Preparing for Horse Ownership

Preparing for Horse Ownership

Tuesdays with Tony

So, you think you want to own a horse. You’ve read all my blogs, listened to Dr. Lacher’s podcast, Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth, and you’ve been attending all of my monthly seminars. You feel like you have all the information you need to make an informed decision, and you have decided to buy a horse. Let me tell you, you still do not have all the information you need. There is always something else you must consider before buying a horse and even once you own a horse.  You may currently have a horse of your own, but there are still things that you horse owners need to think of. I have learned so many dos and don’ts of horse ownership throughout my years here as the Clinic Cat that I felt I should talk about how you can be best prepared for horse ownership.

We will be hosting an a Facebook Live seminar on Thursday August 26th at 6:30 PM. Be sure to check out our facebook page and click “going” on the event so you are notified when we go Live! Get your questions ready for the docs.

Money

Probably the biggest thing I have learned about horses is that they cost A LOT of money. Like a ton, like more catnip than I could ever imagine wanting amount of money. Most times it’s not even the purchase price of the horse that is the most expensive part of horse ownership. Instead, it is the ongoing feed, hay, bedding, and care that horses seem to require every day. Not to mention tack, training, the farrier and veterinary bills, and that kind of stuff. Did you know horses need vaccinations twice a year? I’m lucky I’m a cat and have a super immune system and only need vaccines every 3 years.

So, besides routine care, you have to think about the what ifs. Because if I have learned one thing in all my kitty years, it is that horses like to get hurt, or sick, or basically try to kill themselves all the time. To be more direct about it, if you own a horse, your horse will also likely get hurt, or sick, or try to kill itself at some point while you own it. Be prepared for this, be prepared for the unexpected.

Have a savings account dedicated to horse care, have a credit card designated for horse expenses, apply for Care Credit and save that for a rainy day, or have your horse insured. Horse insurance is a whole other topic that was discussed in this seminar video that you should watch, but what I can tell you about that is that you will still have to pay your full veterinary bill and then the insurance company reimburses you. Basically, whichever way you decide to pay for the care of your horse, be prepared. I was never a boy scout, I was too mischievous for them but, I still have learned to always be prepared.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Transportation

At least once a week my docs get a call from someone with a sick horse who lives too far away for my docs to get to. The question they always end up asking owners is, do you have a horse trailer, or do you know someone who does? More often than not, the answer is no. I am completely dumbfounded by this. You own a horse, but you have no way to transport it somewhere? How is that even a thing? Forgive my cattiness but, please, please, please, think about this.

Most veterinarians are ambulatory and travel up to an hour or more away from their home clinic. That means if you call with an emergency, my docs could be two or more hours away from getting to your horse. But if you had a way to transport your horse, you could bring it to the clinic and likely get it seen much sooner. Some veterinarians may not have a clinic for you to haul into. What if your horse cannot wait a few hours to see the vet? What if you need to get it to a referral hospital NOW? Or what if maybe the situation is not quite that urgent but still requires 24-hour veterinary monitoring and care, how will you get your horse the care he needs?

Horses don’t just need to be transported for veterinary care. We live in Florida, hurricane central. Evacuations can happen at any time and you may need to leave. You’ve bought this horse, you and your family have fallen in love with him, and now you have to leave. Do you leave your horse? If you don’t have a trailer, you might be faced with this decision. No one wants to make that kind of decision. Your horse is your family. Yes, trailers are an investment and no, they are not cheap, but they are worth their weight in gold when it means you have a way to transport your horse to get the care he needs or get him to a safer location. Before you go and buy a horse, be prepared and either have a plan with someone who can transport your horse for you 24/7 for an emergency, or invest in an inexpensive but safe horse trailer. You will be happy you did.

Stabling/Care

According to my docs, horses require a lot of care including grooming, feeding, friends, and more. Cats are more independent, we groom ourselves, don’t really need friends, and basically only need humans to provide the foods. Horses are so high maintenance! Alas, I digress.

When you are thinking about buying a horse, don’t forget to think about where you will keep your new family member.  Will he live in your backyard? Who will be responsible for his care 24/7/365? Will you have to board him at someone else’s facility? Will that facility provide him with the life you want for him, and what all is included with board? So many questions that you must think of before you buy a horse.

