Ah, your mare! You look wistfully back on your history with her. You and your mare have accomplished a lot. She’s made your dreams come true; she’s been there as your partner, and companion through thick and thin. You’re ready for her to carry on her legacy with a foal. You’ve poured through the magazines, you’ve researched performance records, and you’re a pedigree expert. Your perfect stallion has been found and is even 5 panel testing negative! Oh goody!
What the heck is 5 panel testing? Is it a good thing when a stallion is negative? What’s a positive mean? Never fear, your intrepid feline source of information is here.
Why do I care about 5 panel testing?
Long ago, in a land far, far away horses were bred for speed, muscle, good looks, color. You name it, humans have bred for it. Along the way some other stuff was selected for too, on accident. Beginning about 30 years ago, scientists found a way to test genes to see if some of the not so desirable stuff was present in the DNA of a horse.
In 2015, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) took the important step of saying “Hey, we can test for a bunch of bad stuff. Let’s make sure we breed responsibly.” This means that ALL stallions that file a stallion report now have these results available to you the mare owner. Many other breeds have their own genetic diseases that are routinely tested for. Not sure about your breed of choice? Ask the registration association for that breed or check with my minions. My minions work hard to stay up-to-date on this ever changing world.
What does 5 panel testing test for?
The 5 Panel Test covers, shockingly, 5 major genetic disorders common in Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Paints: Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP), Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy type 1 (PSSM 1), Malignant Hyperthermia (MH), Hereditary Epidermal Regional Dermal Asthenia (HERDA), and Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency (GBED).
These diseases are all caused by one teeny, tiny mutation which makes them easy to test for, and they all cause really bad diseases. I put a short description about all of them at the bottom of this blog in case you want to read more about them.
Should I test my mare?
You really should. That’s the short answer. Here’s the long one. You can never have too much information when it comes to breeding. Additionally, HYPP, PSSM, and MH could cause health problems for your mare during pregnancy so knowing if she’s got them can be very helpful to your wonderful veterinarians.
You really, really should do the 5 panel testing if your stallion choice is positive for any of them. If you have found that perfect hunk of a guy for your mare, but he’s positive for one of these diseases, you really need to know if your mare is positive too. If she is, you are definitely going to have to go back to the pretty pictures and find her a different guy.
I’m pretty sure I can now pass a test on this 5 panel testing! Want more information? Call, text, or e-mail my humans. They love talking about mares, and babies, and stallions, okay, pretty much anything horse. Until next week, may your litter box be clean and your food bowl full.
HYPP stands for Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis. This disease affects the electrical impulses within the body that control muscle contraction. The defective gene results in clinical signs of muscle tremors and fasciculations. In some severe cases, horses may be unable to stand, or even unable to breathe. Horses can show symptoms with only one copy of the defective gene, but symptoms are often more severe if they have two copies of the mutation. This disease affects mostly halter horses, and can be traced back to the prolific stallion ‘Impressive’. Since Impressive lines were also used in Paint and Appaloosa halter breeding programs, HYPP is found in those breeds as well. AQHA does not allow registration of foals that test positive for two copies of the defective gene (H/H), but will allow registration of foals that are H/N: one defective and one normal gene.
PSSM stands for Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy. This disease causes changes in the way sugars are stored and used by the muscles. It causes frequent episodes of ‘tying up’ if not properly controlled by a special diet and regular low intensity exercise. There are two types of PSSM. Type 1 is caused by a genetically identified mutation, which is testable. Type 2 is suspected to be genetic, but that mutation has not yet been identified by researchers. Most Quarter Horses with PSSM have type 1. Horses will show symptoms of PSSM type 1 with one or two copies of the mutation. Like HYPP, PSSM type 1 is more common in halter QHs than in other lines. Some QHs have been shown to have mutations for both HYPP and PSSM.
HERDA stands for Hereditary Epidermal Regional Dermal Asthenia. Horses with HERDA have defective collagen, an important protein that is part of skin, cartilage, muscles, and tendons. The major clinical sign is skin that is easily injured, torn, or even sloughed off. The skin is also very slow to heal. There is no treatment for the condition, and horses that have it are often euthanized. Horses will only show symptoms if they have two copies of the mutation for HERDA. Horses with only one copy of the mutation are clinically normal. These animals are called ‘carriers’. They can pass copies of the mutation to their foals, and if one carrier is bred to another carrier, the foal might inherit the mutation from both parents and be symptomatic. HERDA is limited mostly to horses with reining and cutting horse bloodlines.
GBED stands for Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency. Like PSSM, this disease also affects how sugars are stored, but in a different and more severe way. It results in abortions, stillborn foals, and foals that are alive but weak at birth and die or are euthanized soon after. Like with HERDA, horses may be carriers for GBED – if a horse has only one copy of the mutation it will be clinically normal. Paints and Appaloosas can also carry the GBED mutation.
MH stands for Malignant Hyperthermia. This disease changes the way muscle cells handle calcium, and thus the metabolism of the cell. Horses with MH will appear normal most of the time, but have specific occasions when they show symptoms. During an attack, horses will have a very high fever, profuse sweating, high and irregular heart rate, high blood pressure, and rigid muscles. Attacks are triggered by certain anesthetic agents or stress, and are sometimes fatal. MH is believed to be less common than either HYPP or PSSM, but the percentage of affected horses is not yet known. Several breeds including Quarter Horses and Paints can be affected. Horses may be positive for both PSSM and MH together, and these animals appear to suffer from more severe episodes of tying up than horses that have PSSM alone.
With all the rainy weather we’ve been having, I had plenty of time to sit around the clinic and pick the brains of Dr. Vurgason & Dr. Lacher. I had to get the scoop, the D-L, the 4-1-1, the Inside Story, on what our doctors keep in their own tack trunks. Now obviously everybody has gloves, their helmet, a crop, and a bag of those peppermint-flavored horse treats in case you forget to bring carrots. But what I was interested in was the medical supplies, the in-case-of-emergency box, right from the mouth of a bona-fide veterinarian!
When you peruse the aisles at your favorite tack supply store, you will find shelves upon shelves of medical supplies. Incidentally, there are also shelves upon shelves of cat treats, which are welcomed here at the office any time of day. Some people choose to buy all the medicines; which is fine if you enjoy spending money. Many of our clients have cabinets, shelves, bins, and boxes stocked full of every ointment, cream, spray, and powder you can imagine. But really there are only a few that you need, or that the docs might expect you to have on hand.
First, and this one should be obvious: duct tape. For any type of hoof injury, as well as various repairs around the barn, this is a must-have. Along with duct tape, baby diapers (size 1 for an average Quarter horse hoof, larger sizes for bigger feet) are excellent for hoof-wrapping. Another tack trunk must-have is Vetrap. Boy, do I wish I invented that stuff. I’d be lounging around in a cat palace on some island right now, rather than stuck in this office watching the rain with these humans. Vetrap is just the perfect balance of stretchy and sticky. It sticks great to itself, but not to anything else. Brilliant!
As far as ointments, creams, and the like, the docs gave me a hierarchy of wound dressings in order of preference: Silver Sulfadiazine (SSD for short), is an excellent topical antibacterial cream, great for any kind of wound. It is expensive, but if you buy the big blue tub it will last you a long time. Next choice would be the yellow stuff, Nitrofurazone (a.k.a. Furacin). Furacin is another good choice as a topical antibacterial wound ointment to have on hand. Beyond that, any type of Triple Antibiotic Ointment that you can find at your local drug store will do the trick. For open wounds, the docs wouldn’t recommend the ointments without antibiotics, the “natural” healing products, or Vetericyn (it is literally bleach-water, look at the ingredients)!
Swat is an old staple that is a good fly repellent to have in your trunk. It now comes in a clear formulation, not just the tell-tale pink that you can see from across the pasture. It’s important to realize, however, that Swat does not have any antibacterial properties, even though it is advertised for use around wounds. The only other cream I found in the vets’ tack trunks was Desitin (and no, it wasn’t for Dr. V’s baby). Desitin contains Zinc Oxide, which is great for treating burns, abrasions, or other wounds that need soothing and healing, but have a low risk of becoming infected. A&D ointment or Balmex are also good for this purpose. The docs have even used that on me (against my will) when my skin gets bad.
Other than that, just make sure you have some good antibacterial scrub for wounds (either betadine or chlorhexidine-based). Dr. Vurgason’s horse is prone to thrush, so she also had Thrushbuster on her tack trunk list. Dr. Lacher has a horse with insect allergies, so she also stressed the importance of a good fly spray (make sure it is actually a fly repellent, not just a fly killer).
