message is this: Have my docs monitor any lumps or bumps on your horse and show you exactly what kind of changes to watch for. Early, aggressive treatment is key and can be lifesaving for your horse.

Until next week,

~Tony

PS – Looking for more information on other conditions that may come up with your horse?My people also have a podcast that is filled with incredibly useful information, check it out here. Also, we will be having a VIRTUAL facebook seminar on Thursday October, 22 at 6:30. They will be talking about asthma/heaves. Wow, we have seen a lot, I mean a lot of heaves this year. 

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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Checking Vital Signs

Checking Vital Signs

Tuesdays with Tony

Checking Vital Signs

 

In my recent column about colic, I talked about taking your horse’s vital signs as a good way to help your vet manage an emergency. Today I’ll go over how exactly I want you to do that, because it’s YOUR horse, right? So, you really should know how. I’ve enlisted some help to show you exactly what I’m talking about, so make sure you look at the pictures and watch the videos.

Heart rate

First of all, go buy an inexpensive stethoscope. You can get one for as little as $20! Amazon, CVS, Walmart, they’re not hard to find. Sure, my doc probably uses a fancier one to hear all the subtle things, but a basic one will let you count the heartbeats just fine. Then practice ahead of time, don’t wait for an emergency to happen. Put the stethoscope ear buds in your ears so they point forward. Listen for the heartbeat on the left side, just behind your horse’s elbow, about where the girth rests. It’s helpful to have him stand with his left leg forward a bit so you can push the stethoscope forward under the muscle and get good contact with his chest. Try pressing more or less firmly until you can hear the heart clearly.

A horse’s normal heart rate is around 26-46 beats per minute (much slower than yours). Since it’s so slow, you will probably be able to hear both heart sounds. It will sound like “lub-DUB”. Be careful that you don’t accidently count double – “lub-DUB” just counts as one beat. Set your stopwatch for 15 seconds and count the beats in that time. Then multiply by 4 to get his actual heartrate. For example, if I listen for 15 seconds and hear “lub-DUB” 10 times, I multiply 10×4 and his heartrate is 40 beats per minute.

There are places you can feel the pulse with your fingers to count the heart rate, but these are usually trickier to master than just listening with a stethoscope. When my doc comes out to vaccinate your horse, or whatever, you can ask her to show you the technique for listening to the heart or feeling the pulse.

Respiratory rate

Counting your horse’s breaths can be done in a couple of different ways. You can listen with your stethoscope, but it’s usually just easier to look at his flanks moving in and out. If he’s breathing hard, you can watch his nostrils flare, but if he’s breathing normally this might be harder to see. Remember that inhale + exhale = one breath. Count for 30 seconds and then multiply the number of breaths by 2 to get the respiratory rate. The normal respiratory rate of a horse at rest is 12-20 breaths per minute.

Gut sounds

Gut sounds are what you will hear when your horse’s intestines are moving normally to push food through. 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. Your horse’s gut sounds can be heard on both sides of his belly, high and low, in front of his hips. Again, practice ahead of time to get used to his normal.

Digital pulses

Digital pulses are a good indicator of the amount of inflammation in your horse’s feet. My doc’s favorite place to feel them is at the fetlock (your horse’s “ankle”). Using your thumb and middle finger, feel on either side at the widest part of the fetlock, towards the back. You will often feel a “squishy” area that is the artery and vein on either side – that’s the right spot. Use light pressure and feel for the pulse. It’s usually a light movement against your fingers and may be a little hard to find at first. Get to know what it feels like in a normal horse so you can tell if it’s more prominent than usual. My doc says if there is inflammation in the foot, the pulse will feel stronger than usual. She calls it a “bounding digital pulse”. It’s kind of like the throbbing feeling you would get if you hit your thumb with a hammer.

Temperature

Get yourself a plastic digital thermometer like my docs use. They’re quick and easy to use. Keep it just for your horse’s use of course! To take his temperature, it’s safest to have someone holding him for you in case he objects to it. If your horse strongly objects or you just don’t feel safe, it’s okay to give this one a pass.

