Ask the Vet, Sallie S. Hyman VMD, DACVIM

  • What do I do for an Equine Runny Nose?

    Your horse has a snotty nose.  It's as plain as the, well, snot, all over his nose, front legs and wherever else ha can wipe it on.  Yuck!

    Determining the source and cause of nasal discharge can be a challenge to diagnose in the horse due to the complicated anatomy of the their skull. the horse has two main sinus cavities (frontal and maxillary) in the head, as well as several smaller ones.  The upper back molars communicate with the sinuses.  The main sinus communicates with the nasal passages.  It is a complex and intertwined system that can lead to much confusion in trying to figure out where all of that snot is coming from.

    When you first discover the nasal discharge, take note of a few things:

    What color is it?

    Does it come from one or both nostrils?

    Does it have an odor?

    Does your horse have a fever?

    Is he lethargic?

    Have an appetite?

    Next, think about whether or not your horse has been exposed to any other horses:

    Have you been to a show?

    Are their new additions in the stable?

    Are there any sick horses in contact with yours?

    This information will help your veterinarian better diagnose the cause of your horses symptoms.

    The common causes of nasal discharge include strangles, sinus infections, tooth problems, and guttural pouch infections. Bilateral (both nostrils) occurs when the source of the mucus is distal to the nasal openings.  This would include strangles and guttural pouch infections.  Unilateral discharge (one nostril) occurs when the mucus comes from the opening in the nasal passage, such as with a sinus infection, or a tooth root problem. When it is a tooth root problem, the discharge generally has a foul odor.

    To accurately diagnose the problem, your horse will likely need to have an endoscopic exam and/or radiographs, as well as blood work, and cultures.

     In an endoscopic exam, a small thin tube with a camera on the end is inserted up the nose.  This allows the vet to see the nasal passages, the opening of the maxillary sinus in the the nasal passages, the guttural pouches and the trachea.  This can help determine where, exactly, the mucus is coming from.

     A radiograph (x-ray) can show fluid within the sinus or guttural pouches.  In severe cases of gutteral pouch infections small concretions of mucus, called chondroids, develop.  These can be seen via radiograph. A radiograph can also be used to evaluate tooth root abscesses, cracked or broken teeth, or a tooth that is completely worn down. 

    Blood work can confirm the infection via a white blood count and fibrinogen.  A special blood test can be used to test for strangles.

    Finally, a sample of the discharge may be taken from the nasal passage, the guttural pouches, the sinus, or from the trachea.  This can be can be used for a culture, in which the veterinarian can grow whatever bacteria may be lurking in your horse's nose. 

    Once you have a diagnosis, you and your veterinarian can plan a course of treatment.  Strangles is often left to run its course, unless the horse is in severe distress.  Antibiotics are given in this case.  Sinus and guttural pouch infections usually require long term antibiotic therapy and sometimes flushing the sinus or pouches.  A tooth root problem is also treated with antibiotics, flushing the sinus, and properly treating the tooth.  Most of the time, the tooth will need to be removed and the hole packed with dental cement. Treatment is very rewarding in most cases!  Some severe cases of sinus, guttural pouch, or tooth problems may require surgery.  Fortunately, these are the exceptions.

    Once again, having a little knowledge will help you to help your house when illness strikes.  Being able to provide information to your veterinarian will help speed the diagnosis process and get your horse on the right course of treatment in a timely manner. 

    Registered 2011 Equestrian Collections; Author:  Sallie S. Hyman,  VMD, DACVIM, CVA 

  • How do I Handle a Vaccine Reaction?

    Vaccine Reactions

    Occasionally a horse will have a reaction at a vaccination site. This will usually occur within twelve to twenty-four hours after a vaccination.  Common reactions symptoms included lethargy (feeling tired), heat, pain, and /or swelling at the vaccination site, fever, loss of appetite, stiff neck, and unwillingness to put the head down to graze or eat from the ground. 

    These reactions are usually to the adjuvant in the vaccine (the part of the vaccine that helps to stimulate the immune system) not to the agent (bacterial or viral) that you are vaccinating against.  With the advent of newer adjuvants, these reactions are becoming less frequent.  Combination vaccines also help to decrease the amount of adjuvant that your horse is exposed to by decreasing the overall numbers of shots he receives.  Still, some horse will react no matter what. 

    What should you do if your horse has any of these symptoms?

    First, call your veterinarian and let them know your horse had a reaction.  This is important information for your vet to have in your horse's record.  Next time, the vet may try a different brand of vaccine next time, or perhaps try a different vaccine site.  The vet can also keep track of how many horses have reacted to a certain vaccine and report this information back to the vaccine manufacturer.  Input from horse owners and veterinarians helps to drive quality control and improve vaccine performance and safety.  

