Get information on pregnancy check recommendations, nutrition, vaccinations, deworming and caslick removal. Know the indications of problems during pregnancy and problems during foaling.Download pdf
Feeding and raising orphaned foals can be an extreme challenge particularly if the foal was orphaned at birth. Learn what you need to know.Download pdf
Get information on umbilical cord care and prophylactic use of enemas. Understand the importance of urination and newborn foal evaluation and IgG blood test.Download pdf
There are three stages of labor. Find out what you need to know.Download pdf
Understand the progression of newborn foals and know when to call your veterinarian.Download pdf
“NSAID” is an acronym for Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug, a class of medications that assist in pain management. Find out the NSAID available and their recommended use.Download pdf
In the event of illness or injury, the horse owner should be prepared to care for their horse until the veterinarian arrives. Learn what should be in your first aid kit.Download pdf
A vaccination program depends on many variables and should be tailored to fit your horse with the help of your veterinarian.Download pdf
Store eye medications in a clean, temperature controlled environment. Your house or a heated tack room are best. Most eye ointments come in metal tubes which can become brittle in cold weather. Also, cold eye ointment can be very stiff and difficult to get out of the tube and into your horse’s eye. Keep the tube in your pocket for a few minutes before giving the medication to make sure that the ointment is soft. In extremely hot summer weather it may be necessary to keep the ointment in a cool place. The ointment can become liquid when too hot.
When horses are traveling, it is not uncommon for them to decrease their water intake. Dehydration can be a dangerous condition for horses and has the potential to lead to colic. For this reason, monitoring the water intake and ensuring your horse does not become dehydrated is very important. There are several options to encourage water consumption during traveling. One option is traveling with tanks of water from your farm. Although this can be a challenge, some horses become “picky” and will only drink water from their own home. Another option is offering a bucket of electrolyte water and/or a bucket of molasses water with their bucket of plain water. Always make sure you offer a bucket of plain water whenever offering buckets of water with additives. Also, there are electrolyte powders that can be added to the feed that may encourage your horse to drink more water. Last but not least, the traditional mineral block may be helpful and is quite easy to make available at all times of the day and in all weather conditions.
The prepurchase examination is a fact-finding mission to aid the purchaser in the decision-making process. In addition, the examination can serve as a guideline for potential future care that may be needed for that specific horse. The veterinarian that is performing the examination is working for the buyer.
A typical prepurchase examination performed by any of the veterinarians at GLEWC would consist of all pertinent history (buyer, seller & agent’s information), the horse’s name, registration number, age, sex, breed, weight, height, intended use, present work status, any medical/surgical history, vaccination/deworming status, vices and conformation abnormalities. In addition, a very thorough physical examination will be performed, which includes a lameness examination with flexion tests. The buyer will receive a typed report of the veterinarian’s examination.
In some instances, further diagnostics are recommended to determine the horse’s soundness and disease free status. These tests may include: radiographs to screen for developmental or arthritic problems, a coggins test (if not previous performed), blood work to screen for any internal organ problems, drug testing (to ensure no medications have been administered to mask lameness/behavior problems), a fecal sample to detect internal parasites and an upper airway endoscopic examination to detect any breathing/performance related problems. Discuss with your veterinarian whether additional diagnostic options would be important for your particular situation.
Please call to set up an appointment when you have found a new horse you wish to purchase to avoid buying a horse that may require future, long-term non-preventative medicine care.
This is a really common question that we hear every year during winter in the Midwest! People usually notice red, orange or brown spots in the snow and ice where their horses have urinated. Normal horse urine can change color after standing for a while. This is due to the presence of plant metabolites (pyrocatechines) in the urine that change color when mixed with oxygen. When they oxidize they turn a red or orange color. It can happen year round (the same process can turn stall shavings red), but is especially obvious against the white snow!
Normal horse urine appears colorless, yellow or even cloudy yellow as it is voided. The color and cloudiness change as the bladder is fully emptied. If the urine appears a red, brown or orange color as it is being passed that can indicate a significant problem. Things that change the color of the urine before it is passed include blood, the breakdown of blood cells and the breakdown of muscle cells.
If you notice your horse urinating an abnormal color, call for an exam right away! If your horse is passing yellow urine that is turning red in the snow, you can breathe easy – that is normal!
