Skin is a truly amazing organ. It keeps our bodies from drying out, protects us against infection, plus it’s waterproof! I love my skin. Heck, as a cat, I spend several hours a day grooming it just to keep it in pristine condition. But the trouble with skin is that sometimes this protective barrier that surrounds our entire bodies can break down. Let’s take a closer look at the 3 biggest enemies of equine skin: Rain, Sun, and Bugs.
Just about every horse owner has heard of Rain Rot. But, did you know that rain rot is actually caused by a type of bacteria, and not a fungus? And did you know that this same bacteria can cause skin problems elsewhere on the body, like the pasterns and cannon bones? Rain rot is so named because this bacterium happens to thrive in moist environments. This is why it is usually found on your horse’s back or flanks after heavy rainfall, or on the back of his pasterns when he has been standing in a muddy pasture. So, while skin is waterproof, it is not a fan of prolonged exposure to moisture.
You wouldn’t go outside all day in the middle of summer without any sunblock on, would you? Well, the same goes for your white horse, or even your chestnut horse with that little snip on his nose. If you are one of the lucky ones to own a mostly-white paint horse in Florida, you may want to invest in a full-body fly sheet with UV-blocking properties. But, if it’s just a strip or a blaze you need to cover up, daily application of sunblock or a fly mask may suffice. Don’t forget to protect your horse’s skin from sunburn just as you would your own!
Nobody likes being bitten or stung by flies, gnats, bees, ants, and the like. But many horses are actually allergic to the saliva of these pests. As you may have guessed, the skin and hair of these horses is a complete disaster during the buggy season. The owners of these horses may as well invest in fly spray at the rate they have to buy it! Wouldn’t it be great if there were a single product you could apply daily to repel bugs, soothe skin, take away the itch, and treat already-existing bug bites? Well, actually, there is!
To find out about this and other magical equine skin products, don’t miss our free seminar, Managing Skin: From Itch to Funk! this Thursday, June 8th, at 7pm. One of my favorite speakers from Kinetic Vet will be talking about how to manage these and a variety of other equine skin conditions. Oh, and most importantly, I will be there! Check out the Event Page on Facebook for more details!
So, bring a friend, and a treat for me, and I’ll see you Thursday! Be ready to take home some free stuff, but please make sure that I am not among the prizes that wind up in your barn. Sometimes I accidentally go home with people…
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!
Being the jolly cat I am, it is my favorite time of year. Bright, shiny stuff called Christmas decorations to play with, the Castration Clinic at the Hospital, paper and boxes from presents delivered to the Hospital, and general good cheer among all. In keeping with the season, I have spoken with many of our patients, and our Docs and technicians and compiled Springhill Equine’s Top 5 list of things your horse wants from Santa.
1. Fly Sheets: Mosquito Mesh Flyshield Sheet
Why this one? It is super light for our hot summer but the mesh is fine enough to keep those dangs gnats away. For added airflow, trim out the lining at the shoulders and mane. Removing the lining hasn’t created any rubbing issues and has kept the horse cooler. This sheet also held up well to horseplay and fit a wide variety of horses. Beware of the similar non-Flyshield version. It fit no horse well.
2. Grazing Muzzles: Tough 1 Grazing Muzzle or Harmany Grazing Muzzle
OK, so a grazing muzzle may not be on your horse’s wish list, but it is at the top of your veterinarian’s wish list. Our poor Docs see lots of horses with a weight problem. I can sympathize. My large stature caused me to have diabetes until a diet and exercise program helped me reverse it. While horses don’t get diabetes, they do get laminitis, or founder, when overweight. Obese horses are also pretty much guaranteed to develop Cushings later in life. These two grazing muzzles provide the best combination of comfort, breathability, and portion control.
