If you have geldings and get dental work done on them regularly you will be used to this familiar question from your veterinarian: “Would you like his sheath cleaned today?”. While many owners have geldings that are patient enough to have their sheaths cleaned without any sedation, it can be difficult to clean and get a good look without assistance. Having your horse’s sheath cleaned and examined by your veterinarian annually will not only make your horse more comfortable, it can also allow the veterinarians to see potential issues early on before they become a much bigger problem.
As veterinarians, one of the most important reasons we advocate for annual sheath cleaning is to inspect the penis and sheath to look for cancerous lesions. Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second most common equine tumor, and the penis and sheath are common areas for this type of cancer to be found. Older geldings and/or those with unpigmented genitalia, such as Appaloosas and Paints, are more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma. Current research also indicates that excessive accumulation of smegma can also predispose to the development of cancerous lesions. Annual sheath cleanings performed by your veterinarian allows them to both A) Remove the buildup of potentially harmful smegma and B) Thoroughly inspect the sheath while your horse is relaxed and sedated. If your veterinarian does find a worrisome lesion, they can work with you on the best plan for your horse to ensure the tumor does not grow or spread. In general, squamous cell carcinomas are locally aggressive but slow to spread to other organs, meaning the sooner your veterinarian can find and treat the growth, the better the prognosis is for your horse.
Another reason to have your gelding’s sheath cleaned annually is to remove the “bean”; an accumulation of smegma in the urethral fossa at the end of the penis. For some horses this accumulation is small and not an issue, but in others it can be the size of a marble or larger, and become painful for your gelding and/or make it difficult for them to urinate. Many horses will be resentful of having the bean removed without proper restraint and sedation, which is another excellent reason to have it done by your veterinarian. Even after sheath cleaning and bean removal, some horses may begin to accumulate smegma as soon as a week post-cleaning. This is normal in a lot of horses, and a low level of smegma is helpful in that it acts as a lubricant and protective covering for the penis. The purpose of the cleaning and bean removal is to get rid of any excess that could cause an issue.
We love our geldings and want to make sure that they’re happy and healthy. Having your gelding’s sheath cleaned and looked over annually by your veterinarian is an important way to ensure that they are both comfortable and free from any potentially cancerous lesions. If you have any questions or notice anything on your horse’s sheath between annual cleanings, be sure to contact your veterinarian to discuss your concerns early-on before anything has time to progress.
(Written by Dr. Deanna Scheller while she was a 4th year ambulatory rotation student with us from the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. Thanks Dr. Deanna!)
Making the decision to euthanize an equine companion is never easy. Even if the time may be right for our horse, it may not feel like the right time for us to be saying goodbye to our friend. The end of a beloved horse’s life can be a very difficult time. Not only are we faced with the loss of a companion, but decisions must be made regarding care of the body.
Beginning in late spring of 2018, most livestock removal and rendering services in our area began no longer accepting horses euthanized with the drug that had previously been used. The reason for this is to increase the safety of animal feed products, but as a result our livestock removal options have changed and may continue to do so as new regulations evolve. Please check with our office about current changes if you have any questions or concerns.
Some disposal options currently available include:
Burial: If you own land, you may want to have your horse buried on your property. To do so, you should research the laws for your location. Some counties prohibit burial, or if they allow it, there may be specifications about the depth and size of the hole, its location in relation to water sources, and how the body should be handled. Please look up local ordinances prior to burial. (Cost: $0-300)
Landfill: Horses may be taken to a local landfill (certain landfills only). This requires a special trailer and winching system for loading and unloading the body. Each landfill has its own regulations and limits on size and number of horse(s), and drop off times and days. Please call ahead. (Cost varies by weight)
Cremation: You can arrange to have your horse cremated with or without the cremains returned to you. There are two companies that service our area: Midwest Cremation Service and Brier Hill Livestock Removal. Both companies provide a pick-up service that will take your horse’s body directly to the crematorium.
Brier Hill Livestock Removal 847-652-4839 email@example.com ($395-500 for group cremation or additional for individual cremation with ashes returned)
Livestock Removal: This used to be the most utilized option until laws about chemical euthanasia changed in May 2018. At the present time these services will only pick up if your horse is euthanized by gunshot or captive bolt or died of natural causes. Gunshot and captive bolt euthanasias are approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association as an acceptable route of euthanasia. These services do occasionally offer Saturday pickup.