So, to review, the official Vets’ Tack Trunk List: Duct Tape, Diapers, Vetrap, SSD/Furacin/TAB ointment, Swat, Desitin, scrub, fly spray, and Thrushbuster. Pretty simple, right? As my father Anthony would say, “clear as mud”! And if it’s not, just call us at the office anytime you have a question about any of the thousands of over-the-counter products out there, and we will be sure to direct you to the nearest doctor for their expert opinion. After all, they know what ingredients like Dimethyl Sulfoxide and Sodium Hypochlorite actually are. Remember to pick up some cat treats while you are stocking up on your tack trunk supplies!
Until next week.
Tuesdays with Tony – White Line Disease
It seems there has been an awful lot of something called White Line around here lately. I decided if there was going to be a bunch of it, I was going to learn about it. As it happens, we had one of these horses come in to the Clinic to have his feet worked on, so I got first-hand experience.
This horse was seen by our Docs for a Wellness visit. Small shameless plug for our Wellness Program: It’s everything your horse needs for the year, it has built in discounts, there’s no emergency fee if you are on the Plan, there’s an awesome Kentucky Derby Party, and we take care of all the remembering of what needs to be done. I really don’t understand why everyone who has a horse isn’t on one of our Wellness Plans. Anyway, back to what we were talking about… While there, they examined him for a right front lameness. As with all lameness evaluations, the exam started at the foot. This guy had a whole flap of hoof wall that wasn’t attached! I have now learned this is a tell-tale sign that you’ve got White Line. Yes, I did purposefully make that rhyme. It’s called a Cat-ch Phrase!
I started my adventure by assisting with x-ray set up. I find there is no better resting place than atop a keyboard on a computer. Turns out the humans don’t like it much, but we compromised and I was allowed to observe from an adjacent table as long as I agreed not to touch the x-ray computer. They get sooo protective of their stuff. We started our work on this horse with an x-ray of the front feet. X-rays let our Docs and Shawn (the farrier) get an idea how much White Line Disease is present before they bring out the nippers, knives, and rasps. The x-ray also shows if there are any other problems going on, such as founder. I learned White Line can so compromise the structural integrity of the foot that founder starts. Scary stuff. I know from years of managing this Clinic that founder is very hard on horses. Turns out this guy had a little bit of a change to the bones in his leg and foot. The Docs and Shawn explained to me this wasn’t because of founder (looked the same to me) but was because this horse had something called a Club Foot.
The x-rays led to a lively discussion on the causes of White Line Disease. Apparently fungi and bacteria can be cultured from the nasty, chalky stuff that builds up under the loose hoof wall, but that’s not the heart of the problem. Physics is the real problem. The fungi and bacteria under there are just taking advantage of hoof wall that is being pulled away from the foot. Almost always, that hoof wall is being pulled away because the hoof has bad conformation or it has been trimmed/shod poorly. Usually the break-over is way too far in front of where it should be, which causes pull on the hoof wall with every step. That pull opens up tiny cracks where bugs can grow. The bugs then harm the hoof wall allowing it to open even more, which lets the bugs multiply. As you can see, it’s a vicious circle. Check here for more information on the physics of feet: http://springhillequine.com/part-1-everything-you-ever-want-to-know-about-your-horses-feet
What’s a cat to do? Let the air in and fix the physics. We’ll delegate the task out to fix the physics. I’m not one for physics. I lean more towards business management. Step one on White Line cases is to take off all that hoof wall that isn’t attached. The bugs hate fresh air. Take off the hoof wall, and they get more air than they can stand. Off to bacteria/fungi heaven they go. Next a shoe is put on that addresses any of those pesky physics problems.
Voila! The worst of it is done. At home the humans just have to make sure the foot stays clean. They can do this by hosing the foot off, brushing with a wire brush (gently), and the occasional squirt of hydrogen peroxide (not too often, that is some powerful stuff). The hardest part is time. The horse will now need time for the hoof to grow out and heal. Humans just don’t do patience well. I recommend a good nap in a sunny spot. It does wonders for my patience.
With all this talk about feet, I’m off to give myself a nice pedicure on the scratching post. I think I will follow that with some patience practice.
Well breeding and baby season seem to be in full swing from what this cat can tell. This time of year we suddenly start seeing the FedEx people every afternoon, the Docs are here working on mares at all hours of the day and night (this is my favorite part of breeding season), and supposedly cute baby pictures are greeted with squeals of joy. I have yet to figure out what is cute about a baby horse. I mean they don’t purr, they don’t claw you wanting a bottle, they don’t play with string. Humans are weird. I have learned more than I ever wanted to about making these babies as Head Cat at Springhill Equine. I know I talked about this recently but today I’m going to talk about how mares are weird and don’t do what they are supposed to.