Stand close to your horse’s hindquarters on one side, not right behind him. I know you might feel safer to stand farther away, but actually you’re usually safer if you’re right up against his side. Gently move his tail up a little and to the side, then slowly insert the thermometer into his anus a couple of inches, almost up to where the digital display is. Press the thermometer’s button to turn it on. It will beep again when it has finished reading the temperature.  A normal horse’s temperature is between 98.5-100.5 Fahrenheit. Take your horse’s temperature on different days to see what his normal temperature usually runs.

Mucous membranes

Take a look at the gums above your horse’s upper teeth. They should be pink or pale pink. Any colors besides that are a problem, so call my doc. They should be moist to the touch and not dry or “tacky”, which can be signs of dehydration. Next, press your finger onto the gum firmly. The pressure should be firm enough that when you lift your finger away, you see a white spot where your finger was. Count the number of seconds it takes for the spot to fill back in with color. In a normal horse, it should be less than 2 seconds. If it’s longer than that, it could indicate shock or dehydration.

 

Being able to take good care of your horse’s health is a critical part of good horsemanship. Practice taking your horse’s vital signs frequently, so that it’s second nature by the time you really need to do it. I guarantee that my doc will be happy to show you her technique when she’s next at your barn. There’s few things the docs at Springhill Equine like more than helping to educate owners on good care for their horses!

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. If you want to learn more, you should really check out the Podcast the humans do. They are way more energetic than this cat, and they actually talk for thirty or forty-five minutes sometimes to teach you things. It’s really good stuff. And Patrons of the podcast get even more: their own Facebook group with videos, and they can ask questions about their horses, and all kinds of good stuff. Sometimes I feel like they’re trying to show me up, but it’s more than I’m willing to worry about this close to nap time. Anyway, you can find all the details here on the Podcast Page of my website.

 

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

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Broken legs

Broken legs

Tuesdays with Tony

I’ve got a special edition today of Tuesdays with Tony this week. I listened in on the recording of the fabulous podcast, Straight From The Horse Doctor’s Mouth with special guest Dr. John Peloso talking about broken legs in horses. I’m going to give my blog readers a sneak peak into the interview. I know, it’s awfully generous of me. You may send your fan letters to my people at Springhill Equine. Canned Tuna can also be sent there as a token of your appreciation. Back to the podcast. I’m quite fond of the hosts as they provide me with food, shelter, and chin scratches. Justin Long and Dr. Lacher discuss a wide variety of horse topics, and even this wise cat learns something during every episode. While listening to this recording I learned breaking your leg isn’t always a death sentence for horses. Guess that Far Side cartoon got it wrong. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

There’s broken, and then there’s Broken

First thing I learned is that “broken” means a few different things to Docs. There’s cracked, there’s broken in two pieces, there’s broken in a whole bunch of pieces, and there’s broken and poking through the skin. These are huge sweeping generalizations, but in general cracked, and broken in two (or maybe three) pieces is better, and means you can at least start the conversation about fixing the fracture. Broken in a whole bunch of pieces, and broken and poking through the skin are really, really bad. 

This comes down to why broken legs in horses are so much worse than broken legs in cats, dogs, or even humans. Horses have to stand on those crazy sticks they call legs. If the stick is broken in too many pieces, the surgeon can’t get it back close enough to normal for the horse to be able to stand on it. Sticking out of the skin is bad for two reasons: these are usually difficult to get back to that standable stick, and that bone is now really likely to get infected since horses live in bacteria and fungus-infested environments. They aren’t like us cats who stay clean no matter what! No amount of antibiotics can win the war against the amount of bacteria on a horse leg bone that’s been in dirt. In fact, it’s really hard to do with humans, too! 

Which bone is it?