Marshall Stock Removal 608-655-3439 ($250-300)
Granite Stock Removal 920-566-2563 ($250-300)
The doctors and staff at Lodi Veterinary Care understand how difficult the loss of an equine companion can be. We are available to discuss any questions, emotions, or concerns that you may have so please feel free to contact us. Here you will find a wealth of support and a group of concerned, loving individuals who understand the depth of the human-animal bond.
Hay is a crucial part of an equine diet in the Midwest, and its nutrition content can play a big role in what grain and supplements your horse may or may not need. When creating a nutrition plan for your horse(s), we recommend a hay analysis. A hay analysis is easy to obtain and can tell you a lot about the forage your horses are eating.
What information can a hay analysis provide?
The sugar content is key for horses with metabolic conditions such as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID, or “Cushings”) as these horses should ideally be limited to hay which is less than 10% NSC, the non-structural carbohydrates.
When limited hay is not an option, we often recommend soaking hay in cold water, which can decrease the NSC level by approximately 30%
Digestibility and consumability
Are your horses wasting a large amount of the hay you provide? The consumability may be low if so.
Poor digestibility can lead to “hay belly” appearance.
Calcium can indicate the amount of alfalfa in the hay (more calcium = more alfalfa)
How much energy can be extracted from the hay
The Relative Feed Value (RFV)
RFV is the overall quality of the hay, graded out of 200
An average hay is typically between 95-115.
Keep in mind that not every horse (in fact many horses!) don’t need the highest quality hay!
High moisture can lead to spoilage more easily
Especially important for horses with impaired kidney function, as they can’t balance their protein as effectively
Another key reason to have your hay analyzed is to better determine how much grain (if any) is needed based on the horses’ demands and requirements. In other words, a hay analysis is crucial to properly balance a ration.
Testing the Hay
It’s ideal if we can sample a random assortment of 8-10 bales to get an idea of the overall quality of the hay. From each of those bales we obtain a cross-sectional “core” sample across a large area of the bale.
Lodi Veterinary Care provides hay sampling services as well as diet/nutrition analysis recommendations. If you’d like to schedule a time for us to pick up a sample or if you have any other questions, please give us a call at (608) 592-7755.
Traditionally, horses were dewormed every couple months using a rotation of different dewormers. Daily feed-through dewormers were also utilized. However, newer research has shown that large strongyles (which used to be prevalent, and the target for that deworming strategy) are no longer much of a concern. Instead, small strongyles are now the most significant internal parasite in adults. Fortunately small strongyles are mild pathogens and only cause disease when parasite burdens are extreme. These small strongyles are developing resistance to dewormers. As there are no new dewormers coming to market, it has become increasingly important to minimize parasite resistance by targeting deworming to the parasite lifecycle and the individual horse using a strategic deworming program.
What is Strategic Deworming?
Strategic Deworming involves determining a Fecal Egg Count (FEC) by counting the number of parasite eggs, and using that number, along with the specific identification of which types of parasites are present, to better select a dewormer. Only about 20% of horses harbor about 80% of parasites, so the same deworming program shouldn’t be used for all horses.
Goals of Strategic Deworming:
Tailor deworming to the individual horse, time of year, geographic location, and exposure level. This means using the right dewormer, at an effective dose, at the best times.
Limit overuse of dewormers to prevent resistance. Resistance can be present regionally or more locally on specific farms.
Evaluate a dewormer’s effectiveness on a certain farm by checking a fecal before and after deworming.
The goal is NOT to eradicate all the parasites or to make every horse into a “low shedder”.
Parasites are part of the normal intestinal fauna of grazing animals: horses and parasites evolved together. Actively managing horses (fences etc) causes an imbalance to this relationship.
By far the best parasite management practice is to remove manure frequently from pastures and pens
Compost manure before spreading on grazing areas.
Pay particular attention to remove manure from feeding areas.
Deworm new horses prior to introduction, and keep visitors separated.
Mowing and harrowing pastures: this exposes eggs and larvae to the killing effects of air and sunlight. Works best when temperatures are at least 85°F.