Maybe you have land and want to keep your horse at your house, because who wouldn’t want to wake up to a warm nicker every morning? It may seem glamorous and convenient to have your horse in your backyard, but remember that means you are the one responsible for all of your horses care, including feeding twice a day, cleaning his stall, washing his water buckets and water trough, fence maintenance, etc.

Horses are herd animals and really value companionship of other horses. If you bring your horse home, you may want to consider getting him a friend. This means 2 mouths to feed, 2 stalls to clean, more buckets, and more farm maintenance.  Not to mention vacation. If everyone in your family wants to go on vacation, who is going to take care of your horse(s)? Finding trustworthy, reliable help is more difficult than you may realize. And from experience, you cannot leave your horse unattended for days. Horses, like cats, require a schedule and will enforce that schedule every day. You have to be prepared and have a plan in place if you decide to keep your horse at home.

Maybe you think that keeping your horse at home is just too much responsibility. The choice to board your horse is never the wrong choice. With boarding your horse comes a certain amount of responsibility as well. When picking a farm for your horse to live at, be sure to find out what they feed, where and who your horse will live with, and if having a stall for your horse is important to you, make sure this is a part of the boarding agreement. Find out exactly what is included in the board price. Will they blanket your horse? Will they brush and pick his feet? Will they hold him for the veterinarian or farrier if you can’t be there for the appointment? Can you use the veterinarian and farrier of your choosing?

There are so many factors that go into boarding your horse and in no way, shape or form does it relieve you of your responsibility to care for your horse. It does, however, allow you the convenience of not having to be there every single day, multiple times a day to care for your horse.  Wherever you decide to keep your horse, remember the theme of today’s blog: be prepared.

Owning a horse can be the biggest joy you may ever experience, but it can also lead to serious heartbreak. Before you buy a horse, consult the professionals: a trainer and your veterinarian are a great place to start and they are a wealth of information.  If you are considering purchasing a new family member, please call me at the clinic and I will have my docs call you to discuss it further.

Until next week,

-Tony

P.S. If you want to dive deeper into this topic, check out the recent episode of Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth called Expecting the Unexpected. They cover a lot of important things that horse owners need to be on top of. Don’t forget about our Facebook Live Seminar on Thursday, August 26th at 6:30 PM.

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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Vaccines

Vaccines

Tuesdays with Tony

This week we’re going to talk about vaccines. What, this topic isn’t new and exciting? Well guess what? I agree. I wish everyone did so well at getting their horses vaccinated that I never had to talk about it again. But some of you are still not protecting your ponies! All horses need vaccines. Yes, your horse! Were you about to say that that he never leaves the property or that he had vaccines for years so he must not need any more? You’ve got to be kitten me! Let’s me purr-suede you why your horse absolutely needs vaccines.

 There are certain vaccines that every horse should receive (called “core” vaccines”) and some that are risk-based. The core vaccines are necessary for every horse, no matter where he lives or what you do with him. In Florida, that means Rabies, West Nile Disease, Eastern Encephalitis, and Tetanus. The risk-based vaccines (for example, influenza and strangles) are optional and are recommended if your horse will be exposed to those diseases. Best way to figure that out is to talk to my doc about your individual situation.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 So why are some vaccines considered “core” and the others optional?  Here are the criteria for a core vaccine:

 The disease causes severe symptoms or death.

  1. Rabies: A variety of neurologic symptoms leading to certain death.
  2. West Nile: Muscle twitching, hyper excitability, in-coordination, sometimes inability to stand or death.
  3. Eastern Encephalitis: Fever, severe incoordination, inability to stand, seizures, coma, death.
  4. Tetanus: Muscle spasms/rigidity, inability to eat or drink, inability to rise, death.

 The disease is difficult or impossible to treat.

  1. Rabies: 100% fatal regardless of treatment.
  2. West Nile: Supportive care only. Up to 1/3 of horses die despite treatment, and others have lasting neurological problems.
  3. Eastern Encephalitis: Supportive care only. Up to 90% of horses die despite treatment.
  4. Tetanus: Antibiotics, muscle relaxants and supportive care are used. 50-75% of horses die despite treatment.

 The way the disease is spread puts all horses at risk, regardless of the horse’s lifestyle.

  1. Rabies: Through bites from rabid animals.
  2. West Nile: Spread by mosquitoes.
  3. Eastern Encephalitis: Spread by mosquitoes.
  4. Tetanus: Bacteria lives in the soil, horses exposed through wounds or hoof abscesses.