Okay, so we know that how it’s broken matters, but which bone it is also matters a whole lot. Once again these are generalities, because horses are horses and at the end of the day they’ll do what they dang well please. They’re like cats that way. I respect it. The big bones above the elbow and the stifle simply can’t be fixed with the available bone fixing stuff. Apparently there isn’t horse broken bone hardware. All of the things surgeons use are adapted from humans. I don’t know if you’ve compared the average horse to the average human lately, but there’s a wee bit of a size difference. No human plate, screw, or pin can stand up to the enormous pressures the humerus and femur have to handle on a horse. Don’t get me started on shoulders, and pelvises, pelvii, whatever the plural for pelvis is. These areas are hard to get to due to muscles and nerves, and they’re both pretty darn thin. That means you can’t just plate them. The screws won’t hold. This means fractures above the elbows and stifles are just plain bad no matter how you slice them. 

This brings me to the area between the knees or hocks, and elbows or stifles. The radius up front and the tibia behind. These bones are shockingly easy to crack with a well-placed kick from another horse. The design flaws horses have are so numerous. It’s still shocking even though I see it every day here at the clinic. If these bones are broken, broken, as in look at x-ray and go, ‘wow that’s busted’ from across the room, that’s bad. You probably didn’t need me to tell you that. However, if they’re just cracked then there’s a shot they can heal! The trick is to convince the horse to be really quiet for about 6 weeks while that bone heals. No running, jumping, bucking, or cavorting. The best scenario here is what’s called a tie line. For this the horse is tied from somewhere high in the stall so they can’t lay down. It makes for a long 6 weeks, but the act of laying down and getting up puts an unbelievable amount of strain on those bones. It’s enough to make a cracked one shatter, and then there’s only one answer. 

Finally, the lower leg. Splint bones are easy. Those barely count as a fracture and generally heal with minimal help from anyone but Mother Nature and Time. Cannon bones are a little like the radius and tibia. If it’s a crack, it will heal. Bonus down here: surgeons can put a screw in there to stabilize things making them heal faster, and better. However, if it’s shattered, that’s really bad. Pastern bones are similar. Cracks: goood. Shatter: bad. The problem is that pasterns like to shatter. Coffin bones, despite their name, handle fractures pretty well, as long as the joint isn’t involved. The hoof capsule acts like a cast for these fractures, locking them in place. 

The Horse Factor

My biggest take away from my listen in was how much the horse itself matters. A quiet horse who isn’t looking for trouble has a way better shot than the horse trying to jump over the stall door on day 2 of stall rest. Now my Docs have pharmaceutical assistance for this, but the better behaved the horse, the better the chances. This next one seems obvious. The smaller the horse, the better the chances. Horses under 600 pounds do the best. Again, physics. All that weight on those tiny sticks. Such a bad design.

Moral of the story: broken legs can still be really bad, but not always! Oh and horses have some serious design flaws. If you find your horse non-weight bearing on a leg, or really swollen, Don’t Panic!!! Call my awesome Docs. They’ll evaluate things, figure out what’s going on, and help formulate the right plan for your horse. And as with all things horse, the sooner, the better. Everything gets harder to fix with time.  

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. The Broken Bone episode of the podcast comes out on October 1st, and you can find it on my Podcast Page. There are fifty-something other episodes to keep you busy until it comes out!

 

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

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Sheath Maintenance

Sheath Maintenance

Tuesdays with Tony

Sheath Maintenance

 Whew, that’s some chilly air out there! I hope you all had a lovely weekend and enjoyed the brisk air. I know I did.  With the change in temperature, I was reminded that 2021 is right around the corner and with the new year in view, our 2021 Wellness Plan sign-ups are about to be in full swing. As you all know, our Wellness Plans are the best thing since sliced bread and include all the yearly care your horse requires including vaccines, coggins, fecal, dental, and deworming.  An often-overlooked aspect of our Wellness Plans, however, is the sheath cleaning.  This is a very important aspect of your horse’s care that my docs take very seriously.  Take it from this old cat, sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most.