Rotational grazing: allows larval stages to die before horses are exposed. Ideally combine rotational grazing with mowing/harrowing.
General recommendations for adult horses:
Discuss with your veterinarian if the below protocol is a good fit for your horses. Many factors influence a deworming program including manure management, animal density, and general health of the horses. Please wait at least 4 weeks after most recent deworming to submit a sample for a fecal egg count.
SPRING: Check a fecal egg count
Low shedder (<200 epg): deworm with ivermectin
Moderate shedder (200-500 epg): deworm with ivermectin and recheck fecal in 4 weeks
High shedder (>500 epg): deworm with ivermectin now and repeat in 4 weeks, then recheck fecal 4 weeks after second deworming.
FALL: Check a fecal egg count
Low shedder (<200 epg): deworm with ivermectin and praziquantel combination
Moderate shedder (200-500): deworm with ivermectin and praziquantel combination and recheck fecal in 4 weeks
High shedder (>500 epg): deworm with ivermectin and praziquantel combination then deworm with ivermectin (no praziquantel). Recheck fecal in 4 weeks. If continues to be high, deworm with moxidectin.
If a horse is showing overt symptoms of intestinal parasitic disease, perform a fecal egg count and discuss a deworming protocol with your veterinarian. Moxidectin may be recommended to kill encysted larvae in these horses.
Praziquantel is used to treat for tapeworms. Tapeworms do not show well on a standard fecal; however, in this area deworming with praziquantel once yearly is typically adequate. Praziquantel is included with ivermectin in EquiMax (recommended) and Zimectrin Gold. Praziquantel is included with moxidectin in QuestPlus.
For horses less than three years old:
If you acquired a horse less than 3 years old and it has no deworming history, please consult a veterinarian prior to deworming them for the first time. These horses should have an individualized plan for deworming. If a young horse contains a large number of parasites, they may be at risk for a severe impaction colic caused by die-off of ascarid parasites. This could require surgery and can even cause death.
Foals should receive at least 4 deworming treatments within their first year of life.
@ 2-3 months old, deworm with oxibendazole
@ 4-6 months old, deworm with oxibendazole
@ 9 months, deworm with an ivermectin and praziquantel combination
@ 12 months, check a fecal and deworm with either ivermectin or oxibendazole depending on the predominant parasite type seen.
How do I submit a manure sample for a fecal egg count?
It’s easy! All we need is 1-2 fresh fecal balls per horse. If possible, try to collect from the center of a manure pile so they are not dried out or covered in bedding, sand, or dirt. Place into a clean zip-lock bag and label with your first and last name, horse’s name, and date of collection. If you have a rough idea of when the horse was last dewormed and what product was used, that is helpful information for formulating a deworming program best suited to your horse. Keep the sample in the fridge or in a cooler with ice packs until it gets to us. You can drop off samples at any of our three locations (Lodi, DeForest, or Portage); give it to us at your next appointment; or call to arrange pick-up.
Please don’t hesitate to call with any questions or to discuss a deworming protocol specific to your horse!
A coggins is a test for equine infectious anemia (EIA) which is a viral disease.
Facts about EIA
EIA is spread by blood-feeding insects such as horseflies, stable flies , and deer flies. It can also be transferred in utero, or via equipment or blood products (ex. blood transfusion).
Once infected, horses may show fever, swelling of lower legs, weakness, or petecchia (small bruises on gums). Horses that survive this phase usually become carriers and can spread the disease without even showing any signs.
There is no treatment for this disease; positive horses can be quarantined for the rest of their lives but are typically euthanized. In just one week, 3 horses in Georgia were confirmed positive for Equine Infectious Anemia and were euthanized.
Preventative measures focus on eliminating vectors, such as: using insect repellents, reducing standing water, managing manure waste, and cleaning pastures.
When is a Coggins Test Needed?
Most equine events/shows require a negative coggins test performed within the past twelve months
Out-of-state health certificate
Some boarding facilities require a negative coggins test
Conjunctivitis is where the tissues surrounding the horse’s eyes become irritated by allergens, excessive dust, flies, injury, or a combination of irritants. The eyes appear red and watery and often the nasolacrimal (tear) duct becomes inflamed and swollen as well and no longer drains the eye normally.