 The vaccine is safe and effective.

  1. Rabies vaccine: 99% effective in preventing disease
  2. West Nile vaccine: 95-99% effective in preventing disease
  3. Eastern Encephalitis vaccine: 95-99% effective in preventing disease
  4. Tetanus vaccine: 95-99% effective in preventing disease

 Here are some common misconceptions my docs hear about vaccines:

 “My horse doesn’t ever leave the property or interact with other horses.” Doesn’t matter.  Your horse doesn’t have to go anywhere to get bitten by a mosquito, a rabid raccoon, or be exposed to tetanus through a small wound. All of those things will find him right in his own pasture. The only protection is a vaccine.

 “I’ve never heard of a horse getting Rabies.” Horses absolutely get rabies, though it is rare. But if it happens, it’s 100% fatal and puts your own human family at great risk. There is always a long list of people who get exposed in the process of diagnosing and caring for the horse prior to its death. Those people then have to go through the expensive and painful process of post-exposure therapy. Vaccinating your horse is a $20 insurance policy to protect you and your family from the possibility of exposure.

 “But there haven’t been any cases of West Nile/Eastern Equine Encephalitis in my area recently. Those diseases are not here anymore.” WRONG. Our practice sees several cases of encephalitis every year. Don’t get lax on this vaccine – we see positive cases on horses that are only a couple of months overdue from their last vaccine. They are terrible neurologic diseases and often fatal despite expensive treatment. This vaccine needs to be given every 6 months in Florida, because our mosquitoes never go away.

 “But I’m worried about vaccine reactions.” This is a valid concern. Like all decisions in veterinary medicine, the decision to vaccinate should be one of risks-versus-benefits. For most horses, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks of vaccine reactions. The most common form of vaccine reactions are very mild – either a brief fever or local swellings, easily controlled by a few days of anti-inflammatories. If your horse has a history of a more severe reaction, talk to my doc about whether to withhold that vaccine from your horse.

 “My horse has had vaccines plenty of times before. He doesn’t need any more. My small animal vet says we only need to vaccinate my dog every 3 years.” Horses are not dogs. Unfortunately, horses do not mount the same level of an immune response to vaccination as people or dogs. The scientists who did the research on extending the time between vaccines for small animals are clear that this won’t work in horses because of the different way their immune systems function. Unfortunately, your 20-year-old horse still needs his vaccines as often as he did 15 years ago. To be properly protected, horses in Florida should be vaccinated once a year against Rabies and West Nile Virus, and every 6 months against Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

 So if your horse is even a little overdue for his core vaccines, call my doc to make your appointment! Vaccines are simple and inexpensive compared to the CATastrophe of your horse contracting a dangerous and easily preventable disease. Better yet, sign up for one of Springhill Equine’s Wellness Plans and let us keep track of his schedule for you.

 Now, be a good human and subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss out on my impressive cat knowledge. It’s the purple box right down below; you can’t miss it.

 Until next week,

~Tony

 P.S. If you want to know more about equine vaccines and the diseases they protect against, the humans have a great podcast episode (actually 2 or 3, I think) that covers way more detail. You can find it over on the Podcast Page.

 

 

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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80 Degrees

80 Degrees

Tuesdays with Tony

What’s up with the title this week, you ask? Eighty degrees is the temperature of the air at midnight this past weekend. I know this, not because I was out prowling about, but because one of my Docs was up seeing a colic. Most horses don’t love this weather. I don’t blame them. Even I spend more time inside and less on the clinic driveway blocking traffic when it’s this hot out. This week let’s talk about summer fun with horses! 

The dreaded skin funk

There’s nothing like heat, humidity, and afternoon rain showers to create the just right environment for all kinds of crusts and crud on horse skin. You humans have about a million myths and legends for mystical potions to apply to the skin. Most of these don’t work, and, even better, aren’t great for the skin. 

#1 on that list: Listerine. Definitely should not be put on skin. A good hose off daily, along with time in front of the fan drying off, will go far to reduce summertime skin funk. If things have gotten out of hand, or your horse is a delicate thoroughbred who saw a raindrop and is now covered in crusts, reach for an appropriate therapy like Equishield CK Shampoo or spray. 

