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Current Issues in Horse Health


Dr. Hunt

Dr. Garner
From Dr. Kim Garner, Big Creek Animal Hospital
Some of the horse health issues Dr. Kim Garner has been seeing this fall include laminitis from cool season grasses, since many cool season grasses never went into their dormant stage. “We have seen some bad ones,” she reported. And recovery “depends on the dedication of owners to horse care, following instructions, and the severity of the laminitis,” she said. Treatment is: “Basically reduce carbohydrates in the diet, and reduce exercise; give stall rest and no grazing,” Dr. Garner explained. “Soak their hay for one hour before feeding, then discard the water. This leaches the sugars out of the hay. We usually give the horses Acepromazine, a sedative, three times a day for five days.  Acepromazine also acts as a vasodilator to stimulate blood flow. We give “Bute” as a pain reliever.”

Dr. Garner reported that her clinic has seen one confirmed case of West Nile Virus, so she emphasizes the importance of getting your horses vaccinated against the disease.

“We’ve also been seeing a lot of choke,” she added. The cases are mostly with pelleted feed, but the upside is that saliva (and water) can eventually breakdown the pelleted feed to allow the horse to swallow. “But we’ve also seen it with grain feeds, too,” she said. She surmises that the feeding regimen may be the underlying cause. If the horse is only fed grain once a day and is fed a large quantity, the horse is hungry, and scoops up a large mouthful at once, choke can occur. She says that there are feeders on the market, like Pre-Vent Feeders that prevent the horse from being able to get a large mouthful of grain at one time.

For more information about Big Creek Animal Hospital, visit their website: You can also find the latest animal health news on Big Creek’s facebook page:
From Dr. Megan Hunt of Equine Veterinary Associates, Olive Branch, MS.

Dr. Hunt reports their clinic is now seeing cases of Pigeon Fever. “It should taper off in the colder months,” she said.  The usually sign is a rather large abscess on the horse’s chest. “Once the abscess can be lanced or is draining, it is important to keep the horse isolated,” she advised. “It is equally important to keep the bacteria from getting into the environment where other horses can be in contact with it. The disease is not per se transmitted from horse to horse, like, for example rhino flu.” But they can get the bacteria from the environment near an infected horse. “Once the abscess starts draining and requires flushing with Betadine, for example, you want to prevent the drainage from getting into the dirt and common areas. You can capture it in a bucket, and then dispose of it properly,” some place on the farm where other others and animals don’t have access. Horse flies and other insects also play a role in transmitting the disease.

“The bacteria that cause Pigeon Fever has properties that allow it to get into the lymphatic system and lymph nodes,” Dr. Hunt explained. “Most of the time we see abscesses on the chest, but occasionally a horse can get internal abscesses and folliculitis (an infection in the hair follicles). In treatment of Pigeon Fever, antibiotic usage is more controversial than contraindicated. “Antibiotics may not indicated,” she said, “unless a horse goes off his feed, feels lethargic, or develops a fever. Then we treat with anti-inflammatories and antibiotics.”

The fall months also bring “colic season,” as the weather changes. “We see a number of mild and impaction colics,” Dr. Hunt said. The impaction colics usually come about from horses not drinking enough water. “Lack of sufficient water intake is usually the culprit,” she said. “The best way to prevent this type of colic is to provide plenty of fresh water to the horse, maybe add electrolytes or table salt to the feed. I have also had good success with Horse Quencher. In colder months, horses prefer lukewarm water, not ice cold water.” So offer your horses warmer water in cold weather.

When the rains return, they can create conditions that can cause problems in horses’ feet and pastern area. “In wet, muddy conditions we see more thrush and pastern dermitis,” Dr. Hunt said. “The early fall is a good time to evaluate the area around your barn, gates, and water troughs. Now is the time to put something on the ground to prevent mud in the wetter months.” So, if the area is dusty now, it will be muddy later. Also consider moving water troughs rather than leaving them in the same spot all the time.

“Now is a good time to evaluate lameness issues, too, especially arthritis,” Dr. Hunt said. “Colder months can exacerbate these problems. So now is a good time to evaluate what needs to be done to make your horses more comfortable,” she advised.

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