A new foal exam is performed at 10-12 hours after birth, assuming that the delivery was uneventful, the foal was standing and nursing within 2 hours of birth, and the mare passed her placenta within 3 hours of birth. There are several common congenital problems that are important to detect right away, including cleft palate, heart murmurs, delayed formation of bones in the knee or hock (“delayed ossification”), umbilical hernias, and contracted tendons to name a few. The most important thing is to have the foal’s IgG level checked. IgG is a type of antibody that is absorbed by the foal directly from the colostrum, or the mare’s first milk. This is the only immunity foals acquire, as they do not receive any immunization from the placenta like humans do. If the IgG level is low, this means the foal is at risk for life-threatening infections acquired just from breathing and eating in a normal environment. There are ways your veterinarian can supplement the IgG levels, but if not caught quickly, an affected foal is soon facing a life-threatening infection. It is also a good time to examine the mare as well as the placenta, as any small pieces left inside the uterus can rot and cause severe infection, often accompanied by laminitis.
Newborn foals should be examined by a veterinarian and their IgG level tested. The IgG indicates that the foal absorbed antibodies from the mare’s colostrum, or the first milk she makes, which is critical to having a healthy foal. A foal in the first week of life will be going to nurse several times an hour. Make sure that the baby is attaching to the udder and swallowing. If the foal isn’t getting enough milk, he or she will often bang the udder with their muzzle and sometimes appear frustrated. Additionally, the healthy, well-nourished foals will have periods of being very active and playful and should seem to visibly be growing in front of your eyes. If your foal seems tired, inactive, or not to be growing, these may all be signs that the mare is not producing enough milk.
In western terms, acupuncture stimulates nerve impulses that travel via the spinal cord to the brain and causes release of many different chemicals such as endorphins, muscle relaxants and histamines that promote healing and pain relief in the body. In Eastern terms, disease is the result of an imbalance in energy (Qi) flow in the body. Acupuncture works to promote better energy flow that enables the body to heal.
There is a long list of indicators to be aware of. Head tilting when eating, bitting problems, wadding up hay and spitting it out and weight loss to name a few of the more obvious. The more subtle indicators of tooth problems are: fast eating, slow eating, washing hay, head tossing, or just a bad attitude. Even more commonly, your horse hides any pain he or she may have while eating because of being a prey animal, which is also part of why we recommend annual thorough oral exams.
The better question is how often should horses have a complete oral exam? The answer is at least once a year in horses between the ages of 5-20 and twice a year for other ages. Young horses have a lot of changes in their mouth in the first five years and they transition from baby teeth to having their adult teeth. Older horses can have a lot of changes as they begin to use the reserve crown, which has a different shape. There are also other problems, such as periodontal (gum) disease or uneven wear to the surfaces of the teeth that can’t be examined without the horse being sedated and an oral speculum in place. Catching these issues when they are slight can prevent serious problems from developing and goes a long way towards extending the life of your horse’s teeth, and therefore your horse’s life.
Horses can develop chiropractic restrictions as a result of trauma, such as flipping over or falling down. When there is an obvious cause for the restriction, the symptoms associated with it are often obvious.
But the most common causes of chiropractic restrictions are usually much more subtle and thus their symptoms are more subtle as well! Small things like poorly fitting tack, unbalanced feet and excessive confinement can lead to chiropractic issues. The most common cause of restrictions is repetitive motion, like mounting and dismounting, or practicing the same maneuver over and over.
Some common things we see corrected by adjustments include:
Most horses show visible improvement after the first treatment, however some may require several treatments to reach that level of improvement. Initially, it is common to have three adjustments scheduled more closely together to gain a good understanding of your horses’s response and improvement. Acute problems (that have recently developed) often respond quickly to treatments, while chronic problems usually require more extensive treatments. The interval length between treatments is dependent upon how your horse feels, what disease processes they may have going on, what their lifestyle is like, and how their body responds to an adjustment.
Most animals experience an immediate improvement in their mobility after an adjustment, and are pretty happy about it. Thus, some horses are very playful immediately after the adjustment. Some horses appear quiet, even tired, after their adjustment and will sleep more that first day. In very rare cases, some patients will appear sore after the adjustment. The soreness is short lived, and they are usually very comfortable within 24 hours.