Now look, my Docs aren’t ones to walk around like a TV commercial selling you all manner of things. They use this product because it works! It’s made for horses so a little dab will do you, and also, there’s that it really works thing. For skin funk on the legs, it comes in a salve. Pro Tip: CK Salve is also the greatest thing in the world for removing that cannon bone funk they all get on their hind legs. 

Anhidrosis, or Non-Sweaters

There is a magical sweet spot around 78 degrees for the low temperature, and humidity consistently in the high 90% range that makes the equine sweat gland stop functioning. As a cat, I do NOT lower myself to something as mundane as sweating, but I also avoid work, so that helps. Not sweating in summer heat is a really bad plan. These horses are miserable! Luckily, we’ve got Dr. Abbott here, and she does acupuncture. I have no idea how tiny needles put in certain places makes sweat happen, but I am here to tell you I have seen it work with my own cat eyes. It’s pretty impressive. 

Since it can take a couple weeks for acupuncture to get these guys going, we also recommend a really good fan, or even better, one of those swamp cooler thingies, and frequent hosing. The less these horses need to sweat, the better they do. On this topic, Dr Patterson-Rosa at our very own hometown University of Florida recently published a paper on the genetics of non-sweaters. Hopefully this helps researchers come up with even better solutions to this problem, and helps breeders avoid making them!

Summer sores

The fancy term is habronemiasis. These things are a giant pain in the behind of all involved. My very best cat advice is to get my Docs involved early! They usually start with some topical treatments, but if that’s not working they quickly go to injecting the summer sore with medications. The best thing you can do to prevent them is fly management. Those pesky flies carry the organism responsible for this around on their feet. Working to reduce your flies with fly predators, feed-through growth regulators like Solitude, and manure management will go a long way to reducing summer sores. 

Getting Cool

Here is a shining spot of Old Wives Tales in the horse world. When I was just a tiny kitten the absolute RULE was only tepid water on the underside of the neck, and legs. My other favorite is the post that goes around Facebook this time of year: if you turn your horse out after hosing them without scraping the water off they could die of heat build up! They can’t. In fact, the single best thing you can do to cool down a hot horse is to hose their entire body off with LOTS of cold water. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

If possible, hit them with VERY cold water. No need to scrape. Just keep hosing until they have cooled off. Put them in front of a fan after hosing to get air moving across that wet, hot body of theirs. If a fan isn’t an option, walk them around to accomplish that same breeze across the body. If in doubt about the level of coolness, hose again. It’s never a wrong answer! You can even hose your horse off before you get on to “pre-cool” them. 

Summer is rough. I recommend getting through it in the air conditioning. Heck bring the horses inside. I’m sure they’d like the AC too! If you can’t bring them in, and you need help managing all the fun things summer brings, give my Docs a call. They are full of strategies to manage summer!

Until next week,

~Tony

 

P.S. The humans have an entire podcast episode about managing horses in hot weather. If you want to listen to that, head over to the Podcast Page on my website and scroll down through the episodes until you find it. It’s good stuff. But before you go, make sure you subscribe. It’s the purple box right below here. Scroll down a bit more. There you go. Good human.

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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Cribbing

Cribbing

Tuesdays with Tony

Cribbing

Everyone has a bad habit or two. Yes, even your horse. I know you’re thinking, there is no way my horse has any bad habits, he is perfect in every way. I hate to break it to you, but the only animals in the world with no bad habits are cats.  While your horse might be close to perfect, he will never be as perfect as a cat. Some horses kick, some horses bite. Others weave, paw, or dig. The bad habits horses can have are innumerable. One that most horse people are familiar with and one I hear much grief about is cribbing.

 If you’ve spent any time around horses, you are likely familiar with a horse who cribs. You are also probably familiar with the negative connotation that goes along with a horse who cribs, but are you familiar with why horses crib or the risk associated with cribbing? And do you know how to help prevent a horse from cribbing?  No? Well, that’s okay, that’s what I’m here for.

 Why do horses crib?

First, I should define what cribbing is for you.  Cribbing is when a horse places his teeth on a solid object, pulls back, and sucks air into his upper esophagus with that lovely grunting noise you all are familiar with.  The noise horses make when cribbing is very distinct.  Beyond the annoying sound, horses that crib can cause damage to stall walls, fences, and other structures around the barn. 

 Cribbing is a stereotypical behavior, as are weaving and stall walking. That means they aren’t actually habits, but rather a compulsive behavior. I’ll call it a habit in this blog, as it’s easier for me to type and you to read, but just so you know, it’s more than a habit.