Inflammation of the mucous membrane or pink lining that surrounds the eyeball
Redness of eye tissues
Swelling and watering of eyes, sticky
Often times refusal of horse to open the eyes or repeated clenching of eyelids
Conjunctivitis may be caused by any number of irritants, including dust, pollen, insect bites, flies, allergens, or it may also be the result of injury to the eye.
Unfortunately it is impossible to determine whether it is a simple form of conjunctivitis or if the conjunctivitis is accompanying a more serious condition such as a corneal ulcer so it should always be given immediate attention.
How can we treat it?
Removing known irritants from the environment is the first step in preventing conjunctivitis. Keeping dust of all kinds at a minimum, having an insect control plan in place, and taking care to prevent injuries to the horse’s eyes will help lessen the problem. In the case of ongoing or repeated cases of conjunctivitis a fly mask may be a large help in managing the problem.
In cases of simple conjunctivitis, merely removing the offending irritant can help solve the problem.
However in cases of more serious conjunctivitis it will be necessary to perform an examination of the cornea to be sure there are no corneal ulcers and then start the horse on an ophthalmic ointment with a steroid. The steroid works to decrease inflammation and calm down the irritated tissues. Since steroids decrease the eye’s ability to heal, it is imperative to be sure that there is no corneal ulcer present when you begin to administer the medication.
Equine ophthalmic issues can evolve from simple to serious very quickly so please do not hesitate to call your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns regarding your horse’s eyes. We are open 24/7 for emergencies (608) 592-7755.
There has been a recent resurgence in mosquito-borne diseases in Wisconsin over the last few years, and it has become even more vital that horse owners vaccinate against both Encephalitis and West Nile Virus. Last year, there were 24 cases of West Nile Virus (only 1 had been vaccinated) and 24 cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (only 1 horse had been vaccinated) in Wisconsin. Typically, when a horse contracts one of these diseases, it is due to not being vaccinated or being under vaccinated; thus, the goal of most equine practitioners is to ensure all horses are vaccinated and protected against these diseases.
Fun Fact: According to The Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, horses and other animals were used to produce antitoxins in a variety of diseases, such as diphtheria, tetanus, and scarlet fever.
The core vaccines recommended by AAEP are Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE), Tetanus, Rabies, and West Nile Virus. These vaccinations protect against diseases that occur year after year – by way of soil, insects or local wildlife; every horse is at risk, regardless of location or lifestyle. These vaccinations are safe, effective, widely available, and they prevent diseases that have a high mortality rate and/or no effective treatment. Additionally, the rabies vaccination helps protect human health and lives. Other vaccines may be recommended by your veterinarian depending on your horse’s specific needs/situation.
Who Can Vaccinate?
Vaccinations are available for over the counter purchase by anyone. However, it is strongly recommended that a veterinarian administer vaccines. If your horse was an adverse reaction associate with the vaccination or develops the disease while up-to-date on vaccines, the vaccine company will cover the cost of diagnostics and treatment when those vaccines were administered by a licensed veterinarian.
Vaccinating for Disease Prevention
Vaccination easily ranks as one of the single most important things you do to protect your horse’s health. Effectiveness of vaccines can be seen in human health history. Human diseases such as Smallpox and Polio have been almost 100% eradicated due to the use of vaccines; the last endemic case of Smallpox in the world occurred in Somalia in October 1977. While not all vaccines are as effective as these examples, most have significantly decreased the amount of disease.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis
A Brief History
The virus Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis is thought to have been the case of EEE in North America since 1831. It did not receive its name until a major outbreak occurred in horses \in the coastal areas of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia in 1933. Additional outbreaks occurred in Virginia and North Carolina in 1934 and 1935, respectively. Mosquitoes were first determined to be the carriers of EEE in 1934, and in 1950 it was discovered that birds can be a reservoir host for the virus.
Transmitted by mosquitoes or other biting insects
Birds act as reservoirs for the virus; mosquitoes and other biting insects then carry the pathogen from infected birds and transmit it to horses when they bite
The majority of wild birds infected with the virus will exhibit no clinical signs
A horse affected with EEE is not contagious and poses no risk to other horses, humans or birds.