 Cleaning

Your horse’s sheath can tell my docs a lot about your horse’s overall health. Believe it or not, there is such thing as too much cleaning. Once a year cleaning is all it needs. Ideally, your horse’s yearly cleaning should be performed by a veterinarian while under sedation.  Why, you ask? Well, let me tell you. For one, SAFETY. Safety for you, safety for my docs, safety for me, and safety for your horse.  Some horses do not mind when their private areas are inspected. However, most horses do not approve of such invasiveness. They like to make their disapproval known by using those muscular back legs that quickly go in many different directions when they are angry.  I know I would need some serious sedation if someone was going to inspect me “down there”, so just do yourself and your horse a favor and have my docs sedate before cleaning.

 Surprisingly enough, the cleaning part of sheath cleaning is not the most important part. During a cleaning, my docs will inspect your horse’s sheath including his prepuce, head, and shaft for any abnormalities. They will note any changes from the previous year’s exam. After the exam, they will inspect the head for any “beans”. The bean develops in the urethral fossa and is a buildup of dead skin cells, sweat, dirt and dried urine. If a bean is left to enlarge on its own, it can cause your horse to have difficulty urinating.  When any animal strains to urinate, cats included, it can be life threatening. Better for you and your horse if you allow my docs to clean out the bean once yearly. 

 You will notice that soap is rarely used in the cleaning process and typically only warm water, soft cotton and lube will be employed to clean your horse’s sheath. This is because a healthy sheath is covered in good bacteria. The more products used in and around your horse’s sheath deplete the good bacteria and allow for introduction of bad bacteria to your horse’s nether region. Best bet: leave the cleaning to the experts.

 Abnormalities

As I have already mentioned, when my docs are cleaning your horse’s sheath, they will thoroughly inspect him for any abnormalities. Abnormalities include skin lesions, masses, and injuries. It is important to recognize any problems with your horse’s sheath early. The sooner the problem is noticed, the sooner my docs can initiate treatment. Horses with pink skin are prone to cancerous lesions known as Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Squamous Cell Carcinoma is skin cancer that rears its ugly head on light pink skin in the form of ulcerative lesions. When my docs sedate your horse, they will thoroughly inspect his sheath and penis for any pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions. They may recommend biopsy or treatment depending on what the lesion looks like. 

 As you all know, grey horses like to get tumors all over. These tumors, known as melanoma, are usually benign and do not metastasize. However, they can develop tumors in and around their sheaths, YIKES! If the tumors get large enough, they may cause an obstruction in urination.  That is why it is best to have the docs check out your horse’s sheath once a year to keep an eye on any developing tumors and guide treatment. You wouldn’t believe the number of injuries that can happen to horse’s genital areas. You would think they would protect their sensitive bits, but no, as per usual, horses hurt themselves in the most inopportune times in the most inopportune ways, including their sheaths. 

 Lacerations and puncture wounds are relatively common and require emergency treatment. However, other injuries such as nerve and/or muscle damage may go unnoticed until their yearly examination by the docs.  Damage to nerves and muscles can lead to shafts that point in an abnormal direction. While this usually does not cause a problem for most males, it can absolutely be problematic for breeding stallions.  It can also lead to urine scalding of the abdomen or hind legs depending on which way it points. Having the docs perform a thorough examination once a year will help ensure your horse does not develop any problems with his sheath and if there is problem it can be addressed quickly. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 What Not To Do

You never knew there was so much to talk about your horse’s sheath, did you? Well, don’t worry, there’s more.  I have been told that some people are obsessed over their horse’s sheath.  Please, for the love of cat, STOP! The more you mess with it the more problems you will have.  As we tell little boys, if you keep playing with it, it is going to fall off! We know that is not actually the case, but the more you mess with it the more trouble you will cause.  Unless my docs instruct you to, please stop putting medications up your horse’s sheath.  It changes the bacterial flora and allows for bad bacteria to breed and infection to occur.  Some topical can be very abrasive and can burn your horse’s sensitive skin. Yes, smegma is gross and stinky, believe me, I know, and you may think cleaning it out every day will help, but it won’t!