 It is often thought that horses crib out of boredom. While there may be a boredom component, the reason horses crib is still largely unknown. It’s not understood why some horses develop cribbing while others don’t despite identical management. There is some research suggesting there may be a genetic factor that predisposes certain horses to develop the habit of cribbing which is why we see more thoroughbreds that crib than other breeds.  That being said, management may also play a role in compulsive behaviors such as cribbing.  Horses who are fed high concentrate feeds, have minimal turnout and little to no socialization are more prone to start cribbing.  As you well know, horses are foragers as well as herd animals. Therefore, when their lifestyles do not reflect what their bodies were made for, they tend to develop coping mechanisms such as cribbing to deal with the stresses of an unconventional lifestyle.

 Current research shows cribbing may be associated with lower stomach pH. In other words, if your horse’s management makes them prone to ulcers, it makes them prone to crib. Oddly, cribbing is associated with increased endorphins prior to the behavior! In other words, your horse gets a hit of endorphins, then cribs in response. Not the other way around like we’ve always thought.  Cribbers also have lower cortisol levels when they are allowed to crib. This behavior may actually help your horse cope with stress!

 Risks associated with cribbing

The theme I’m seeing with cribbing and horses is that there really aren’t any clear-cut answers.  And if you know me, you know how much I like black and white answers.  For some unknown reason, horses that crib are more prone to a certain type of colic. The limited research out there points to the pressure created within the abdominal cavity during cribbing as being a possible causative agent of a colic called an epiploic foramen entrapment.  This is a type of colic in which the small intestine becomes trapped in a hole between the liver and pancreas.  The only way to resolve this kind of colic is with surgery.

 The idea is that, as horses crib and the pressure changes within the abdomen, the hole opens up and the small intestine can migrate through. Then, when the pressure normalizes, the hole returns to its normal size and the intestine gets stuck. When the intestine is stuck, the blood supply is cut off and starts to strangulate the small intestine resulting in a severe colic.

 Cribbers also do damage their teeth as they are cribbing on all the fun things they find around the farm to grab. This leads to early loss of their incisors. However, for the most part they handle this just fine thanks to modern horse diets.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 “Treatment”

While there is no real treatment for cribbing, there are ways to prevent and discourage your horse from cribbing.  Unfortunately, once a horse has started cribbing, it’s nearly impossible to break that habit.  In fact, that current research about endorphins means that totally eliminating cribbing from your horse’s life may very well increase their stress levels.  

 Occasionally cribbing can be related to gastric ulcers, but an endoscopic examination is the only way to confirm the presence of ulcers. If ulcers are confirmed, and your horse is showing signs of cribbing, a change in diet is essential. A diet high in forage, particularly alfalfa hay, can reduce stomach acid and reduce the risk of ulcers. Similarly, since horses are grazing animals, having hay in front of your horse at all times if they are not out grazing can reduce the frequency of cribbing observed.  This is especially important in young horses since this is when they establish the behavior.

 Since horses are herd animals, you may find that your horse’s cribbing habit is reduced if you allow him time to socialize with other horses. Horses tend to follow each other and if your horse’s new friend isn’t seeking out somewhere to crib, your horse may not seek out a place to crib either.  Toys and enrichment devices are also an excellent tool to keep your horse occupied and reduce their frequency of cribbing.  They can also help to keep your horse moving around and exercising which can reduce stress as well.

 Of course, there are also several devices that have been developed to reduce cribbing mechanically. Cribbing straps and muzzles certainly have their place in a barn. There are many different cribbing straps out there, so be sure to talk with your vet about which once is right for you and your horse.  The goal of the cribbing strap is to prevent your horse from being able to suck wind into his esophagus. However, cribbing straps do not prevent your horse from trying to crib. This means that they may still seek out solid structures to try to crib on.  Occasionally, topical paints or sprays can be applied to stall walls and fencing to deter horses from cribbing. These require frequent re-application and are sometimes easily washed away.  Even more, some horses like the taste and it does not deter them at all.  I tell ya, horses are just silly animals. They should just be smarter, like us cats.