Incubation Period: 3-7 days
Carrier Status: Infected horses CANNOT transmit the disease to other horses, horses do not replicate enough virus to pass on to another mosquito
Severity: High; morbidity rate in horses infected with EEE is 75-95%
Depression and anorexia without fever when initially infected
Moderate to high fever 102.5-104.5F
Lack of appetite, lethargy/drowsiness
Neurologic signs- Onset of neurologic disease is frequently sudden and progressive
Periods of hyperexcitability, apprehension and/or drowsiness
Fine tremors and fasciculations of the face and neck muscle
Cranial nerve paralysis– facial paralysis and weakness of the tongue are very common
Head tilt, droopy lip, muzzle deviation
Weakness, ataxia, and dysmetria (incoordination) in one or all limbs o
Complete paralysis of one or more limbs
Recumbency (inability to stand)
Diagnosis: Made by a veterinarian using combination of clinical signs, history and bloodwork
There is no cure for EEE
Supportive care is administered in horses which show clinical signs
Poor. Horses infected with EEE do not often survive
Morbidity rate is 75-95% and death usually occurs within 2-3 days of onset of signs
Keep all horses up to date on vaccinations!
Initial vaccination with booster, followed by yearly revaccination
More frequent boosters (i.e. twice yearly) are recommended in areas with year-round mosquito seasons and in endemic areas
Practice vector control management on your facility to reduce risk of transmission from insects.
Use insect repellents frequently; re-apply after rain
Keep horses in at night when possible, and apply insect repellent
Eliminate or minimize standing water, eliminate brush piles, gutters, old tires and litter
Remove all equipment in which standing water can collect
Biosecurity: There are no recommended biosecurity protocols nor do restrictions need to be placed on affected or recovered animals as they pose no risk of infection to other horses.
West Nile Virus
A Brief History
WNV is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) in humans and horses. Mosquitoes acquire the virus from infected birds and transmit it to the dead end host In 1999, WNV was seen for the first time in New York. Since then, over 25,000 cases of WNV encephalitis have been reported in U.S. horses. Horses represent 96.9% of all reported non-human mammalian cases of WNV disease.
Transmitted by mosquitoes or other biting insects
Birds act as reservoirs for the virus; mosquitoes and other biting insects then carry the pathogen from infected birds and transmit it to horses when they bite
A horse affected with WNV encephalitis is not contagious and poses no risk to other horses, or birds
Incubation Period: 7-10 days
Infected horses CANNOT transmit the disease to other horses.
The virus can only be transmitted to a horse via an insect vector
Severity: Medium. Up to 40% of infected horses are euthanized or die as a result of infection
Clinical Signs and Symptoms
Depression and anorexia without fever when initially infected
Mild low-grade fever (101.5-103.5F) in about 25% of affected horses
Lack of appetite, lethargy/drowsiness
Facial paralysis and weakness of the tongue are very common
Recumbency (inability to stand)
Incoordinationin one or more limbs
Made by a veterinarian
Use a combo of clinical signs, history and bloodwork
There is no cure for West Nile Virus
Supportive care is administered in cases which show clinical signs
Horses showing clinical signs of the disease develop in up to 39% of horses infected
Some infected horses never show clinical signs of the disease and horses who survive usually make a full recovery
Approximately 40% of horses will have residual neurologic deficits after recovering
However, up to 40% of infected horses are euthanized or die if they become recumbent
Lodi Veterinary Care is excited to now offer the latest in regenerative medicine, a treatment called Pro-Stride. Pro-Stride is an Autologous (meaning of the same individual) Protein Solution used to treat joint inflammation and arthritis. It is created by collecting blood from your own horse, and then processing and centrifuging that blood to make a very concentrated solution containing important healing factors (cells, platelets, growth factors, and anti-inflammatory proteins such as Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein, or IRAP). This solution is then administered via joint injection where it works by blocking inflammatory proteins, called cytokines, within the joint. Left unblocked, these inflammatory cytokines contribute to an inflammatory cascade that results in cartilage breakdown, pain, and reduced function.