When an animal chiropractor examines a patient, they are looking for joints with a reduced range of motion. Many people have a concept of the “bone out of place theory”. It is very common for clients to have heard of specific joints being “out”. We avoid that terminology, because we feel it gives you an inaccurate picture of what we are doing. As opposed to the joint actually being “out of place”, the joint is instead restricted in its optimal range of motion due to changes in the muscles and nerves controlling that joint. These “stuck” joints are corrected with a chiropractic adjustment. The goal of any adjustment is to restore the optimal range of motion and normal function to that joint, which will subsequently alleviate problems with the related nerves and soft tissue.
During the exam the doctor will feel, or palpate, every joint in your horses’ body. When a joint with a restricted range of motion, it is corrected by an adjustment. The adjustment is a very specific and gentle thrust into the joint. After the adjustment, the joint is palpated again to be certain that it is moving more freely. The adjustments usually look like quick little pushes on the animal. In order to be at the correct angle to the spine, the doctors will stand upon “bales”. These are large Styrofoam blocks inside of cases that resemble hay bags.
Most animals truly enjoy being adjusted and are relaxed and happy during your appointment.
“Must I blanket my horse?” the short answer is “no.” If your horse is healthy with a full hair coat, shelter from the wind and rain, and a good supply of hay then he should not need a blanket. The horse generates his own blanket–a haircoat that is long enough and thick enough to withstand the coldest days of winter. It’s an adjustable covering that flattens against or elevates above the skin, as the horse grows warmer or cooler. Horses also heat from the inside out by fermenting hay in their colon.
Blanketing is necessary for competition horses who are routinely clipped during colder weather to maintain a sleek appearance, reduce sweating, shorten cooling-out time and speed drying after rigorous workouts. Older horses with marked muscle wasting or horses needing equine senior, or other pelleted complete feed instead of hay may benefit from a blanket.
Some horses are blanketed mostly for the owners’ peace of mind and/or convenience (it’s a lot easier to lift off a layer of mud caked onto a blanket than to curry it out of a winter coat). There’s no harm done in blanketing for reasons other than the horse’s health, but in all cases, the addition of clothing increases your management responsibilities. Always check blanketed horses for evidence of sweating or dampness under the blanket, and watch for steam coming off your horse in the morning. These would be indications that the blanket is too heavy for the current conditions.
Wisconsin’s four seasons provide very different environmental conditions that can affect hoof health and ultimately the soundness of your horse. Factors that need to be considered over the winter months are snow, ice and excessively wet conditions. Many horses have their shoes removed in late fall due to decreased work load over the winter months and to prevent an increased chance of injuries on slick ground. This may not be an option if your horse requires corrective farrier work to remain sound or remains in training year round; for these horses snow pads may be effective, or various traction devices can be applied to certain types of horse shoes. Horses feet should be picked daily to avoid excessive accumulation of ice and snow forming an uneven ball for your horse to stand on. For barefoot horses, applying non stick cooking spray to the bottom of the sole may aid in prevention of this buildup. Regardless of how you intend to use your horse over the winter it is crucial to keep them up to date on routine farrier work.
My horse does not drink well during the winter. Are there methods for increasing his/her water intake?
During the winter, it is not uncommon for them to decrease their water intake. Even mild dehydration can be a dangerous condition for horses and has the potential to lead to colic. For this reason, monitoring the water intake and ensuring your horse does not become dehydrated is very important. There are several options to encourage water consumption. One option is offering a bucket of electrolyte water and/or a bucket of molasses water with their bucket of plain water. Always make sure you offer a bucket of plain water whenever offering buckets of water with additives. Also, there are electrolyte powders that can be added to the feed that may encourage your horse to drink more water. Another option is to add 1-2 tablespoons (for a 1000lb horse) of non-iodized table salt to the feed once a day. Owners can also offer occasional mashes of equine senior (or other complete feed) with extra water. Last but not least, the traditional mineral block may be helpful and is quite easy to make available at all times of the day and in all weather conditions.
Joint supplements are in a category described as nutraceuticals. The word nutraceutical was developed for oral compounds that were neither nutrients nor pharmaceuticals. Nutraceuticals therefore because they are not a food, food additive nor drug are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the USA. Therefore, there is no premarket approval process and neither safety, efficacy nor manufacturing is assured. In addition, currently no mechanism (other than voluntary) exists to hold a manufacturer accountable for the labeling of a novel ingredient. For example, the label may say that the product contains 500 mg/oz of chondroitin sulfate when in actuality it may only contains 50 mg. Chondroitin sulfates, an expensive ingredient of many joint supplements have been found to offer an example of consistent mislabeling. A study, funded by Nutramax Laboratories, found deviations from label claims for chondroitin sulfates in 84% (9/11) of the products studied. Additionally, some studies have shown that the source of the ingredients significantly affects the absorption and manufacturers are not required to even list sources.
On the pro side of joint supplement studies the College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University performed a study in 2002 that found that horses with hock arthritis (distal joints) had a significant reduction in gait asymmetry after receiving oral joint supplements for 2 weeks.
Chondroitin sulfate – Chondroitin sulfate is a sulfated glycosaminoglycan that is a major structural component of cartilage and provides much of its resistance to compression. Most chondroitin appears to be made from extracts of cartilaginous cow and pig tissues (cow trachea and pig ear and nose), but other sources such as shark, fish and bird cartilage are also used. Along with glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate has become a widely used dietary supplement for treatment of osteoarthritis. Chondroitin sulfate is thought to be a building block for cartilage, that may counteract inflammation, and protect against cartilage degradation. Chondroitin sulfate appears to be very safe in normal animals. Chondroitin sulfate is not well absorbed due to it’s large molecular size, but levels of chondroitin sulfate appear to build up in the body over time. Therefore, one dose of chondroitin sulfate may not be effective, but multiple doses may reach effective levels.
Glucosamine hydrochloride/glucosamine sulfate – Glucosamine is thought to help in the production of cartilage, and it may have anti-inflammatory effects and prevent cartilage breakdown. In addition, glucosamine sulfate may act as a source of sulfur. Glucosamine appears to be safe in normal animals.
MSM – MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) MSM may have anti-inflammatory effects or alter immune responses. Another theory proposes that MSM may be a source of sulfur, which is essential for cartilage and joint health. Although the reason for its effect is unknown, MSM may be beneficial in managing inflammatory or immune-mediated problems, and it appears to be safe to use.
Hyaluronic Acid (Hyaluronan) – The backbone of the joint lubrication fluid is known as hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronan is naturally found in many tissues of the body such as skin, cartilage, and the vitreous humor (eye). In addition, Hyaluronan can be injected into joints or given intravenously. Given in these ways it has been shown to have anti-inflammatory results and improve lameness by improving joint viscosity & soft tissue lubrication. Although, the oral form has questionable efficacy based on the fact that hyaluronan is such a large molecule, oral absorption is questionable.
“Adequan” is a brand of polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG) produced by a division of Luitpold Pharmaceuticals, Inc. The components that make up “Adequan” are chemically similar to the glycosaminoglycans in joint cartilage. It serves as an enzyme inhibitor to decrease or reverse the pathologic processes caused by trauma to the joint or degenerative joint disease. It improves joint function by reducing protein levels in the joint fluid and increasing the hyaluronic acid concentration in the synovial fluid. It is an intramuscular injection initially given more frequently for establishing the appropriate concentration in the body (loading dose), but then may be administered once a month after the loading dose has been established. The loading dose may also be repeated in 3-6 months if no maintenance dose is given.
“Legend” is an injectable solution of hyaluronate sodium produced by Bayer Health Care, LLC. Hyaluronic acid, a glycosaminoglycan, is the conjugate acid of hyaluronate sodium. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance present in high concentrations in the joint fluid. Hyaluronic sodium decreases enzyme release and subsequent degradation of joint integrity, and decreases inflammation in the joint. “Legend” is an intravenous injection initially given more frequently for establishing the appropriate concentration in the body (loading dose), but then may be administered once a month after the loading dose has been established.
Scratches can appear on lower legs, many times in the heel area above the hoof. Patches of scurf appear beneath hair and look matted and crusty. Under the scurf the skin will be red and oozing. Scratches is also called mud fever, or greasy heel.
Cracked skin in the pastern areas can be difficult to heel since the area is always flexing as the horse walks. Left untreated the skin can become deeply cracked and infected.
Scratches can occur if pastures and paddocks are muddy where it may be hard to provide a place where the horse’s hoofs and legs aren’t wet. If the horse’s legs are constantly damp, that gives the bacteria a place to thrive. Scratches may be more prevalent in the spring when pastures are muddy from snowmelt and rain, and again in the fall when the weather is wet.
