Tuesdays with Tony
What is with the weather? We usually talk about weather in the winter when it’s getting cold and horses stop drinking water, but let’s talk about all kinds of weather and what kind of trouble we can expect your horse to get into, how to prevent it, and what to do if you find your horse in some trouble. Personally, I am a warm weather cat, so this heat wave we have been going through has not been an issue for me. However, the rain, well, I am a cat and I do not like getting wet. Even as I sit here writing this, I am listening to the rain fall on the roof of the clinic, the power keeps flickering off, and the thunder is intense. Grrrrr.
This time of year, the threat of hurricanes is real. We got lucky a few weeks ago and avoided a hit. However, it got me thinking: what side effects can hurricanes have on horses? As you all know, horses colic at the drop of a hat. Look at them the wrong way, and the next thing you know they are throwing themselves on the ground. Hurricanes cause changes in barometric pressure, and changes in pressure can absolutely cause horses to get a little gassy. If you have ever had an episode of gas, you know just how painful it is. The good news is, if your horse has an episode of gas colic, it’s usually easily resolved with a visit from my docs for some fluids and electrolytes and a dose of banamine.
I talk about colic all the time, so if you are interested in learning more about colic, refer to one of my previous blogs by typing “colic” into the search bar at the top of the screen. After you finish this, of course. Right now, let’s talk about what other problems can arise with weather.
With hurricanes and storms comes wind. Wind alone is not all that dangerous. However, wind will knock limbs off a tree and bring flying debris about. The best course of action is to be prepared. Keep your trees trimmed, keep your yard free of debris, and secure all items that could potentially become projectiles. This includes lumber, jumps, piles of sheet metal and junk, et cetera. If the wind picks up something and your horse finds himself in a heap of trouble, the first thing for you to do is call my docs. They will instruct you on the next steps to take. The predicament your horse has found himself in will dictate the treatment. They may require some sutures, bandaging, or even hospitalization for treatment. If you are lucky, that’s all that will be required for treatment.
For those less fortunate, you may find your horse in a more serious situation. You could find a tree down in your pasture. Even worse, you could find your horse stuck under that tree. If that happens, you may need to call 911. Emergency rescue crews have the equipment and training to safely extricate your horse from a tree (or any other situation), with the help of one of my docs to administer drugs and treat any injuries. Don’t risk cutting a tree apart if there’s any risk of it falling on your horse. Let the professionals handle that. The same goes for horses who are impaled by something. Never, ever try to remove something that’s stuck in your horse, as it could cause them to bleed to death.
Extreme heat can also have a serious impact on your horse’s health and wellbeing. On days like the past few days where the heat index has been over 100 degrees, I find myself thankful to be able to take my afternoon naps in the comfort of the air-conditioned clinic. Unfortunately, air-conditioned barns are extremely rare which means your horse is exposed to the extreme heat constantly with little relief. Having a lot of shade trees or shade structures can certainly help your horse deal with the heat better. Similarly, fans are always recommended if your horse is going to be in his stall during the day, although, avoid box fans as they are a fire risk. Make sure your fan is rated for outdoor use and clean the dust and cobwebs off of them regularly to keep maximum airflow. Misting systems are also a great idea that can help to keep your horse cool.
How would you know if your horse is overheated? The signs of an overheated horse include, rapid heart rate and respiratory rate, an elevated temperature, muscle tremors, decrease in sweat production, and dark pink to red mucous membranes.
If you suspect your horse may be overheated, what do you do? First, you take his temperature. Second, you start cold hosing him while you pick up your phone and call my docs. An overheated horse is an emergency and needs to be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
High heat combined with high humidity can also put your horse at risk for developing anhidrosis. If you notice your horse who is usually drenched in sweat just isn’t sweating as much as usual or maybe standing around huffing and puffing like he’s going to blow the barn down, he may be showing signs of early anhidrosis. Anhidrosis occurs when your horse stops sweating and can’t dissipate heat from their body. While there is no magic cure, there are treatments for non-sweating including preloading electrolytes, acupuncture therapy, and Chinese herbs. If you think your horse might be starting to sweat less call us and talk to my docs about what can be done to prevent a full shutdown.
When it is as hot as it as it has been and the humidity is as thick as pea soup, I recommend staying inside all day, but I am a cat, I can do that. You probably want to enjoy your horse. So, if you are going to do things like exercise your horse please remember to do it early in the morning or later in the evening. You can even rinse your horse off prior to exercise to cool them down.
Another consideration with this heat is trailering. I have done my fair share of “CAT” scans on trailers here at the clinic and let me tell you, those metal boxes get HOT! Ideally, you would avoid shipping your horse during the heat of the day, but I realize that cannot always be done. If you have to ship your horse during the day, please open all the windows and vents in your trailer. Stop often on longer trips to offer your horse water and check to make sure he is still comfortable. I recommend carrying an extra bucket or jug of water with you in case of emergencies, and always have the number to my clinic handy in case you have any questions or concerns while shipping your horse.
As you all know, I HATE the cold. When it starts to cool down, we see a rise in colics here at the clinic. Horses are just silly animals: when it cools down, they stop drinking. When they stop drinking, their risk for colic increases. Ask any cat, wet food is the best food. Same is true for horses: it is never a wrong answer to feed your horse soaked grain and hay. It not only helps get more water into your horse, but it also helps prevent choke. So, when the temperatures drop, add water. You can also add plain old table salt to their feed. This will encourage them to drink more.
Cold weather can also allow other underlying issues to arise. You may notice that your horse is a little stiff on colder mornings. Just like you or I, when it is cold out, it may be difficult for your horse to get out bed in the morning, especially if he has some arthritis. There are a few things you can do to help your horse. Talk to my docs about daily anti-inflammatories and exercise routines to help keep your horse limber when days and nights get cold. You all know I am not a big fan of joint supplements. We like research, and most of them do not have research behind them so, unless you want to pay to make your horses poop very expensive, talk to my docs first about what is best for your horse and his current needs.
When we talk about changes in weather we typically think of colic as the first major complication with horses, and to be fair, it is. However, there are numerous other situations and problems that can arise when the weather shifts. Be sure to talk with my docs about any questions you have the next time they’re out for vaccines or a dental!
Until next week,
P.S. I have a lot of blog posts. Like, hundreds. If you want to learn more about being a good human (i.e. a good horse mom or dad), click on Tuesdays with Tony to scroll through my previous musings. You can search for any particular topic by clicking on the magnifying glass and typing a word into the search bar. Go ahead, try it.
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!