Seniors, Horses and Human

Seniors, Horses and Human

Tuesdays with Tony

Time keeps on ticking no matter how you humans feel about it. Your horses get older, and, gasp! so do you! There are some things you should consider about older horses and some things you should definitely be thinking about for adult you. Not all of it is fun or easy to talk about, but it’s necessary, and as your great cat guide to life, I’m here for you.

Retirement (the horse kind)

Enjoying horse sport is great! You feel the wind whipping, you spend hours practicing timing, balance, and all the horse things. Your horse learns your language and you learn theirs. In my extensive cat experience this goes great as long as that horse is doing some level of horse activity. Maybe they go from running barrels every weekend to trail riding lightly, or they drop down from a more competitive version of a sport to something easier. 

What happens when none of that is possible any more? Often a lot of the care for these horses stops as well. I get it. It’s not on purpose, it just sort of happens. When the humans don’t open the door for me when I’m asking, I start asking a lot louder until they can’t ignore me. This isn’t how horses operate, though. They continue grazing and doing horse things, even though their feet haven’t been trimmed or their vaccinations haven’t been given, or their teeth haven’t been checked, until one day they can’t do it anymore. 

Retirement for these guys should mean less work, but not less care. My docs will often discuss what care may no longer be necessary now that your horse isn’t traveling or working. However, the basics like good hoof care, and routine health care are still incredibly important! In fact, these things will allow your retired horse to live a longer, healthier life AND cost you less while doing it. Regular dental care allows older horses to keep their teeth functioning, which means they can eat normal hay and grain longer, which means lower feed bills. Regular foot care means helping them move around better, and catching problems like laminitis early so they can be managed before they’re a big deal.

Speaking of retirement: Plan on retiring that horse of yours. Don’t look for the free to a good home option as a way for you to get rid of them. Provide a happy, safe place for your older horses. They worked for you for a long time. They deserve it. My Docs could tell you about numerous horses who have been given away to people who didn’t know enough about senior care. These horses ended up skinny, and in horrible circumstances. And don’t get me started on the cheap auction side of things. You’ll see this cat on a soap box real quick.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Wills, trusts, and paperwork in general

Alright, we covered the horse, now let’s talk about you humans. No one is getting out of here alive. Having a plan to take care of your animals should something really bad happen to you is pretty important. I get it. No one wants to think about, deal with, blah, blah, blah. You have to! There’s some important stuff to think about. 

First, get an attorney to help you with the paperwork. There are some do-it-yourself options available, but the advice of a lawyer who specializes in wills and trusts will help you avoid some common pitfalls. Remember, they do this all the time, and they’ve seen many of the ways it can go very, very wrong, and the ways it can go right.

Second, it may be necessary to have different plans for different critters. You know you have more than just a horse. There’s usually a dog or cat or chicken or all of the above in the mix. This likely means you have a plan for the smaller critters, and a different plan for the bigger critters. 

Third, make sure there is money to help your plan stay in place. You know horses are expensive. Also, cats like me prefer a high standard of living. I’m not one to settle for any old cat bed. I will also require a butler to open the door, then close it, then open it again. Anyway, funds. This is where a lawyer can prove their value. Setting up trusts so that your animals have a funding source will ensure they continue to live the life to which they have become accustomed thanks to your excellent care. Lawyers can also help set this up so that money goes to the animals and not the humans involved in the care. 

It’s not fun to think about one’s own demise, but the wise cat plans for it. It makes life much easier for those left behind, both animal and human.

It’s also no fun to think about growing older in general. Spend some time basking in the sun on a warm day, and think about how you would like the plan to look. Then write down an outline of a plan for you, and your horses, and all your other critters you know you have. Think about a long term plan for your current horses when they’re no longer performance horses. Where will they live? Do you have space? A little thinking time goes a long way. And if you need some guidance, ask my Docs. Their mission is to make the world a better place for horses, after all. 

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!