There was once a veterinarian named Dr. Michelle LeBlanc. She was almost as famous as myself for her prowess at getting mares pregnant who really didn’t want to be pregnant. Dr. Lacher trained under her at the University of Florida. Cancer took Dr. LeBlanc from us way too soon but in the time she was here we did get some wise LeBlanc proverbs. Dr. Lacher’s favorite is: Reproduction is a gift not a right. And as soon as you doubt this, your mare will do something to prove how right this proverb is.
There are three main sources of frustration for our doctors: the follicle, infections, and semen issues. We will take them in order.
Follicles. A normal mare grows a follicle to about 35mm, gets some edema in her uterus which our Docs see on ultrasound, she gets a shot of Sucromate, and she ovulates 36-48 hours later. This timing lets our Docs order semen at just the right time, plan their schedules, and, with a little luck, make a baby. Because mares are mares (let’s be honest this applies to all horses), they often think it is great fun to do some part of this but not all. For instance, a mare will grow a 35mm follicle but won’t have edema, or, and this is a favorite, they will appear to do all the right things except for the ovulate part. This is where the crystal ball or Magic 8 Ball comes in. Dr. Lacher and Dr. Vurgason have to decide the best course of action. Most of this guess is based on knowledge of the hormone cycles, interpretation of ultrasound images, and what the uterus and cervix feels like, but a portion of the decision is a guess at what Mother Nature is going to do. Having spent a long time in school, and spent even more time after school keeping up on the latest research this is a VERY frustrating thing for doctors. I’m pretty sure the mares do this just to watch that frustration. I mean I would….
Next infections. Infections come from a couple of sources. The most common is simply the breeding process. Semen is seen as a foreign invader by the uterus so it tries to get that stuff out of there. The uterus does this by creating fluid and having contractions. The more I learn, the more I am seriously amazed that babies of anything ever happen. Normally, enough sperm survive this to get to the egg and the uterus cleans everything up and 14 days later our Docs see a baby. Sometimes the uterus over responds or, and this is very rare, there is bacteria in the semen. Either way, instead of a baby we see fluid in the uterus at 14 days. At this point our doctors use a special Q-Tip to determine what type of bacteria are growing and then treat the uterus directly with antibiotics.
The next source of infection is the outside world. I have heard, particularly from Dr. Lacher now that she’s over 40 (do not tell her I said that), that age is just a number. For mares who haven’t had a lot of foals this is true. For mares who have had more than five or six foals this isn’t so true. Carrying all those foals causes things to, how shall I say this, stretch. This means the normal defenses that keep bacteria out of the uterus aren’t as tight. It also causes the uterus to get larger, form some amount of scar tissue, and lose some muscle tone. Some of these problems can be corrected with surgery and some can’t. Our Docs can steer you in the right direction here.
The last source of problems is often the hardest to deal with. The boys. This is where I understand good communication between the mare and stallion owner are important. Communication isn’t something I’m good at so I claim no expertise here. I am much better at issuing orders. If stallions have issues then timing of the cycle on the mare end is even more important. It may also mean that a particular stallion and mare aren’t a good match. The Docs recommend that only one side of the relationship has issues if at all possible.
Whew, that was a ton of effort for this cat but breeding is tricky stuff and I do like to keep my adoring fans well educated. Shameless plug for my wonderful home: Our breeding packages make it easy and affordable to breed your mare. Contact my minions at the Clinic for more information.
Last week me and about 60 of my closest human friends learned just about everything there is to know on the topic of skin funk! I almost wish I were a horse just so I could try out these products on myself…but I’ll stick with being a cat for the superior intelligence. Thank you to MaryLu from Kinetic Vet for her excellent talk, and the folks at HorseSox for their demonstration. They really should start making CatSox tho…less knitting.
For those of you who didn’t come out to see me on Thursday: ouch. That really hurt my feline feelings. But I’ll be the bigger cat, let it go, and tell you what you missed!
There are several types of skin funk that horses can get. There is itchy skin funk, scratchy skin funk, buggy skin funk, sunny skin funk, fungus-y skin funk, and bacterial skin funk. Lucky us, we live in Florida, so most of these are going to be exaggerated by our awesome warm weather! The first step is recognizing when your horse has a skin problem. Skin funk can show up as hair loss, hives, welts, crusties, scabs, redness, or abnormal hair growth. The second step is calling me! Well, more specifically, Dr. Lacher or Dr. Vurgason. With their experience, they will be able to tell what type of skin funk you are dealing with, what the cause is, and how to treat it. The third step is using one of Kintetic Vet’s awesome products (plus HorseSox for lower leg skin funk) to get your horse’s skin back under control!