Pro-Stride is a natural, steroid-free treatment that has no drug withholding times for horses competing at the FEI or USEF levels. Because Pro-Stride is a steroid free treatment it does not have the negative side-effects that may be associated with traditional joint injections and it is safe for use in adolescent horses, horses prone to laminitis, or horses with Cushings Disease, Insulin Resistance, or Equine Metabolic Syndrome.
The entire process from blood collection to treatment injection takes less than one hour and is completed on the farm. In studies, this new regenerative treatment has provided up to one year of pain relief from a single treatment (A. Bertone, Am J Vet Res 2014; 75:141-151).
We are very excited to have acquired a new ultrasound machine! Ultrasound has many valuable applications in the field of equine veterinary medicine.
A few of the more common uses include:
Reproductive: Ultrasound can be used to visualize the mare’s reproductive tract to help stage breeding, check for ovulation, and manage causes of infertility.
Colic: ultrasound is a quick, non-invasive tool in formulating an accurate diagnosis and therefore assisting with prognosis and treatment. For example, it can help in assessing the volume and type of free fluid in the abdomen; the small intestinal contents, motility, and wall thickness, and positioning of the large colon.
Sports medicine: Sequential imaging of a tendon lesion is used to track healing so that controlled exercise and rehabilitation programs can be adjusted accordingly.
Ophthalmology: if unable to directly visualize the back of the eye (ex. due to glaucoma, trauma, or constricted pupil), ultrasound can be used to determine if the retina is attached and help provide a prognosis for vision.
There is now a quick, stall-side test to know if your horse has an infection. A new tool in our box called Serum Amyloid A by StableLab is useful for veterinarians to check levels of a protein found in the blood called Serum Amyloid A. Serum Amyloid A (SAA) is a major acute phase protein in horses. In normal, healthy horses it is low; with inflammation or infection it can become elevated in as little as 6-12 hours.
This test can be run stall-side or in-clinic to help determine if a horse has inflammation versus infection, or to help with evaluating the response to treatment quicker than previously able to. Other common lab work that can be run in conjunction with SAA include complete blood counts (CBC) and blood chemistry.
We recommend planning for breeding season early – even as early as December! This will help make things as stress-free and seamless as possible.
Every year Lodi Veterinary Care rechecks mares for pregnancy, and we recommend doing this as early as January. Of the mares that are confirmed in foal at 15 days and re-confirmed in foal at 35 days, there will still be 5-10% that will have suffered embryonic loss and be open in spring.
If you do have a mare that has suffered embryonic loss, conducting diagnostic work early in the spring is a good idea, as it can take some time. Ultrasonography, uterine cultures, cytology and/or biopsies may be indicated.
Many mares have already been confirmed in foal and are either approaching or past their fifth month. Rhinopneumonitis, also known as EHV-1 (equine herpes virus 1), can cause abortion of the foal; however, there are very effective vaccines available for protection against this disease. The mare should be vaccinated at 5, 7, and 9 months of gestation. When the mare reaches her 10th month, she should receive vaccinations for eastern and western encephalitis, tetanus, West Nile virus, rabies, and influenza. Pregnant mares should have a fecal exam performed and be dewormed accordingly. The mare should also be dewormed around foaling time with an Ivermectin product to help protect her and the foal.
In order to help keep both mare and foal healthy, we advocate for a well-balanced nutrition program. When lacking in crucial vitamins and minerals, foals can suffer from deformities such as angular limb deformities and can be prone to developmental orthopedic diseases. Additionally, mares on a good balanced nutrition program have better chances of conceiving when they are re-bred following foaling. The minerals copper, zinc, phosphorus, selenium and manganese have been proven to affect fertility and must be provided at optimally balanced levels.
If your mare received a “caslicks” operation when she was either bred or confirmed in foal, don’t forget to have your veterinarian remove sutures approximately two weeks prior to foaling.
Breeding season can be a hectic time! That’s why we want too make things as easy as possible. Below is a quick checklist to make sure you and your mare are ready to go!
Confirm your mare is in foal
Vaccinate them against Rhinopneumonitis at 5, 7, and 9 months of gestation
Vaccinate them for eastern and western encephalitis, tetanus, West Nile virus, rabies, and influenzaat 10 months gestation
Practice good deworming, throughout the pregnancy
Ensure your mare is on a well-balanced diet, complete with the necessary vitamins and minerals
And most of all, contact your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns! We are here to ensure the health and safety of mare and foal.