Subscribe to Tuesdays with Tony

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

More Adventures of the Horse Doctor's Husband
Keeping Super Seniors Super

Keeping Super Seniors Super

Tuesdays with Tony

Keeping Super Seniors Super

 

A very cool thing happened this week: a horse on our Senior Wellness Program was diagnosed with cancer. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Before you get mad at the cat for being insensitive about life (which I am), give a guy a moment to explain why this is cool. This horse’s cancer got found super early, because she is in the Wellness Program. This means my Docs are able to start her on medications early, giving her a significantly better quality of life. And quality of life is the most important thing you can give us critters.

 

The Bloodwork

 

On our Senior Wellness Program my Docs pull blood twice yearly. At one of those checks, they are looking for PPID (Cushings), and insulin resistance. PPID really takes a toll on horses. It makes it tough for them to cool off in the summer, and keep warm in the winter. It makes them susceptible to infections. It can cause laminitis. It’s just an awful disease. Luckily there is a treatment, and the earlier the disease is identified, the easier the symptoms are to get under control. Insulin resistance almost always leads to PPID, and is a major cause of laminitis. The good news is insulin resistance can be well-controlled with diet and exercise! At the other bloodwork check, a Complete Blood Count (CBC) and Chemistry panel are pulled. A CBC checks all the types of cells in the blood. The two big categories are red blood cells and white blood cells. Chemistry panels check the function of the major organs like liver and kidneys. I’ll drop some wisdom on you about chemistry panels in a future episode. Today we’ll stick to CBCs.

 

Oxygen is good

 

Let’s talk about the red ones first. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. It is fairly common to find low red blood cell numbers in older horses. When that happens, my Docs start with an evaluation of the diet. Older horses have a harder time getting all those key nutrients from their food, so a high quality diet is very important! If the diet is good, the Docs start looking for evidence of inflammation.

 

The Fighters

 

That brings us to the white blood cells. There are three main types of white blood cells: neutrophils, lymphocytes, and eosinophils. There are a few others added in there, but these are the biggies. In a huge oversimplification of things, they work as follows: neutrophils handle bacteria, lymphocytes handle viruses, and eosinophils are in charge of allergies. So if the red blood cell count was low, and there were a lot of neutrophils, my Docs would start looking for an infection. This hunt generally starts with an ultrasound of the abdomen and chest.

 

Back to the cancer

 

I know, I know, what about my opener? You thought this blog was going to be about cancer. Finally, I have arrived at the cancer, you inpatient human. This past week my Docs pulled a CBC and Chemistry panel as part of a routine visit for a horse on our Senior Wellness Plan. The blood work came back with a really high lymphocyte number. Since you have been paying attention to this blog, you think, “Ah, virus!” Good job, you have been listening! However, in this case the number was way, way too high to be a virus. Lymphocyte numbers this high mean lymphoma, and in older horses that’s usually in the intestinal tract.

 

What’s next?

 

Next up for this horse will be an ultrasound of her abdomen to see how thick her intestines are. The Docs will also ultrasound, and maybe even x-ray her chest to see if there has been any spread. From there, they will work to come up with a treatment plan that will help this lovely horse live the rest of her days as happy as she can possibly be. This means working to reduce inflammation, and keep her eating. How much time are we talking? Probably about 6-8 months. However, those can be some pretty good months!

 

Senior horses hold a very, very special place at Springhill Equine. My Docs own Super Seniors themselves, and know the joy that comes from keeping them happy and healthy as long as possible. My Docs also know that quality of life is way, way more important than quantity. When issues like this horse’s lymphoma come up, they work very hard to come up with the best right answer for this horse and her owner. I admire that. It makes me feel a tiny bit of remorse at the harsh looks of disapproval I give my humans from time to time. Never fear, since I’m a cat, I get over that feeling quickly.

Before you go over to the Wellness page on my website, scroll down and subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss one. It’s the big purple box below, you can’t miss it.

Looking for more info on Super Senior horses? Make sure you check out Episode 11 of our podcast, Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth. It’s a half hour of amazing discussion about older horses. Even I, a sleepy cat, was awake and riveted through the whole thing.

One last thing: Our 13th Annual Open House is coming up on September 29th. I heard that there will be a LOT of free give aways, to include a ton of hay, and a Grand Prize of getting your picture taken me, the Amazing Tony. That should be the grand prize, anyway. Check out the Event Page for all the details.

Until next week,

Tony

 

Large animal veterinarian Levy, Gilchrist

Subscribe to Tuesdays with Tony

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

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!

Super Seniors

Super Seniors

Tuesdays with Tony

Dr. Lacher recently saw two of our Super Seniors for a Wellness visit. One of these, Sierra, was 31 and the other, Crud, was 34 years old! Holy Old Horses! I asked her what’s an owner got to do to get a horse to that age??? Read on for the answer to the equine fountain of youth.

Let them be horses

Both of these seniors have had lots of time to be horses. Crud worked hard as a ranch horse until his early 20’s. Sierra worked a little less, but both have always had lots of turnout. Horses were made to have time outside. It becomes even more important as they get older. As they get older and creakier, a lot of time spent doing low-level exercise will keep the parts moving and the blood flowing. Outside time also lets them browse for different forages, harass birds and other woodland creatures, interact with herd mates, and generally just be a horse.

old horse careSpeaking of arthritis

It doesn’t matter if you are a horse, a cat, or a human. As we age, those injuries we had over a lifetime will gradually develop into arthritis. Keeping arthritis away takes a combination of fitness work and rehabbing of injuries. Horses who spend a lot of time outside spend a lot of time walking, and all that walking helps them stay fit. During their athletic careers, work with great people who can help you design a fitness program for your horse goals. Asking your “once a week, hour-long walking trail ride” horse to go work cows for 8 hours isn’t going to turn out well. There will definitely be an injury happening.

Post-injury, you need good rehab work (that should be read as “do what your veterinarian says) to get your horse back to normal. Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t have told Teannie she was funny looking, and then she wouldn’t have broken my leg, but this blog isn’t about my injuries, it’s about horses. After any injury, your horse will change their way of going. Very conscientious work needs to go into re-strengthening the injured side, and returning things to the way they were. Rehab work has really good studies to prove it keeps career-ending injuries away longer than any other treatment. That includes your fancy stem cells! These guys are no longer elite athletes, but living outside 24/7 keeps them moving, and that movement keeps them healthy!

Doing the basics well

Know what else these seniors have had throughout their lives? Good, routine veterinary care. Sierra has been a patient at Springhill Equine since 1995, and Crud since 2006. That’s a long history of regular vaccinations, dental care, and parasite control. Those regular check-ups have helped us identify little problems early on, and keep them from becoming big problems. Those regular dental check-ups allow the docs to keep the teeth aligned so they can get nutrition out of grass and hay for as long as possible. Regular dental check-ups also let them find problem teeth early. At their age, they are going to have problem teeth. You don’t get to be 97 in human years with all your teeth intact! The sooner we address those problem teeth, the less likely they are to get infected and cause pain.

Getting old ain’t for sissies

It’s true! But with regular check-ups, and a lot of love, it can be fun! Until next week, may your food bowl be full, and your litter box clean.

Tony

P.S. Want to make regular check-ups easy? Sign up for my exclusive Wellness Program. Click here to pick which plan works best for you, and sign up today!

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!

Subscribe to Tuesdays with Tony

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Hot, Hairy Horses

Hot, Hairy Horses

Tuesdays with Tony

Why is my horse growing his winter coat already??