 Let my docs do the cleaning once a year, I promise you that’s all your horse needs.  Some approved topical for AROUND your horse’s sheath are Kinetic Vet IBH and SWAT as bug prevention, and Kinetic Vet SB as Sunblock.  Before you apply anything other than one of those 3 topicals, please call my vets. They would love to talk to you about your horse’s sheath. They are weirdos like that. But you gotta love them!

 Tune in this Thursday for a live Seminar to talk about your horse’s nutrition. I heard through the grapevine there may be some giveaways for participating!

 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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Managing a Colic – Part 2

Managing a Colic – Part 2

Tuesdays with Tony

How to Help Your Vet Manage a Colic – Part 2

If you somehow missed the first half of this blog, click here to go read it first. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Come back here when you get done with it. Don’t worry, there’s a button on that one that will bring you back to this one, so you can’t get lost. I know you don’t have superior cat instincts, so I made it easy for you.

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. Her exam may include some or all of these things: Physical exam, trans-rectal palpation to feel his internal organs, passing a nasogastric tube through his nose and into his stomach, an ultrasound of his abdomen, an abdominocentesis (“belly tap”) to collect and test the fluid from around his organs, and bloodwork. These are 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 some pain control meds 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 – it could range from every couple of hours in a very mild case to every 15 minutes or so. 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.
  • 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 some walking is good for gut motility, 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 en route.
  • 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. If you haven’t subscribed to this blog yet, this is the best opportunity you’ll have all day. Just scroll down another inch or two and look for the big purple box. If you subscribe, I’ll email you a link to the newest blog every Monday. That’s right, early access! I know how to incentivize you humans. And under the purple box is a link to some pretty popular books. You might want to check those out, too. After all, I’m practically a main character in them.

 

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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Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic
Managing a Colic – Part 1

Managing a Colic – Part 1

Tuesdays with Tony

How to Help Your Vet Manage a Colic – Part 1

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 strangulating lesion that requires surgery.  I’m not sure why horses don’t just puke on the carpet 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.

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 your vet! 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.
  • It’s very useful to know how to take your horse’s vital signs – things like his heart rate and temperature. Get yourself an inexpensive stethoscope and learn how to listen to his heart and gut sounds. You can find one for as little as $20! Practice ahead of time, don’t wait for an emergency to happen. My doc can show you how to use it! When you call your vet, 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. You may find it useful to listen to some sample audio ahead of time. 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. Keep a thermometer around too. This is another useful piece of information to give my doc. 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 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 in case she has to ultrasound your horse’s abdomen. Also, this feline thinks you ought to put the dogs away so there are less slobbery distractions.
  • 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 good? You don’t want to have to worry about these things when the colic is happening.
  • Consider a major medical insurance policy for your horse. Colic surgery can be very expensive, often around the mid to high 4 figures in our area. Insurance can be surprisingly affordable, especially compared to the cost of treating a colic. It’s a very sad thing to have a 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 companies like 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 have an understanding of colic surgery and make sure you don’t have any misconceptions. 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%. 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.

 Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

While you’re waiting for the vet

  • If it’s safe to, take your horse for a walk. Walking can help to improve the activity of your horse’s intestines. But you don’t need to walk for hours and hours at a time, that can do more harm than good. It’s ok 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.
  • Take away his food until after my doc has examined him. This includes grass too. It’s ok 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, are useful pieces of information 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. Keep in mind though, 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.
  • 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?
  • 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.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Scroll down to click on to Part 2 of this blog!

P.P.S. If you haven’t subscribed to this blog yet, this is the best opportunity you’ll have all day. Just scroll down another inch or two and look for the big purple box. If you subscribe, I’ll email you a link to the newest blog every Monday. That’s right, early access! I know how to incentivize you humans. And under the purple box is a link to some pretty popular books. You might want to check those out, too. After all, I’m practically a main character in them.

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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Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic