Blessed be the old farts. Around here there is a kind of reverence for the older horse. I will admit to jealousy. It’s not pretty, I know, but it’s real. I mean, I’m a cat. I deserve all the reverence around here. In an effort to explore the causes for this misguided worship I talked with my minions, I mean humans, about the phenomenon.
Turns out all my humans went with something along the lines of enjoying their horses, learning from them, and feeling appreciative of all the horses gave to them during their athletic careers. The humans said they wanted to make sure their horses had wonderful retirements since they had earned it. I was a little confused by the “earned it” thing, since I don’t need to earn anything, but I digress.
What messes up a horse’s retirement?
Do they golf? Do they play Canasta and Bridge? Apparently no. They wander around a field and eat. This is a typical day for me if you substitute ‘Clinic’ for ‘field’, so not sure if I’m retired already or how that works. Anyway, dental issues, lameness, and not feeling so hot are the biggies that interfere with retirees’ ability to wander around and eat.
Let’s start with dental issues. Horses are this really weird thing called an hypsodont. It means they have a whole lot of tooth when they are young, which they wear down to nothing over their lifetime. The super cool thing is you humans are doing such a good job taking care of your horses that they now outlive their teeth. Sure. that sounds scary, but with good nutrition it’s not a problem. What it does mean is that you may notice your horse not wanting to eat. You humans do a pretty darn good job knowing your horses. When Tiny backs off on feed, don’t worry that we are going to think you’re crazy. We won’t! We do the exact same thing! What we are going to do is schedule an appointment for one of our Docs to come take a look in Tiny’s mouth. They might find some teeth that need to be adjusted a little bit or potentially extracted.
Moving on to lameness. This one I identify with. I have jumped down from high places one too many times and I’m starting to develop a bit of arthritis in my right front paw. Life catches up with us all. All those daring feats of athleticism we displayed in our younger years show up as aches and pain in our later years. Laminitis (same as founder) may rear its ugly head as well. Once again the signs can be subtle, and you, the awesome human, may notice Flicka is in a different corner of the pasture than normal. Once again, we won’t think you’re crazy when you tell us this. We do the exact same thing! In this case our Docs are going to evaluate feet, legs, and the musculoskeletal system in general to identify a cause for the lameness. If it’s arthritis, they will often recommend NSAIDs (horse aspirin) like bute or Equioxx, and movement, even in small amounts. If it’s laminitis, a test for Cushings is almost always called for. This is a test even a dog could pass! It’s just a blood draw. They also get on the phone with the farrier to make sure your horse’s entire team has the information they need.
When all of it goes wrong
Next there’s the “not feeling so hot”. Again, when you call to say Mister isn’t right, but you can’t put your finger on it, we will be nodding our heads. We know that feeling! This one is a little tougher. Our Docs will put on their detective hats and start the investigation with you. They won’t start with you because you are the prime suspect, they will start with you because you are the best source of information. You know your horse. You know if Mister ate and drank normally, and has he been sleeping normally? Rolling over? Is he in the same place in the herd hierarchy? Next they will take your information, combine it with a good physical exam, and determine a course of action. Usually, this involves some blood tests (remember they’re so easy a dog can pass them), along with an ultrasound of the chest and abdomen. Only thing difficult about an ultrasound is the cold alcohol they put on your skin. Based on these easy, peasy tests, our Docs will help you map out the best treatment options. Lots of times these tests turn up Cushings disease. Cushings is an endocrine disease which messes with every system there is to mess with. Good news though: one small pink pill daily is the treatment. And if you schedule an appointment by the end of the week, our monthly special is $10 off this blood test!
Horses are like fine wine, they only grow better with age. Totally patronizing the humans there, they told me to write that. Anyway, let your horse live long and prosper with a little TLC. The humans yak on a lot about Super Seniors, so this is the first in a four part Tuesdays with Tony expose. Tune in next week for part 2
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.
Every few years they make me go to the small animal vet for a fun field trip to get vaccines. I like car rides and meeting new people so I go along with it. There is a moment of discomfort when they stick the needles in me. I get treats. I forgive for the needles since there were treats, and back to the clinic I go. Horses are different. Of course they are! They feel the need to be special about all kinds of crazy stuff. Horses have to get vaccines WAY more often, like twice yearly more often.
Why are horses so special? First: they are getting vaccinated for a different type of infection than most of the vaccines your dog or cat gets. Eastern Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV) in particular are very bad about overwhelming the immune system unless it is super primed and ready. Also most horses are exposed to EEE and WNV on a VERY regular basis when they get bit by mosquitoes. This means they better be ready to fight all the time! Second: horses just aren’t good at responding to vaccines. We all know cats are a superior critter, and I see this as further proof. Really awesome Docs have done pretty detailed research to show that horses only have a good response for 6-14 months depending on the vaccine. Cats respond so well that we only have to get shots every 3 years. Yep, we’re awesome like that.