Horses are weird. I say that a lot, because it’s true. I was checking out a horse that was hanging out at the Clinic with Teannie and I over the weekend, and noticed he was growing his winter coat. I’m thinking, “It’s not even close to winter, what are you thinking????” Okay, I may not have thought that, I may have said it out loud. And where do I go with my questions? To my Docs…Dr. Vurgason was the first one I saw so I asked her, “What is that horse thinking getting a winter coat when it’s 90 degrees out?” And here’s her answer:

Horses like cold weather

To be more accurate, they evolved in areas where it got really cold. We get a skewed view of seasons here in Florida, but in other parts of the world, it isn’t 90 degrees for 8 months out of the year. Dr. Vurgason informed me that this morning it was 30 degrees in Stowe, Vermont. I informed her I don’t want to live wherever that is, but I did concede that a horse might need a winter coat by now if he lived there. Dr. Vurgason told me there are some breed differences, as well. For instance, Thoroughbreds, in general, don’t grow as much hair as, say, a Percheron.

Sometimes hair isn’t just hair

But, (and with the humans there’s always a but) sometimes horses aren’t just preparing for winter. Dr. Vurgason told me one of the early signs of Cushing’s (also called PPID because humans also like initials) was growing a winter coat earlier or heavier than normal. She told me this is because the pituitary gland, which is the main problem-child in Cushing’s disease, is in charge of knowing if it’s Winter or Summer, and it gets confused. So if your horse is growing way more coat, or growing it earlier than last year, you better contact my minions and get them checked! The test is a simple blood draw, no need to study or purchase Cliff notes or anything like that.

You’re going to need to cut that hair

Due to the aforementioned lack of actual Winter in Florida, you may need to cut that newly grown winter coat off. Horse hair is an amazing insulator, so when it’s 85 degrees on Christmas Day and you want to go ride, you may find your furry horse is a less than willing partner. Never fear, this doesn’t mean you have to go spend $1000 in horse blankets. You can do what I refer to as the “crazy horse people haircuts.” I have heard other people call them bib or trace clips. I still think they look funny. However, they do let your horse sweat and release heat in all the important places, while giving them protection from our “cold” weather. And if you get inspired to add some zest and style to your clip job, take a picture and put it on our Facebook page!

Now go out and inspect that hair coat. Got questions? Let my minions know! 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!

Subscribe to Tuesdays with Tony

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Tuesdays with Tony – Old Fart Fitness

Tuesdays with Tony – Old Fart Fitness

As a Phat Cat (sounds like “fat cat”, but it’s way more cool!) fitness will, of course, be my least favorite topic covered in the Senior series. Cushing’s disease is intellectually interesting (especially since cats rarely suffer from it), and nutrition holds a special place in my stomach, um, I mean heart. However, my humans sneak exercise into my life to help my physique stay panther-like.  The humans say exercise is a key component to a long, happy life. So, let’s discuss exercise and your Super Senior.

How are you doing?

Step one will be a good exam by one of my amazing Docs. As horses (and humans and cats) age, they collect injuries.  Some of these are big, some are small, but they all add up over time.  Also, you see your horse every day.  You may not notice a slow change somewhere.  A fresh set of eyes will help you come up with the ideal plan for your Super Senior.  

A little help from my friends

Your horse may start every ride stiff, there may even be a little limping going on. Let’s be honest, you don’t leap out of bed in the morning as quickly as you used to either! The exam my Docs just performed may highlight areas that could use a little pharmaceutical assistance to get things back on the right track. Joint injections are the most common help Super Seniors appreciate. A little arthritis can stiffen up a joint to the point where movement becomes painful. My Docs put a little bit of steroid to fight off inflammation, and hyaluronic acid as a lubricant into these joints, and miracles happen.  Horses who were having trouble moving can go back to a comfortable life as a performance horse.  Some horses simply get systemic anti-inflammatories, like Bute, to help them stay comfortable.

A whole lot of a little

The exam and the help from joint injections or anti-inflammatories is all to help you design the best exercise program for your Super Senior.  Seniors need to do a whole lot of fitness work. I remember when I was a kitten; it seemed I could stay in shape just by getting up in the morning.  Now, should I want to be fit, I would have to do a lot more work! This is one of the many joys of growing older.  Our horses suffer the same fate. Fitness programs should be designed to be low impact, but long duration. Trail riding works great for this purpose. There’s nothing like a good walk and jog up and down hills to get you fit without realizing it.