 No matter what method you choose, it’s unlikely you’re going to get rid of cribbing all together. Set your horse up for success by giving them someplace acceptable to crib for at least a portion of the day. If possible, use a piece of soft wood, like a non-pressure treated 2×4, somewhere they frequent set up at a height they like. This can be done in a stall or in a pasture. In the pasture, placing it near the water trough or hay feeders will usually draw your horse in.   

 Cribbing can be a frustrating habit to deal with, but don’t let it deter you from your dream horse. Lots of horses crib, but it doesn’t mean they can’t perform their jobs and excel in them.  If you have questions about cribbing and what it means for you and your horse, give my docs a call. They would love to talk more in-depth with you. 

 Until next week,

~Tony

 

P.S. If you have a cribber, you really, really want to take the time to listen to the podcast my docs produce. They have an episode all about cribbing and other stereotypical behaviors, and they interview Dr. Wickens, who is one of the leading researchers on stereotypical behaviors. It’s a fantastic conversation, and you can find it over on the Podcast Page

 

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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10 Things Your Vet Wishes You Knew Part 2

10 Things Your Vet Wishes You Knew Part 2

Tuesdays with Tony

Welcome to Part 2 of my series on 10 Things Your Veterinarian Wishes You Knew. If you haven’t read Part 1, you can do that here. I’ve got a lot to talk about before nap time, so let’s get back to it!

6. Don’t mess around trying to treat things yourself before you call a vet

Whether it’s a colic, a wound, an eye problem, please just call my doc early and don’t mess around trying to treat the problem yourself for days or weeks before seeking veterinary care. My docs see a lot of disasters caused by well-meaning owners. Sometimes it costs the horse his life. We understand the desire to save money, but in most cases it’s less expensive to treat the problem correctly and early. Turning to Dr. Google or using some treatment you bought online may be putting your horse in danger. My docs hear a lot of “I’ve been treating it for a week with this purple spray and it’s just getting worse”. They wish you would have called them first, because they might have been able to fix the problem when it first happened faster and for less cost than what it will require now.

I’m not saying it’s a bad idea to educate yourself on equine health topics, but make sure you use factual sources, such as TheHorse.com website or our podcast, Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth and not just a Facebook group. Believe me, there is some truly TERRIBLE advice out there on Facebook groups and horse forums. And none of them are a substitute for an exam by one of my docs.

 7. Equine Major Medical Insurance is cheaper than you might think

No one likes to think about their horse becoming ill or injured, but when something happens, the last thing you want to be worrying about is whether you can afford to treat your horse. It’s devastating to have to make a decision to euthanize a horse that could have been successfully treated due to lack of finances. Even though vets are able to deliver quality care for a fraction of what human medicine costs, some treatments are still expensive. Colic surgery can cost $5000-$10,000 or more, and my docs absolutely understand that few of us have unlimited funds.

Newberry FL horse veterinarian

You might not realize that equine medical insurance is pretty affordable (often just a few hundred dollars a year) and it’s not just for fancy show horses or million-dollar racehorses. Your backyard trail horse is just as good a candidate. My docs insure their own horses, even though they are equine vets! For example, one of my docs has a policy that covers $10,000 of major medical and surgical costs with a yearly premium of $400. Of course, the specific numbers will vary based on your horse, so you’ll need to talk to an insurance company for your own quote, but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than paying out of pocket for a major illness or surgery.

There are also colic programs from companies like Platinum Performance and SmartPak that will cover a significant chunk of the surgery cost. One of my docs recently had a horse need colic surgery. Because her horses are fed Platinum Performance supplements and enrolled in their colic program, Platinum covered $8000 of the cost of surgery. Check out the websites for Platinum Performance and Smartpak Equine to see if those are a good option for you.

8. Regular dental care performed by a veterinarian is really important

Don’t wait for your horse to start dropping feed while trying to chew and losing weight! That’s not the time to do a dental, those signs mean you already have major dental issues. The average horse should have a dental exam and float once a year. The goal is to do a little touch up every year so your horse can maintain good teeth long into his senior years. When the teeth are neglected, and problems have already occurred, it’s a lot harder for my doc to make your horse comfortable and corrections may be more expensive. She can’t put back teeth that have worn down or fractured. So start early and stay current with your horse’s dental care.

Also, there is a big difference between a complete dental exam performed by a veterinarian and a lay dentist sticking a rasp into your horse’s mouth. A thorough dental requires sedation, which lay dentists can’t legally administer, and an oral speculum to allow evaluation of the back of your horse’s mouth. Way in the back is where a lot of the problems occur. My docs have to correct problems caused or missed by untrained (non-DVM) dentists all the time. Often the owners thought they were doing the right thing for their horses. We don’t want this for you and your horse, so just call a vet to take care of your horse’s teeth please!

