Every so often it happens – your horse just doesn’t seem right and you need to call the vet. When you do, it’s important to have as much information as possible so your vet can get a good picture of what’s going on. Here are five of the most common questions we ask horse owners – know these, and you’re one step ahead of the game!
How long has it been going on?
When was the last time your horse was normal? Depending on what is going on, duration can have a significant effect on outcome. Problems that have been going on for some time may be easier to diagnose, however prognosis can often decrease if a situation persists for too long. The sooner we can begin treatment, the better chance we have of a return to normal.
How is his/her attitude and appetite?
You know your horse best, so it’s important to express how you believe he’s feeling. Is he normally whinnying and running to the gate for his dinner, but now he’s standing in the corner with his head low? This could be a sign of illness. Horses also love to eat, and when they stop eating, this is often a cause for concern. Decreased appetite or a quieter than normal attitude can be a sign of many things, but this sign may be an important piece of the puzzle.
What is their heart rate?
The normal heart rate of a horse is 28-42 beats per minute (bpm). This can vary a little bit, and excited horses may get up to 60 bpm. An elevated heart rate can mean several things, but we usually think of dehydration, anemia or pain. Dehydration leads to a decrease in blood volume, causing the heart to beat faster to compensate. Similarly, in anemia, a decrease in red blood cells causes the heart to pump faster. Pain can lead to rates of 60-100 bpm. When we begin to see heart rates approaching 80-100, this can indicate severe pain or vascular compromise. This can change the urgency of a situation. A lot of information can be gleaned from the heart rate, so be sure to have that number ready when you call. If you’re not sure how to take a heart rate, ask your vet the next time he or she is out! Or you can check out this article from The Horse for more information
What is their temperature?
The normal temperature range of a horse is 99° F to 101° F, but some horses may run a little cooler (such as 98°). An elevated temperature may not necessarily be a fever - a horse that has just worked or been trailered may increase their temperature a small amount. Given this leeway, we generally say a fever is anything above 102° F. Fevers are tricky because they can point in many different directions. Twenty percent of fevers in horses go undiagnosed. The ones we do diagnose are usually caused by infectious disease (like anaplasmosis) or inflammation (such as enteritis). Keep in mind, as well, that various treatments can lower a fever, so it’s best to talk to your vet before initiating any type of treatment. Here is some more information from the AAEP on this topic.
Have there been any changes in routine or management?
Did you just move to a new barn? New load of hay or other change in feed? It’s possible that this sudden change is contributing to your problem. While we may not notice any problems with the hay or grain, horses can be picky eaters, sometimes for good reason. Sudden changes in feed or environment can wreak havoc on the horse’s internal systems, often by upsetting the normal gastrointestinal bacterial population. An alteration of routine (new barn, new feeding schedule) can cause stress, which can lead to ulcers or behavioral problems.
As veterinarians, we need to accumulate as much information as possible to paint a clear picture of the problem. Animals do talk to us, but in a different language. All of these questions give us tools to help decipher that language and figure out what is going on, and lead us to a resolution.
With the warm fall we've been enjoying, it may be hard to remember that winter is just around the corner. Soon enough, however, we'll be battling snow and frozen ground as we take care of our equine companions. It's important to put some thought and time into preparing your horse and your property before winter sneaks up on us completely. We've outlined a few things to keep in mind to help this transition time be as seamless as possible.
Recently, mosquitoes infected with EEE (Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis virus) were found in Voluntown, CT. Not only that, but there have been 2 confirmed cases of EEE positive horses in Massachusetts. While it would be nice to hide from it, the fact is that it is in our backyard. But what do we really know about it?
USDA map Oct. 2012
EEE is mainly found in the US east of the Mississippi river, and throughout areas of Central and South America. The virus persists in “reservoirs” – wild animals that carry the disease such as bats, rodents, and birds. A vector (such as a mosquito) becomes infected when it feeds on one of these animals. Most often, EEE is maintained through a transmission cycle between birds and mosquitoes. The mosquito then carries the virus for life and can transmit it through its saliva. If a horse happens to be the source of the next blood meal, then they can become infected and quickly begin to show signs.