To prevent scratches, keep your horse in clean, dry conditions. Keep stalls clean and don’t allow dampness from urine to build up. Keep paddocks and pastures free of manure build-up, and improve drainage if mud is a problem. Scratches can be treated by clipping the hair, washing away any dirt or scabs with an antiseptic soap, and using a topical antiseptic or zinc oxide based cream. Great Lakes Equine also carries a topical medication specifically to treat scratches. Make sure the area clean and dry and continue treating until the condition is gone and keep the horse in a clean dry area to prevent recurrence. Sometimes more aggressive debriding of the scabs and treatment with antibiotics is needed. For this it is best to have your veterinarian examine the horse.
In an effort to not be wasteful and save money, clients often ask veterinarians whether or not it is safe to use these drugs if they are expired. Little is known about the risk involved with administering expired oral medications. The expiration date is the time in which the drug can be expected to work effectively. Therefore, in order to achieve the appropriate response to treatment, it is best to not use expired medications. This will save money in the long run with quicker response to therapy, fewer veterinary consultations, and avoiding potential medical emergencies due to expired drug administration.
Of biggest concern is expired antibiotics. Antibiotics that are not 100% effective encourage resistance and may extend the infection and necessitate a 2nd or 3rd antibiotic course, costing more money.
Also there are many times when the course of treatment will be changed based on a horse’s response to pain medication. The extreme example is sending a colic to surgery because it is not responding to Banamine. It greatly complicates the clinical picture if the Banamine that was used is expired and we are not sure if it works.
One final note, it is NEVER ok to purposefully overdose a medication because it is expired and may not work as well.
Equine Cushing’s disease results from a malfunction of the pituitary gland (a part of the brain) more specifically the pars intermedia hence the name pars intermedia dysfunction. The pituitary gland over-secretes certain hormones that result in the common clinical signs seen with the disease. Cushing’s Disease is very common and occurs in older horses.
Common clinical signs seem with Cushing’s Disease include: a long, shaggy haircoat, an abnormal shedding pattern, such as retention of long hairs in the jugular grove, on legs, along the bottom of the abdomen, delayed shedding in the spring or early coat development prior to winter. Other clinical signs include: decreased activity level, laminitis, increased thirst, increased urination, excessive sweating, increased susceptibility to infections, loss of muscle mass and abnormal deposition of fats. Some other signs include a decrease in appetite with subsequent weight loss, a potbelly appearance and bulging supraorbital fat pads (bulges just above the eyes).
Cushing’s Disease is diagnosed via a blood test to evaluate if there is an overproduction of the hormones that are responsible for the clinical signs. The disease is non-curable but can be managed with lifelong medications such as Prascend. Prascend suppresses the overproduction of the hormones and can reverse some if not most of the clinical signs as long as the horse is on the medication. In addition, secondary problems that may have developed such as laminitis or infections must be also treated with assistance of your veterinarian & farrier.
If your horse is 15 years old or older than you may want to consider having a Cushing’s Disease screening test performed especially if any of the clinical signs above are present. The screening test should be performed in the spring or summer months and should be performed every 1-2 years to prevent secondary problems such as laminitis from occurring. In addition, if your horse has been previously diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease it is recommended to have a blood test performed every 6-12 months during the spring or summer months to ensure that your horse is on the most appropriate amount of medications.
Horses with Cushings disease may need more or less calories than a healthy horse. More calories can be best accomplished with high quality hay or adding a complete feed such as equine senior. These horses are prone to high blood sugar and should not have a lot of sweet feed or grain. It may also be appropriate to add a fat supplement to their diet. There are also medications that we can use to help over weight horses with Cushing’s disease to lose weight. Be sure to talk to your vet about what your horse needs for dietary changes.
It is fine to feed grass hay or alfalfa hay to healthy horses! In some parts of the country grass hay is hard to grow so they primarily feed alfalfa to their horses. Interestingly, in the Midwest many horse owners got the impression that alfalfa is bad to feed to horses. Alfalfa is higher in protein, potassium and calcium than grass hay and most alfalfa in Wisconsin is grown for dairy cattle so it is often too stemmy for horses. But if you had a nice soft alfalfa can be safely fed it to your healthy horse. Alfalfa’s higher protein content should help your horse build and maintain muscle and any extra protein is readily excreted in the urine. Alfalfa should not make horses “hot” or crazy. Sugar containing foods such as grains, sweet feed, and green grass may cause horses to have excess pent up energy and should not be fed in excess.