9. Colic surgery has a better outcome than you probably think

We hope your horse never experiences a colic bad enough to require surgery, but if you find yourself in the position where you need to choose whether to pursue emergency colic surgery, we want to make sure incorrect assumptions don’t influence your decision. Yes, it’s a major surgery and yes, it’s pretty expensive (see # 7 about getting insurance). But some folks still have the idea that few horses survive colic surgery or that their horse won’t be useful afterwards. That might have been true long ago, but surgical practice has come a long way and nowadays about 90% of horses that undergo colic surgery will survive. Studies have also shown that older horses have the same survival rate as younger horses after colic surgery. So don’t let your horse’s age alone influence your decision.

It’s a wonderful thing to see a horse feeling better and munching feed again after surgery. After the appropriate healing time, most horses can return to their previous athletic careers, even racing or grand prix jumping. So if my doc is recommending colic surgery as the best option to save your horse’s life, make your decision based on facts and not outdated preconceptions.

10. They care a lot about your horse

My docs love being equine vets and taking care of your horses. They’re horse people themselves and their choice to become vets means they’re naturally hard-working, compassionate people who want the best for your equine family. But being a vet can also be pretty hard. My docs think about your horse long after they leave your farm, spend time at night researching particularly difficult cases, and lose sleep and sacrifice time with their own families to take care of your horse when you have an emergency. They do it because they love the animals and care about helping you.

No vet goes into the profession for the money, and it hurts them deeply when they’re sometimes accused of not caring about an animal because it’s necessary to charge for his care. It costs a lot to keep the lights on in the clinic, to purchase the equipment they need, and to pay employees. The medications they stock cost just as much for a vet to buy as it does for a human hospital, yet vets charge a fraction of what a human medicine bill would be. Vets have an average of nearly $200,000 in student loans, go to school for as long as a human physician, and make nowhere near the same salary.

That all said, they love their jobs. They just want you to understand why a medication or an X-ray costs what it does, and that greed has nothing to do with it. They wish the financial part wasn’t in their job description, and they sympathize with your situation. So just be kind to your vet and remember that they’re on your team when it comes to caring for your horse. If you’re inclined, you can express your appreciation with cat treats dropped off at the clinic (care of Tony) and I’ll be sure to pass on the message.

So, that’s my Top 10. I hope that you take my supreme cat knowledge and use it for good. Our mission here at Springhill Equine is to make the world a better place for horses (and cats), and I’m just trying to do my part. After all, I get a lot of love from horse owners, so I would be remiss if I didn’t give back. Cats aren’t susceptible to that kind of pressure, but I know where my treats come from. Speaking of treats, I gotta go.

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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Dental Care

Dental Care

Tuesdays with Tony

My people told me to tell your people that July is Dental Month here at the Clinic. It’s one of my favorite times of the year because so many of you come to see me, and, let’s be honest, that’s really one of the most important things you could ever do.  Not to mention you’re bringing your horse in for their annual dental examination and flotation. And if you’ve been reading my blog recently, and I know you have, you know that it is essential that your veterinarian perform your horse’s dental. 

 You know WHY your veterinarian should be performing your horse’s dental (Sedation, bright light, and speculum so they can get all the way to the back teeth). You understand the basic concept of a dental, which is to float sharp points. But do you know what else is involved in a dental examination and flotation? No? Well, lucky for you, I am well-versed in all things equine dentistry. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 Types of Teeth

As you well know, my daily meals are extremely important to me. So much so that I start reminding my staff about dinner time an hour before hand just so they don’t forget. If I’m not mistaken, horses are also very much creatures of habit and I am certain they let you know if you are 5 minutes late for breakfast.  Can you imagine if your horse couldn’t eat because of dental problems? I would be utterly miserable. 

 Unlike cats and humans, who have brachydont teeth, horses have hypsodont teeth.  I know you’re saying, wait a second Tony, those are some big words, aren’t teeth just teeth? Well, no, they are not.  Carnivores and omnivores typically have brachydont teeth, which are low-crowned teeth in which the crown sits above the gum line. Brachydont teeth stop growing once all permanent teeth are fully erupted.