Parasite resistance has become a growing problem in grazing animals such as cattle, goats, sheep and horses. We recommend watching the video below to learn a little more about parasite resistance and how it could affect your herd. The video, which was released by the FDA, discusses detecting resistance, planning a deworming schedule, and what questions to ask your veterinarian about controlling parasite resistance. For more information or to talk to a doctor about deworming, please give us a call at (608) 592-7755.
The word choke is a bit of a misnomer in the horse. In people it refers to an obstruction of the trachea or windpipe, usually with a piece of food. In horses the obstruction is of the esophagus not of the airway. This means that usually choke in horses is not immediately life threatening, however long term complications can result if the choke does not resolve on its own or is not treated in a timely fashion.
What causes choke?
Choke can be caused by many different types of feed. Most commonly grain or hay, but beet pulp, corn cobs, apples and carrots have been implicated as well. Horses choke on feed either because the feed is too large to pass down the esophagus, such as with a large apple or carrot, or because the feed expanded after being wet with saliva and swallowed in too large an amount, such as with beet pulp or grain. If choke is caused by hay it is likely due to a large portion of the hay being swallowed without sufficient breakdown, or chewing, prior to swallowing.
What does choke look like in the horse?
The most common sign of choke is a large amount of saliva or feed discharge from both nostrils due to the horse’s inability to swallow. The horse may repeatedly extend their neck, cough, and gag and make attempts to swallow. Sometimes if the obstruction is large enough and is located in the upper esophagus it can be seen and/or palpated on examination.
What predisposes horses to choke?
The most common reason for choke in horses is poor dentition. If there are missing teeth or dental issues such as a wave mouth or teeth that are too worn to chew properly this can result in improper feed breakdown prior to swallowing. That being said we occasionally run across horses that have normal teeth that just eat too fast for their own good! Regardless of the inciting cause of the choke often we have to modify the diet or modify the feeding process in some way to try and help prevent re-occurrence.
How do I treat it?
If you notice these signs in your horse it is very important to call your veterinarian. The sooner the choke is treated the less of a chance there is of complications. Treatment includes sedation to help relax the horse and the esophagus and passing a tube to help pass or flush out the obstruction. Other treatments can include pain medication, anti-inflammatory medication, antibiotics and oftentimes oral rehydration as the horse was unable to eat or drink while choked. Your veterinarian will likely determine which treatments are required depending on the type of choke and the length of time the horse has been choked.
Laminitis is the inflammation of the tissues which connect the hoof wall to the coffin bone. This can occur in horses of any age, sex and size, and it can occur due to multiple factors. Severity may range from mild to very severe cases in which euthanasia may be recommended as the most humane option. Some cases are of short duration and others may lead to chronic conditions that cause permanent lameness. Each year approximately 1.4% of the horse and pony population suffers from acute laminitis, and another 1.8% struggles with chronic laminitis.
Some risk factors for laminitis include:
over consumption of lush pasture
equine metabolic syndrome or equine cushings
mares who retain their placenta after foaling
weight bearing injuries placing extra stress on opposite limbs
trauma or injury to a limb or hoof
exposure to toxic substances, i.e. black walnut shavings
diarrhea or other systemic infections
long term or excessive steroid use
“Founder” describes a subset of laminitis cases in which the coffin bone rotates away from the hoof capsule.
So what signs do we look for when determining if a horse or pony has laminitis? Clinical signs include a reluctance to move and lameness especially in the front limbs, lethargy, sweating, and increased respiratory and heart rate. Affected horses may be resistant to pick up their feet, have a difficult time turning, have a characteristic “saw horse” stance, and are more painful on hard ground. Some horses may spend an increased amount of time lying down. In more mild cases, the horse may simply appear stiff.
Characteristic laminitis stance with the front limbs extended in front, and the hind limbs positioned under the body to bare more of the horse’s weight.
Your veterinarian will do an exam of your horse, as well as discuss a complete history of your horse to determine if he or she is affected by laminitis. An exam may include hoof testing, nerve blocks, and x-rays. Bloodwork or other diagnostics may also be recommended depending on the case.