Because alfalfa is higher in potassium, if you have a horse with HYPP alfalfa should NOT be fed.
Many horses do well on a diet of good quality hay and free choice water. Horses are grazing animals and were designed to eat small amounts of roughage (grass or hay) all day long. Ideally owners should also consider a ration balancer as most forages do not have perfectly balanced vitamin to mineral ratios for the horses’ diet.
Horses need roughage and their diet balanced on the basis of protein, vitamin and mineral. What horses do not need is a lot of excess calories or a high level of simple sugars (simple carbohydrates). Ideally most horses would be fed hay, possibly pasture and then a ration balancer to make their diet well balanced. Ration balancers (such as Nutrena Empower Balance, Enriched Plus, Buckeye Grow N Win, or Progressive Ration Balancer) are pelleted feeds primarily composed of protein, vitamin and mineral. They are not high in calories or starch. Some horses (BUT NOT MANY) may need extra calories because of their job in life and thus might need “grain”.
We at Great Lakes Equine are happy to help you create the perfect diet for your specific horse.
Great Lakes Equine uses Gobal Vet Link for coggins testing. This allows us quicker access to test results which can significantly reduce turnaround time. Again we still suggest planning ahead and allowing for a minimum for 48 hours for test results to be posted. Test results can then be emailed to the owners for quick access if needed in a rush. Testing for coggins does not take place over the weekend so coggins drawn on Fridays will not be read until possibly Monday or Tuesday the following week. Again we strongly encourage horse owners to plan ahead to reduce any complications with time constraints.
The Coggins test is a blood test which checks for antibodies against Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA). Blood samples must be sent to a state approved laboratory for appropriate testing. Many boarding facilities require a current negative coggins test for boarding, as well as many shows require a negative test before allowing the horse to compete. A negative coggins is also required by law whenever you transport your horse across state lines and for many states a negative test is required before the sale of any horse. Depending upon the state, each test is either good for one year from the test date or for one calendar year. It is important to always plan ahead if you are planning on traveling, showing, or trail riding with your horse. Check each venue to see if a coggins test is needed. We typically suggest allowing one week minimum for test results. Not all labs will test for EIA daily and it can be difficult at times to place a “rush” on a coggins test. In Wisconsin each test is good for one year from the test date. Getting your coggins done early can save you time in during the riding/show season.
The timing of vaccines is based upon several things including the age of your horse, how often they travel, their contact with other horses and what their immune system is like. At Great Lakes Equine we follow the vaccination protocol put forth by The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). Typically spring vaccinations begin prior to mosquito season between March and May. Core vaccines at this time would include West Nile Virus (WNV), Eastern and Western Encephalitis Virus (EEV, WEV), Rhino and Influenza Virus, and Tetanus. Optional (but strongly encouraged) would be PHF and Intranasal Strangles vaccines. The fall vaccines are then given between August and October. The core vaccines at this time would be Rabies, Rhino and Influenza Virus, as well as a booster with PHF. Again it is very important to know that vaccination protocols can change from farm to farm and horse to horse based on various factors. It is important to have a discussion with your veterinarian to determine what vaccines are needed for your horse and your specific situation.
Horse owners should not administer any medications to their colicky horse before consulting with a veterinarian. Depending on the condition of the horse and the type of colic, some medications could be detrimental rather than beneficial to the health of the horse.
One of the most frequent misconceptions among horse owners is the belief that horses never recover well from colic surgery and are never quite the same afterwards. While it is true that some horses will do poorly post-operatively, many horses go on to do very well. There are many different factors that affect the prognosis, including the duration of the colic, the actual cause of the colic, as well as the overall systemic health of the horse. For example, a large colon displacement, where the large intestine is not twisted but simply in the wrong place, typically has a good prognosis, particularly because surgical correction is fairly straightforward. In contrast, a twist of either the large or small intestine is always a critical case, as the longer the twist goes on, the more likely the intestine will be damaged due to decreased blood supply. In some cases, this will result in intestine needing to be removed, which will necessitate a longer post-operative recovery.
Your veterinarian will perform a colic workup that will include things such as a physical exam, rectal exam, passage of a nasogastric tube, and in some cases an abdominal ultrasound, bloodwork, and a belly tap. Based on the findings from these tests, the veterinarian can give you a better idea of what is causing your horse to colic, whether your horse needs colic surgery, and your horse’s overall prognosis.