 Horses, on the other hand, have hypsodont teeth which continue to erupt throughout their entire life and the enamel extends below the gum line. As grazing animals, horses are eating almost constantly throughout the day. Because of the type of forage horses consume, their teeth undergo a lot of wear and tear. Therefore, slow eruption of their teeth throughout their lives compensates for the constant grinding which can wear away 2-3mm of tooth/year. This is also why a diet that consists of quality forage is so important. 

 The Exam

When you bring your horse to the clinic, his exam starts right away with a complimentary CATscan by yours truly.  Once the CATscan has been completed, I allow the docs and technicians to step in. The docs exam starts almost immediately. They like to watch your horse eat and chew while they talk to you about his history and if there have been any problems, dental related or not. Believe it or not, problems that may seem behavioral could actually stem from your horse’s mouth. 

 After a few words with you and look from the outside, my docs and technicians prepare your horse for his oral exam.  This involves sedation, an antiseptic mouth wash, and placement of a speculum. (Apparently horses do not just say “AH” on command). Once your horse is settled into the speculum and head loop, my docs reach for their bright light.  A bright light is imperative to a thorough oral examination.

 Depending on what all is going on in your horse’s mouth, my docs may write a few things down or have their technician take a few notes. While examining his mouth they assess all of his soft tissues including his cheeks, gums, tongue, hard and soft palate, and lips.  They look for any abnormalities including signs of foreign bodies or cancer.  Then they start the exam of your horse’s teeth. They note any signs of infection including caries (cavities), fractured teeth, misaligned teeth and teeth that may have grown too much or not enough. They check for hooks, ramps, steps, and waves. If any teeth are missing, they will make a note of that as well.  You may even notice them pull out this little mirror on a stick. They tell me that it is so they can look at the back of your horse’s mouth better.

 Occasionally, they may recommend radiographs, just like your human dentist. If they suspect a fractured or infected tooth, radiographs are the best way to assess the root structure of the tooth and develop a plan for removal if necessary.  Alternatively, a Catscan may be recommended.  Unfortunately, this is not the same kind of catscan that I provide and requires general anesthesia.  Radiographs are significantly less invasive and can give my docs a lot of the information they require to best treat your horse. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 The Float

After a thorough oral examination, the next step is the flotation.  My docs use a diamond burr head on the end of a long battery-powered rod.  This head spins in a circular motion to grind down any sharp enamel points that your horse had naturally developed over the year. It is a very gentle, yet effective tool which allows the docs to work quickly to correct any problems seen on their exam. Unlike hand floats, which can be very damaging to your horse’s soft tissues, the power float causes none to minimal damage. 

 While floating your horse’s teeth, the docs take care to spend time on areas such as hooks, ramps, waves, and steps. They correct these as much as they can without exposing tooth root.  Sometimes, however, corrections must be made slowly which may lead to my docs recommending twice yearly floats or even quarterly dental floats for your horse. Aggressive corrections and/or overfloating will lead to more problems such as open pulp, fractures, and infection. Correcting a problem before it becomes too severe is key to preventing the need for more than once a year dental floats.

 The End

After your horse’s teeth have been fully examined and a float has been performed, they will be taken out of the head loop and the speculum will be removed.  At this point, my docs check on their front teeth, noting any abnormalities such as a slant mouth, evidence of cribbing or equine odontoclastic tooth resorption and hypercementosis. They may make some minor adjustments with the float to allow for better occlusion of his teeth which will help your horse chew more effectively. Finally, they make suggestions to you regarding further care and write all of their findings down in a special form on the computer. I particularly like to help with this part, as I have a knack for computers, and I find they really give me a lot of attention when I help them with their medical notes.

 Around the Clinic we are a group of highly food-motivated people and cats.  We know how much horses enjoy their food as well. That’s why it is so important to have your horse’s dental examination and flotation performed at least once a year by your veterinarian (refer to my previous blogs if you need a refresher on why your vet should perform dentals and other procedures). To prevent problems later in life, annual dentals are an essential part of your horse’s veterinary care. Give the Clinic a call to schedule your haul-in dental for the month of July and don’t forget to ask about the special discount!

 Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Are you “chomping at the bit” for more dental care information? If so, the humans have a fantastic podcast on dental exams. You can find that and so much more on our podcast page.

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

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More Adventures of the Horse Doctor's Husband