3. Socks for your horse: Equiflexsleeve or Silver Whinnys
Tired of wrapping legs? Worried about all that heat under quilts and wraps in the summer? Need to decrease swelling or cover a wound, but you still want to turn your horse out? Seriously, the greatest things since sliced tuna (humans say bread, but I really don’t like bread very much). Equiflexsleeves reduce swelling in the lower legs, your horse can wear them inside or out, they breath, and they are stupid easy to put on and take off. Oh, and they make a lot less laundry than all those quilts and wraps! Sox for horses is the name of the silver impregnated bandages Coby is wearing. These work similar to Equiflexsleeves but, go higher and lower on the leg and have the added advantage of being antibacterial. If you need to cover a wound, or if your horse is prone to scratches, dew poisoning, greasy heel, or whatever you want to call it, then you need a pair of these!
4. Fly Mask: Nag Horse Ranch fly masks. Dr. Lacher owns the Queen of Fly Mask destruction. And while these don’t last forever with her, they certainly hold up pretty darn well. In addition, when they do lose a right ear (and they do, it just takes 3 months instead of 3 minutes), back they go for repair. They block more UV light than any other mask on the market and can be custom made for your horse pretty easily.
5. Small hole hay nets: HayChix or Big Bale Buddy
Save yourself a ton of money, reduce waste, and help control your horse’s weight. Small hole hay nets for your big bales are AAHHMAZING. Added bonus: your horse won’t have their entire head stuck in the hay bale breathing in all that dust and mold.
Tuesdays with Tony
AS a black cat I must say I am excited that cooler weather came for a visit even if it was brief. It was excellent napping weather after a very busy week of routine health care. Dr. Lacher and Dr. Vurgason were very busy with vaccines, dental, fecal egg counts, and general health checks this week. On the farm and in the clinic it was definitely jam packed. They seem to like these healthy horse checks. It offers them a chance to address minor issues they see before they compromise your horse’s health. There is nothing our Docs like better than giving your horse a happy healthy life. With all this rain it has been very difficult keeping ahead of the Florida Skin Funk. Frequent baths can help but with as much rain as we have had this year you would have to be bathing 24/7. In most circumstances a mixture of chlorhexidine, mineral oil, and dish-washing detergent can be sprayed on affected areas, left to sit overnight, and bathed off in the morning to removed really bad crusts. I have no idea why a horse would tolerate all this bathing, and spraying. I just lie on the pillow when it’s raining out and stare forlornly at the porch wishing I could be outside. For the worst cases the Docs use special medicated shampoos, and ointments that work like a charm.
I have been extremely busy delegating Open House tasks. It falls on the cat to be sure everyone has just the right job given to them. I then closely supervise the computer and phone items from my perch in front of the screen. I find it especially helpful to surreptitiously put my paw on the alt or ctrl keys while the humans are typing. The reaction when the computer begins having random responses to typing is priceless and keeps this cat entertained for hours. I do hope to see everyone at the Open House this year. We have some great prizes and the chance to meet me so I really see no reason not to come on out October 10th between 10am and 2pm.
Tough Love in the Summer Time
Look at this sad, abused, little pony! Muzzled, blindfolded, and NO food in his hay net! Is this your horse at feed time? If he is, then know that we understand all those conflicting emotions you are feeling right now. This is Dr. Bourke’s pony, Flash. Left to his own desires in the summer, Flash quickly becomes a rolly polly little thing, with a Body Condition Score of 9 out of 9. (Think Pillsbury-Dough-Boy fat). His handsome white nose gets chapped and sunburned, and fly irritation causes his eyes to weep.
It’s feed time and your horse is looking at you with that pathetic face. How can you not offer him something in his bucket?!? Back before Dr. Bourke knew better, Flash was allowed to graze free choice, and he even got grain! Dr. Bourke didn’t understand the connection between easy keepers and the risk of laminitis. Flash was very lucky that he made it through several Virginia summers without any signs of foot soreness. Sometimes he would get a fly mask on him, but it would fall off in a few days – or a few hours – and then she would give up.
It just takes so much effort. It also can be expensive – all of those muzzles and fly masks add up! But is it worth it? Absolutely. Because our veterinarians see the consequences of not putting on fly masks and grazing muzzles. Together the muzzles and fly masks help prevent laminitis, sunburn, skin cancer, and habronema ‘summer sores’ from fly exposure.