    Your veterinarian may advise you to give your horse a dose of a non-steriodal anti-inflammatory agent such as flunixin meglumin (Banamine®) or firocoxib (Euioxx®).  Carefully follow the dosage and time schedule your veterinarian advises.

    Next, do what you can to make your horse comfortable.  If your hose is sore at the injection site, you can put a warm compress on the area.  Be careful not to make it too hot! You can do this one to two times a day.  This is also very helpful if the area has become an abscess. Place your horse's feed, hay, and water at a level that is comfortable for him.  You can do this by placing them on an overturned muck tub, or hay bales, or hanging a hay net, whatever gets it to the right height.

    What about complications?

    If the vaccination site turns into an abscess, have your veterinarian examine your horse. An ultrasound may be performed to see how large the abscess is, where it is located, and how much fluid is present. If may be necessary to drain the abscess with a needle or to make a small incision to open it up.  A sample of the fluid can be collected at  that time for analysis and culture.  Antibiotics may be prescribed.  Luckily, most resolve without major incident.

    Vaccination is an important part of keeping our horses healthy.  The benefits far outweigh the occasional vaccine reaction occurrence.  However, if it does occur, you now have the knowledge to handle the situation.

    Registered 2011 Equestrian Collections; Author:  Sallie S. Hyman,  VMD, DACVIM, CVA  

    Information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for evaluation by an equine professional.  In particular, all horse owners should seek advice  and treatment from a licensed veterinarian for their horses' medical care.         


  • What About Joint Supplements?

    We ask our horses to participate in a variety of athletic endeavors, from reining and dressage, to racing and jumping.  All of these activities put stress and strain on their joints.

    To understand how joint supplementation may help you horse, you need to know a bit about the make-up of the equine joint. 

    The equine joint is made up of the articular cartilage, the synovial fluid (joint fluid) and the soft tissue structures that hold the joint together (capsule and ligaments).  The articular cartilage and the synovial fluid are very important:

    The articular cartilage is made up of chondrocytes (cartilage cells) that reside with a matrix.  The matrix is made up of proteoglycans, collagen, and elastin.  The proteoglycans are made up of a core strand of hyaluronic acid with branches of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs).  Water sticks tot the GAGs and gives the cartilage resistance to pressure.   

    The synovial fluid contains two main components.  The first is the fluid part.  It is produced from filtrated blood plasma.  The second component is hyaluronic acid.  It is produced by cells of the synovial lining of the joint capsule.  The joint fluid acts as a shock absorber, decreases friction, supplies oxygen and nutrients to the chondrocytes, and removes waste.  

    When these is stress or wear and tear on these structures, inflammation develops.  The inflammatory factors degrade the structures and quality of the cartilage and joint fluid.  Normally, the joint is able to respond by producing new joint fluid and cartilage cells.  If this process is overwhelmed, then permanent damage can occur, thus producing an unhealthy and sometimes painful joint.

    What can a horse owner do?

    As horse owners, we would like to be able to decrease the stress and inflammation in our horses' joints and help make them healthier.  There are several oral supplements that can be used to do just that.  These supplements contain ingredients that are part of the make up of either the articular cartilage or the synovial fluid.  There are also supplements that act as anti-inflammatories.  For more advanced disease, there are prescription only treatments available from your veterinarian.   

    Does Joint Supplementation Really Work?

    The research in both humans and horses has been varied in its findings.  Some reports have shown improvements while others have shown no effect.  Fortunately none have shown any harm.  Many horse owners report anecdotal evidence that supplementation works. Some horse owners are concerned about feeding their insulin resistant horses products containing glucosamine, a type of sugar.  There is little to no risk in giving glucosamine to a horse with insulin resistance.  In fact, it may help by making him more comfortable to be exercised, thus helping him to lose weight.  

    What Ingredients should I Look for in a Joint Supplement?

    Here are the ingredients to look for and some products that contain them:
    Chondroitin Sulfate has been shown to decrease swelling in joints.  It acts by decreasing the amount of destructive enzymes in the joints.  It can also decrease certain biomarkers of inflammation in synovial fluid.  As a component of proteoglycans, it is a building block of cartilage.  It works synergistically with glucosamine.

    Glucosamine is a natural compound found in healthy cartilage.  It is a precursor in the production of proteoglycans in the cartilage matrix and synovial fluid.  Glucosamine is believed to strengthen cartilage.  It is constantly broken down and resynthesized in normal joints.  Works synergistically with Chondroitin Sulfate. 

    Hyaluronic Acid (HA) is a main part of the make-up of synovial fluid and articular cartilage.  It increases the lubrication of the soft tissue structures in the joint and increases the viscosity of joint fluid, while decreasing inflammation in the joint by scavenging free radicals.  Supplementation may induce the body to product more of its own HA. 