Another reason horses need vaccines more often: their busy social lives. While us cats are busy keeping to ourselves being the good loners we are, horses are off at horse shows and trail rides and clinics and sleepovers. Sure, it all sounds like fun, but it’s also an opportunity to get germs from others. Horse shows have caught on to this germ festival. The United States Equestrian Foundation (USEF) recently passed a rule stating that horses have to be vaccinated every six months for Rhinopneumonitis and Influenza. I’m not one for rules but I hear from our Docs that this one is reasonable. Lots of horse shows were making their own rules about when and how and why and blah, blah, blah on vaccines. This means there is one rule to govern them all. (What?! This cat likes Lord of the Rings) So, if you show any breed or discipline that is under the USEF umbrella you must have proof of vaccination. This includes Paso Fino, Arabian, Dressage, Hunter/Jumper, and Eventing, just to name a few.
I must, also, be sure you know about our Wellness Program. This simple program will take care of all your horse’s health needs and you don’t have to worry about any of it! How awesome is that? Our Docs think of everything. You have 5 days left to sign up for Wellness 2016. Don’t miss out on this program!
So once again we have proven cats rule and you should call Springhill Equine. I feel redundant when I say these things. Our Docs can help you determine what vaccines your horses really need, when they need them, and provide the documentation you need for all that socializing.
December 29, 2015
Let’s talk about drugs! Drugs for your horse, that is. Many of the drugs we use on horses are only available as prescriptions from the Docs here. Seems a little strange since you humans can get Advil off the shelf, but there are reasons. Most of it revolves around livestock which enters the food chain like pigs, cattle, and goats. Bute can be very toxic to humans in even low doses, so the FDA decided that it must be controlled by veterinarians. Many antibiotics are under veterinary control for similar reasons. It is the FDA and USDA trying to maintain our safe food supply.
Veterinarians, as the keepers of these drugs, are under strict guidelines regarding when and how they can use and prescribe them. The FDA takes this so seriously that a violation of these guidelines could cause our Docs to lose their license. Now cats aren’t much for rules, but I think even I would have to follow these rules. The biggest part of this rule is what’s known as the Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship. This means that even as the real power behind the throne here at the office, I can’t give drugs out without permission of our Docs, and they have to have seen the critter in the last year. This rule doesn’t mean that once our Docs have seen you, you have free access to any and all drugs whenever you want, of course. The second part of this rule states that the Doc has to feel the drug is the right one for the animal at this time. So much for me supporting my catnip habit selling drugs out the back door….
Our Docs are more than happy to write prescriptions for medications. In fact, we love Publix for their free antibiotics, and cookies, they have awesome cookies, and pretty much the entire bakery section, and subs. OK, we just love Publix. That being said, all companies are not created equal. There is a thriving black market industry in prescription drugs for humans and that has slipped over to animals. It is very important that medications are approved for sale in the United States. Why does the United States label matter? Drugs approved for sale here are required to meet very stringent quality control measures. Drugs approved for sale in some countries can have as little as 60% of the labeled amount of the main ingredient in them and still be considered OK! It is also important that the company keep the medications happy. Wait, happy? Yep, like me requiring two ear scratches and a treat each morning, some medications like to be warm, or cold, or only cool but not room temperature. Some don’t like air, some don’t like water. Medications make us cats look as carefree as, I hate to say this, a dog.
Real world here: Pergolide. Originally made for humans with Parkinson’s. Unfortunately caused really bad heart problems in people who were on it for years and years. FDA pulled it from the human market and left us with nothing to treat Cushing’s. Any of you with an older horse know Pergolide is as important to them as a good meal is to me. For a few years our Docs had to have the drug made through a special process called compounding. This means a pharmacist mixed everything in small batches and then shipped it to our Docs. Only problem was Pergolide is overly sensitive (Teannie has this problem too when I try to steal her cat treats). The medications we were getting often didn’t contain nearly as much as we thought they did! Luckily a company called Boehringer Ingelheim developed Prascend, which means easy, consistent access to therapy for the senior crowd.
Why did I go in to all that? Because it’s important that you know what all goes in to the drug choices around here. Sure, I can make fun of them all day long for playing with drugs, but at the end of the day these two Docs work awfully hard to make sure the medications you get are the right ones. That means finding pharmacies that provide good pricing, good service, and ethical products. That means knowing all the things happening in the research world. That means knowing what works on what horses when. And that means a whole lot of behind the scenes work to make sure your horse has the very best care!