Tony here. I heard a lot of talk around the office about veterinary don’ts this Labor Day weekend. Recently I’ve thought of topics that I would like to add to your list of Veterinary Don’ts.

While the logic may sound a bit backwards, don’t give antibiotics to your horse if you suspect he has a foot abscess.

An abscess in the foot requires coaxing. Although it makes sense to treat infection with antibiotics, it really just needs a way out.  Soaking the foot with salts, and drawing salves like ichthammol, that bring in moisture (water follows salt) softens the hoof horn, so the abscess can break through. Your farrier or the vets “digs” with the hoof knife around the sole of the foot where the horse is painful and/or the surface is irregular to give the infected tract an exit. If your horse has to be on antibiotics for more severe complications or another medical condition, that is a matter to discuss with the doctors.  Antibiotics simply slow the maturation of the abscess, delaying healing.

On that matter… be careful not to overuse antibiotics in general.  Antibiotic resistance, as seen with the emergence of MRSA, is an ever-pressing issue in medical treatment.  It is important to avoid unnecessary antibiotic use, while treating your horse appropriately for their condition.  I am no microbiologist (I prefer rodent-ologist), but I can tell you that the art of what the bug is and what antibiotic kills (or doesn’t kill) it is a complicated process. If the docs prescribe you antibiotics, keep using them until the prescription is gone (which should be after the symptoms resolve completely). If you’ve run out of your prescription, and you don’t think the infection is completely resolved, let us know. We always recommend a culture if we suspect a serious infection –this will give us a sensitivity profile of the microbe to a variety of antibiotics, telling us what will work.  We will start treating with an effective antibiotic as soon as possible. In the meantime, help us have a bacterial population with sensitivity to the things we have that kill them.  Don’t change antibiotics, or repeatedly start and stop unless necessary. And  don’t keep giving your antibiotics if your horse develops diarrhea or colicky signs, call Dr. King or Dr. Lacher instead.

We animals can be pretty good at sensing what is and isn’t good for us, but sometimes we just can’t resist eating what will make us really, really sick (like those silly dogs and their chocolate).  Horses have the added pressure of sensing their environment with trimmed sensory whiskers.

As a result, don’t forget to check your alfalfa thoroughly for blister beetles.

Blister beetles can result in a painful death for your horse. They live in hay.  Blister beetles can be toxic dead or alive. There are 2500+ species of blister beetle worldwide, but it is the three-stripe blister beetle shown below that can be toxic to a horse with ingestion of only a dozen insects. A defensive chemical called cantharadin results in blisters when the insect is crushed against the skin, hence the name. The beetles cause severe intestinal wall inflammation, and can result in kidney failure and death in about 72 hours.  Poisonings occur in horses, sheep and cattle. Double check through each flake of hay to make sure there aren’t any beetles. Hay qualities that are considered more risky for infestation with blister beetles include later cuttings, southern sources, and the presence of more blooms or weeds. Buy first cut hay to avoid infestation.

If your horse ingests a toxic level of blister beetles, he will begin to show signs of colic, straining to urinate, and frequent progressing to no urination. Call immediately if you discover your horse has ingested these buggers.

Thanks for visiting my counter, may your litterbox be clean and food bowl full!


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