Prevention is key! Limit grazing and/or use a grazing muzzle prevent weight gain or assist with weight loss in obese horses. Proper hoof care every 6-8 weeks, with shoeing if needed, is important. If the horses are not laminitic, exercise can aid in facilitating weight loss. Watch for clinical signs of Metabolic Syndrome (young to middle aged horses, excess fat deposition, weight gain, lameness) or Cushing’s (horses 15 years and older, excessive weight gain, long hair coat, excess sweating, increased drinking and urination, recurrent infections or lameness) and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if any of those signs are noted.
Treatment for laminitis may include:
Anti-inflammatory medications (ex. bute, DMSO)
Stall rest or exercise restriction
Deep bedding or sand, or special boots to provide cushion for the feet
Dietary restriction: grass hay and a vitamin/mineral supplement. No grass or grain!
Proper medical treatment for other health concerns (ex. treatment of Cushing’s if present)
Mechanical support with trimming +/- shoes
Ice or cold-water therapy to the distal limbs where feasible
Other therapies may be recommended on a case-by-case basis
If you see signs of laminitis in your horse or risk factors for developing laminitis, do not hesitate to call your veterinarian. Laminitis is considered an emergency as it can cause serious life-altering changes if left untreated. Remember, it is always better to prevent this disease rather than treating it.
Overheating can be a serious problem in horses. More often this is an issue in summer with warm, humid weather; yet it can occur at all times of the year. As in any species, overweight horses are more prone to overheating. Any sort of breeze, even those supplied artificially with fans can help to cool your equine friends due to convection cooling with sweating and the subsequent heat loss during drying.
To determine if your horse is at risk for overheating monitor your horses’ basic health parameters such as rate of breathing, rectal temperature, capillary refill time and attitude.
Start with their breathing by observing their abdomen rise and fall. Increased respiratory rate is normal after exercise and should decrease within a few minutes of activity stopping. If your horse continues to breathe heavily, this may be of concern.
Taking a temperature rectally with a thermometer is also useful. A thermometer from your local pharmacy is adequate. Temperatures elevated above 102.5 F after cool down or at rest if out on pasture, justifies a call to your veterinarian.
Overall attitude can relay how a horse is feeling. An overheating horse may be uninterested in their surroundings, hanging their head, or not willing to eat grass or feed that’s offered.
Capillary refill time is checked by pressing a finger against the gums or gingiva above the front incisor teeth to cause the color to fade and return. Normal color should be light pink to pink. After the gingiva is pressed color should return in less than 2-3 seconds. Also take note of how much moisture is present when touching your horse’s gums, as tacky or dry gingiva can relate to dehydration.
To cool an overheating horse, start with hosing them off with cool water. Avoid using ice cold water as this may be a shock to your equine companion. After a cool bath, be sure to remove the excess water from his or her coat using your hand or a sweat scraper. This water can trap heat and act in an insulating fashion, rather than continuing to cool their temperature. Place your horse in a shaded area with a cool breeze or fan to continue the cooling process. Always offer free choice, fresh, cool water for drinking. After exercise small drinks of water are preferred during cool down.
Sweating is the natural way for horses to cool body temperature down. Along with loss of water, horses loose important electrolytes in their sweat. These electrolytes are minerals such as potassium, chloride, sodium and smaller amounts of calcium, and magnesium. Working horses or those that are sweating in hot weather can benefit from electrolyte supplementation even if they have a mineral block available. Options for supplementation include regular salt (sodium chloride) or light salt (potassium chloride) added to grain, water, or offered free choice. No more than 2 tablespoons per day should be added to grain for a full sized horse. If electrolyte water is offered, regular water should be available at all times as well. Horses that are used to salt blocks and licks should be gradually transitioned to loose salt over 1-2 weeks to prevent over consumption. Another option is top dressed electrolyte mixes (Doctor’s Choice-Recharge is offered at Lodi Veterinary Care) or oral pastes such as Electro-plex can be given.
If your horse does not show signs of sweating during conditions where they would normally be expected to, he/she may have a more severe condition occurring called anhidrosis. We urge you and your pets to stay cool during this summer’s heat wave. Please do not hesitate to call should questions arise.