Once infected, it takes approximately 5-15 days for signs to show up. These signs can be very mild such as a fever and depression; or severe including blindness, stumbling, seizures or death. Any neurologic signs could be indicative of EEE, however other diseases such as rabies must be considered as well, and a diagnosis should be confirmed via testing. Unfortunately, a diagnosis is often obtained post-mortem. If EEE is suspected, the state veterinarian must be contacted and the disease needs to be reported.
When it comes to the equine eye, we often discuss common diseases such as corneal ulcers, conjunctivitis or uveitis. We do treat these conditions quite a bit, however there are some serious uncommon diseases that we do have to think about when considering an inflamed eye. One of these diseases is glaucoma, which can be set off by any of the above listed issues, or by another underlying problem.
This time of year, it's good to be a horse vet. The weather is delightful, and we get to see lots of healthy patients for routine things - vaccines, dentistry, reproductive work. Foals have been arriving for a few months now, and you have to admit, there is not much cuter than a newborn foal. Cuteness aside, however, deciding to breed horses is a big decision, and not one to be taken lightly. If this is something you have been considering for your mare or stallion, read on.
Feeding off of our last post on nutrition (pun intended), we thought we would talk briefly about the amount that horses are fed. When talking to clients about nutrition, we often ask "How much are you feeding your horse?" Usually the answer is something along the lines of "A half a scoop twice a day." But what exactly is a scoop and is it an appropriate amount to be feeding?
Scoops come in a variety of sizes, and we use the term pretty loosely. It can be applied to anything from a 1/2 cup measuring cup, to a #10 coffee can, or even a shovel! That can make it difficult to communicate to your vet exactly how much you're feeding. Knowing the volume of your scoop can be helpful, however different feeds have different densities. One scoop of sweet feed does not necessarily equal one scoop of pellets.
Nutrition is an extremely important aspect of equine health. We have many discussions with clients regarding this topic and decided we should write down our thoughts to share with everyone else. (If you are one of our clients reading this, you've probably heard it before! We did do a newsletter
on it last year.) This can be a confusing subject, so we'll try to simplify things to make bit of sense out of all of the options that are available. So let's get started. Bon appetit!
As the show season starts to come into view, there's a lot to prepare for. Training your horse, getting your registration in , finding time to sleep. In the middle of all of these preparations, it's important to consider the safety of you, your horse and any travelling companions you may have. Here are some things to keep in mind as you hit the road again this spring.
Trailering a horse can be a difficult task. It can be even more difficult when you don't have the right equipment! Before you pull out of your driveway, make sure that you have taken a close look at your trailer, hitch and wiring. Do you have the right size ball on your truck? Can you hitching mechanism handle the load which you are about to haul? All tires on the towing vehicle and trailer should be checked to be sure the air pressure is appropriate. If you have a dually, check the inside tires and always remember the spare! Also, make sure the flooring of the trailer is in good condition. Pull up any mats and look under them - floorboards can rot through and you may not even know. The bearings should be checked and greased annually, as well. For a full checklist of important things to bring with you on your trip, click here.
Sometimes it seems that the horse's gastrointestinal tract is just looking for a way to cause problems for everyone. If it's not impaction colic, it's gastric ulcers. If it's not colic, it's choke. Most people know what "choke" is in horses, but it can be a little confusing. Afterall, when people are choking, they can't breathe, right? So why don't horses who are "choking" need the Heimlich?
This year's annual conference of the American Association of Equine Practitioners was held in not-so-sunny Anaheim, CA. (Unfortunately it rained the whole time we were there!). Both Drs. Leighton and Kornatowski were able to travel this year and not only were we able to glean some new information, we got involved and we picked up some new equipment as well! (For a description on what goes on at these meetings, please see last year's post on the AAEP Convention Wrap-up