While the decision of whether or not to pursue colic surgery must ultimately lie with the owner, and will understandably be influenced by emotional and financial factors, it is important to remember that colic surgery can be a viable option and that it is possible for horses to recover well from it. What is most important to remember is that the owner will play a large part in post-operative care and recovery, as the horse will need to be on stall rest then turnout for a while, finally to be followed by gradual return to work. Therefore, the decision to pursue colic surgery must be made with the realization in mind that owner commitment and dedication are essential requirements for post-operative recovery to go well.
Choke in a horse is an obstruction, typically of feed material, in the esophagus, and can cause a horse significant distress. Therefore, it can be very stressful if your horse has choke and you’re waiting for the veterinarian to arrive. It is important to remember that choke in a horse is different from choking in humans. Choking in humans is a blockage in the trachea (windpipe), essentially obstructing breathing. In contrast, choke in a horse is a blockage in the esophagus, the passage to the stomach; therefore, the horse’s actual airway is not obstructed.
The first thing to do is keep your horse as calm as possible, whether that means leaving him alone in a stall or gently walking him; however always remember to keep your safety in mind first as some horses may become quite distressed. Remove all food and water from your horse’s stall. If possible, you can encourage him to stand with his head down, to decrease the chances of him aspirating anything into his lungs. Resist the urge to put anything in his throat, such as any substances or medications, as well as physical objects such as garden hoses, in an effort to flush out the obstruction. This will increase the risk of your horse aspirating material into his lungs, which could result in severe pneumonia.
On average most horses are trimmed every 6 – 8 weeks. This of course will depend on the rate of growth, if your horse is shod or not, and the time of year (horses tend to grow faster in the summer). For the majority of horses 6 weeks is an appropriate time frame between trims. Keeping your horse on a continuous schedule will allow your farrier to stay on top of any corrections and abnormalities which can occur with growth. Feet which are allowed to become over grown can develop laminal stretching, laminal breakdown, crushing of the heels, development of flares, and imbalance. Preventing developmental hoof problems is easier than correcting them.
The bone within the hoof is called the coffin bone (or P3). It is attached to the hoof capsule via thousands of interdigiting leaf-like lamellae (laminae). When inflammation of these connective tissue structures or laminae occur it is called laminitis (founder is a layman’s term for laminitis). When this inflammation occurs, the tight interdigiting connections between the laminae start to break down and the coffin bone begins to rotate or sink within the hoof capsule. When there is inflammation/movement of the coffin bone the horse demonstrates pain, usually within both front feet and sometimes all four feet.
Clinical signs of pain include reluctance to move, frequently laying down, walking tenderly on both front feet (appearing as if they are walking on egg-shells), increased heat of the feet with throbbing digital pulses. They often have a classic stance where the horse puts both front limbs out in front (camped out). The categories of laminitis are acute (a new/recent episode) or chronic (a continuation of the acute stage that begins at the first sign of rotation/sinking of the coffin bone). The acute category can be subdivided into mild, severe, and refractory (unresponsive). The chronic category can be subdivided into early chronic, chronic active, and chronic stable.
Predisposing factors and causes of laminitis can be numerous. Some of which include grain overload, infections within other areas of the body, obesity, insulin resistance (Metabolic Syndrome), excessive lush pasture, Cushing’s disease, or excessive weight bearing on one limb caused by prolonged lameness of the other limb. Other causes of laminitis can result from trimming the hooves too short, exercising on hard surfaces such as pavement and exposure to black walnut shavings.
Laminitis is diagnosed by clinical signs, radiographs of the feet, and nerve blocks that localize the lameness to the feet. Further diagnostic testing may need to be performed to determine the cause of the laminitis especially if an endocrine related cause is suspected such as Cushing’s Disease or Metabolic Syndrome.
If your horse is demonstrating signs of laminitis or has any of the predisposing factors listed above please contact your veterinarian.
Shoes are used for three things: protection, correction, and traction. If your horse has a well-balanced strong hoof, then shoes are not necessarily needed. It depends greatly on what your horse is used for as well as what type of surfaces your horse will be walking on. If your horse, however, does not have a well-balanced hoof, poor angles, or weak, chipping walls then shoes may be needed. If you have concerns about your horse’s feet, a hoof assessment can be performed. Consultation between your farrier and veterinarian is important in determining the appropriate needs for your horse’s hooves.