Dr. Vurgason’s favorite KineticVet product is the IBH salve. This is great for horses with Insect Bite Hypersensitivity (“I.B.H.”), and a little bit of salve goes a long way! Did you know there are 89 species of gnats (that’s not counting horse flies, mosquitoes, house flies, etc) that are probably going after your horse’s eyes, ears, mane, and tail!? Dr. Lacher’s favorite product from KineticVet is CK shampoo. This stuff is amazing for treating scratches, rain rot, and any other bacterial or fungal skin funk. Only a few treatments and the results are amazing! My favorite product is KineticVet’s new SB (sunblock). Not only does it provide sun protection for my delicate skin, but it also repels insects and contains aloe vera which makes it feel really good.
There was definitely a little something for everybody at Thursday’s seminar. Most notably, there was plenty of me! Stay tuned for our next “Come See Tony” event on Equine Nutrition, coming up in May. Until then, take care of that skin!
OK, I have had enough of Tony this and Tony that. I’m taking over this week. Welcome to Tuesdays with Teannie. That’s right, I’m the cuter and smarter cat at Springhill Equine, and this week I’m writing about eyes. I should point out I don’t have any, but that story is what makes me qualified to write this week’s blog.
I started life with two normal eyes. Along the way I got infected with a Herpes virus. Herpes is the same virus that causes rhinopneumonitis in horses. In horses and cats this usually presents as a bit of a cold. Sometimes it goes elsewhere and causes all kinds of problems. In horses, it can also cause abortions in pregnant mares and a neurologic disease. In cats, it can cause the immune system to attack the eyes. This is what happened to me. It took years and years, and Dr. Lacher tried pretty much every treatment available, but eventually they couldn’t save my eyes. Along the way I have become an expert in eyes.
I’m going to start with the obvious. If there is redness, swelling, or a lot of tears, call Springhill Equine. These are pretty good indicators of a problem, and the earlier a problem is addressed, the better the outcome (I lived on the streets for a while just trying to keep a roof over my head, so don’t judge me that I didn’t get proper care). To start, our Docs are going to use a special device called an ophthalmoscope to look in the eye. They claim this is to get good light and magnification. Personally, I think they like shining a bright light in my eye to torture me. I get back at them by standing in front of computer screens and stepping on keyboards. Next a special stain called flourescein is put in the eye. This stain shows if any of the surface layer of cells is gone. You want a negative flourescein result. Negative here means all is good. Positive means you have long nights and days, or your horse has an all-expense-paid trip to Springhill Equine.
With their big bug eyes set on the side of their heads and their propensity to stick their heads where they don’t belong and then get scared, horses are very prone to ulcers. So that’s problem number one with horse eyes. Next, we live in Florida and we grow fungus here. Put bug eyes and fungus together and chaos follows. This is why if you call with a question about an eye, our Docs freak out a little bit and move the Earth to get you on the schedule that day. All eyes get treated like they have a bacterial and fungal infection, no matter what. They also get a wee bit obsessive-compulsive about rechecking the eye to make sure it’s going to the right direction. Treatments are sometimes done every hour!
Sometimes horses, and let’s be honest, cats, are… umm… difficult to treat. Eye treatments sting! The Docs have a few tricks up their sleeves to help. They always give horses (and this cat) treats with EVERY eye medication. They also have a device called a sub-palpebral lavage system. Using a really, really big needle, they put a long tube through the eyelid which lets you stand at the withers to inject medications which are then delivered to the eye.
If the worst happens and the eye can’t be saved, then a procedure called an enucleation is performed. This is the fancy word our Docs use for taking the eye out. Here’s where my experience comes in. Please do not worry about your horse missing an eye. I lost my left eye first and certainly didn’t miss it a lick. In fact, without the constant pain, I was loving life. I would run around and attack Tony, chase my tail, and knock papers off the desk. When my right eye began hurting, I was back to moping around the clinic. Dr. Lacher decided to let me slowly go fully blind so I could better adjust to life with no eyes. Once they removed my right eye, I was right back to running this joint. I still stalk Tony, I still stand directly in front of the computer screen, I know exactly where the escape key is on the keyboard, and I am loving life as the smart cat at Springhill Equine. Moral of this story: if you think something is wrong with your horse’s eye, call Springhill Equine!