Words of warning here: Seniors don’t take prolonged vacations well.  Letting your senior get soft will make it really hard to get them back fit.

Listen to what they’re saying

The most important thing to remember about any fitness work is to check in with your horse. If you are adding a new skill, try it 4-5 times or for about 3-5 minutes the first day, then quit. If your horse is really sore the next day, don’t drill harder on that new skill. Skip a day then go back. Plan on slowly increasing the workload. With Seniors, it’s important to watch for aggravations of old injuries, the appearance of new swelling, and explore any reluctance to perform a well established task.  

Ok I survived this little chat about fitness. Want to know even more? Come to our Super Senior Seminar TOMORROW April 19th, 2017 at 6:30pm at the Clinic! If you come early, I might even let you take a selfie with me for your Facebook wall.

Tuesdays with Tony – Cushing’s Disease

Tuesdays with Tony – Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s Disease

Is your older horse taking longer to shed out than usual this spring? Is it getting harder to keep weight on the old man? Has your retiree had more than one hoof abscess in the last year? If so, you may be dealing with PPID, better known as Cushing’s Disease. Read on to learn more about PPID from this wise old cat!

What is PPID?

PPID stands for Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, which is the technical term for Cushing’s disease in horses. In the most basic sense, PPID is a brain tumor. The brain actually has a very intricate system of glands that produce hormones which stimulate additional glands to produce other hormones that control functions elsewhere in the body. When one of these glands (the Pituitary) in the horse’s brain goes AWOL, you have Cushing’s disease.

The tumor growing on the pituitary gland is called an adenoma. This tumor applies pressure to the gland as it grows, causing over-production of its hormones (namely, adrenocorticotropic hormone, or ACTH). The clinical signs of Cushing’s disease in horses are all a result of too much ACTH in circulation. Time for a nap break…all of these letters are giving this cat a headache!

What are the signs of PPID?

Cushing’s disease can lead to a bunch of problems. For one, overproduction of ACTH can confound the whole winter-coat-growing system, so your horse winds up with long, curly hair in the hottest summer months. Failure to shed out completely or in a timely manner is the most well-known sign of Cushing’s disease. However, now that we know early treatment seems to slow the progression of the disease, our efforts are aimed at diagnosing the disease earlier, using more subtle signs.

In the early stages of the disease, PPID can cause lethargy, muscle wasting, regional fat deposits, recurrent infections, increased water consumption, and increased urination. The most worrisome side effect of Cushing’s disease is chronic laminitis. There is no known cure for laminitis, and it can even be life-threatening in horses with PPID. And that’s bad, because horses have 8 fewer lives than us cats.

Pony with Equine Cushings Disease

How do I know if my horse has PPID? 

Since the early signs of the disease can be subtle, our docs recommend annual testing for Cushing’s disease on any horse over 10 years of age. First the docs will draw blood, then it goes on a trip to Cornell University where they test the ACTH levels. Then, the doctors will compare your horse’s ACTH levels to the normal range for a horse during that time of year.

Considering your horse’s test results and clinical signs, your vet may recommend daily medication to treat PPID. Luckily, the folks at Boehringer Ingelheim have come up with a great medicine called Prascend that is easy to give, and works really well too! Just one tablet a day mixed in with grain is a sufficient dose for most horses. I’ve heard it tastes better than the cheese-flavored medicine the humans squirt in my mouth every day.

Conveniently, I have an event coming up here next week at Springhill Equine on Wednesday April 19th at 6:30pm, where you can learn all you ever wanted to know about PPID and other senior horse problems! Some of my favorite people from Boehringer Ingelheim will be there to answer any questions you may have, and best of all there will be food! Oh, and a chance to win a free ACTH test for your horse. You may think that is even better than food, but that’s where we will have to agree to disagree………

See you there!

-Tony