Now Flash is forced to wear a grazing muzzle from May through August, when the grass is thick and green. He also sports a nice fly mask religiously, gets only coastal hay, and we’ve switched him over to a ration balancer instead of grain. I ride him regularly, even when it’s hot. She also has to live through his sad faces at feed time when the Thoroughbred gets 5 lbs of tasty Ultium and Flash gets a measuring cup of the ration balancer – really just a vitamin and mineral supplement.
All of this takes discipline. It means purchasing several fly masks at the beginning of the season in order to have one ready and on hand when the first one gets torn to shreds. It means tromping through the field several times a week in search of the missing fly mask. It means occasionally jerry-rigging the muzzle in order to get it to fit properly, or adding padding to make sure it doesn’t rub his face. It means committing to riding even when the temperatures are high and the humidity is higher. But it also means no skin cancer or laminitis.
What can you do for the horse who refuses to wear a fly mask? Zinc oxide on any white skin, children’s roll on sunscreen, and days spent in a stall are great options many of our clients use. Stall time also helps the overweight horse. Grasses are highest in sugar content one half-hour before and after sunrise and sunset. By keeping your horse in during these times you will dramatically reduce their sugar intake.
Summer is a battle! And horses can’t handle like I do: sleeping in the AC in the Clinic all day. Be prepared and talk to our Doctors and technicians about the best strategy for you and your horse. Always remember: May your litter box be clean and your food bowl full!
They were making a fuss around here recently about a groundhog and a shadow and warmer weather. I don’t know what the big deal was I see my shadow all the time and it has nothing to do with the weather. This did, however, lead to a conversation about Spring and horses. Turns out horses face some pretty unique challenges during the warm up from our frigid winter. I realize some of my readers from the north are chuckling about the weather but this cat thought it was plenty chilly.
New green grass. New grass is very high in sugar. This sugar can quickly bring on an attack of laminitis in horses who are overweight or have Cushings. These horses are prone to a syndrome called Equine Metabolic Syndrome which causes them to have diabetes type responses to sugar. There are some treatments available but diet control and exercise are the most important.
Parasites. Parasites love Spring and Fall, feel pretty good about Winter, and hate Summer. The best parasite control methods use fecal egg counts to figure out which horses carry the most worms. Now is the best time to do fecal egg counts. Use this handy chart to determine how long you need to wait after you deworm to bring us poop:
Wait this long to bring us a sample
Pyrantel, Oxibendazole, Fenbendazole
Weather changes. Rapid weather changes play havoc with our horses GI tract. The best advice our Doctors have is water, water, water! Adding water to your horse’s grain on a regular basis helps combat those cold weather colics. A small handful of salt when temperatures suddenly drop will encourage your horse to drink.
Encephalitis. Yep encephalitis. Spring is prime time for Eastern Encephalitis. Our mosquitoes are wicked any time of year but during the Spring they are likely to be carrying this deadly disease(99% of horses who begin to show symptoms later die of the disease). The vaccine for Eastern Encephalitis is extremely effective but only lasts for a short time. We recommend giving the vaccine every 4-6 months depending on the age and lifestyle of your horse.
Skin funk. Florida is famous worldwide for its horse skin funk. Well maybe not to regular people but definitely for horse people. Keeping your horses as dry as possible is the key! Since we all know this is next to impossible this time of year, there are several treatment options for funky Florida skin. Desitin or diaper rash cream is great for lower limbs, the zinc oxide helps heal the compromised skin while simultaneously sealing water out. Dilute Listerine or dilute vinegar may help with the thorax/ back funk but will not address a serious problem. For more severe cases (all of those sensitive skinned chestnuts out there) Springhill carries a medicated CK product that comes in a shampoo, salve, rinse and spray depending on where the problem is. Silly horses I don’t understand why they can’t just clean themselves…that’s what your tongue is for!
May your litter box be clean, and your food bowl be full!