    Methylsulfonlmethane (MSM) contains sulfur in a form that the body can use.  Sulfur is necessary for the formation of collagen, glucosamine, and chondroitin, all components of cartilage.  It may also decrease pain and inflammation.

    Many products use combinations of Chondroitin, Glucosamine, HA, and MSM to provide all the necessary building blocks:

    Other products are made with Green Lipped Mussels (Perna Canaliculus) that provide GAGs; Vitamin C, an antioxidant that scavenges free radicals;  Maganese, needed to make joint fluid and cartilage; and anti-inflammatories such as Yucca.

  • How Hot is too Hot?

    When is it too hot to safely ride my horse?

    Knowing how your horse thermo-regulates will help you better understand how to keep him cool. Horses' bodies produce heat when they work. They have several mechanisms that get rid of this heat.

    The most important mechanism is evaporation. Most heat is generated from a horse's large muscle mass. The cardiovascular system (the heart and blood vessels) move the heat from the muscles and organs to the skin. As your horse works, he produces sweat in glands in his skin. This sweat is composed of water and electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium, and calcium). As the sweat evaporates, it dissipates large amounts of heat, thus cooling your horse. To give you an idea of how much a horse needs to sweat to keep cool, the amount of heat dissipated by one liter of sweat equals just one to two minutes of maximal exercise, or five to six minutes of sub maximal exercise!

    Other mechanisms include breathing out some of the heat through respiration. As your horse exercises, his respiration increases, thus releasing heat. Additionally, some heat is lost through convection/radiation where heat is moved directly from the skin to the environment.

    Keeping these mechanisms in mind, there are several things you can do to help your equine partner stay cool:

    1. Provide plenty of clean water. Your horse needs to replace that sweat! Make sure the water is clean and not too warm. Some horses are particular about water temperature.
    2. Get your horse fit. An overweight horse has a harder time moving the heat through all that fat.
    3. Hose or sponge your horse with COLD water over the large vessels on the inside of the hind legs, belly, and neck. These vessels bring the heat to the surface, so you want to cool those areas. Be sure to scrape off the water as it will warm quickly. There are many Icing and Cooling products that can help.
    4. Work in the morning or early evening when it is cooler
    5. Provide shade. A run-in or trees are just fine!
    6. Clip any horse with a heavy hair coat
    7. Replace electrolytes lost in sweat. Summer Games Electrolytes, or Farnam Apple Dex, are good choices.
    8. Keep your horse in a well ventilated stall with a fan. Remember that evaporative cooling? The fan will help! (Be sure cords are out of reach and plugged into a ground fault interrupter)
    9. Put sunscreen or zinc oxide on any pink or white noses. 
    10. Provide a water misting system if possible (again .. it helps with evaporative cooling!)

    Sometimes we can't avoid the heat. On those days, keep an eye on the Heat Stress Index. The Heat Stress Index is the sum of the temperature plus the humidity. For example: if the temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity is 20%, then the Heat Index is 100 (80+20=100). If the Heat Stress Index is less than 120, it is ok to ride. Start watching it as it rises above 120, at 150 your horse's cooling system won't work effectively. If it is greater than 180, your horse will be unable to thermo-regulate.

  • Barn Biosecurity. Why it matters!

    By now, most horse owners heave heard about the outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus that occurred at the Cutting Horse event in Ogden, UT. We are truly saddened by the loss of life. Infectious diseases are always a risk when large numbers of horses congregate for competitions. What we can take away from this tragedy are ways to implement biosecurity practices to keep our horses and farms safer from infectious disease.

    What is Biosecurity?
    Biosecurity consists of the principles, actions, precautions and protocols that protect the health of animals by preventing the transmission of disease through physical barriers and hygiene practices.

    Why Does Biosecurity Matter to the Horse Owner?
    A well planned and carried out biosecurity program will reduce your personal costs due to animal illness. On a larger scale, biosecurity promotes a stronger industry overall by preventing the shutdown of farms/events/transportation. Many reportable and foreign animal diseases have been stopped from becoming a larger problem by farm owners recognizing that something was not right, implementing good biosecurity, and seeking veterinary advice.

    How Do I Establish a Biosecurity Program?

    A lot of biosecurity is really just good, common sense practices:
    1. Avoid traveling with horses that suspect have an infectious disease
    2. Avoid traveling with horses that have been exposed to infectious disease (even if they do not seem ill)
    3. In the event of an outbreak, quarantine ALL horses on the premises until the horses are cleared by a veterinarian
    Routine practices are critical:
    1. Quarantine all new horses for 2-3 weeks before co-mingling them with other horses
    2. Vaccinate all horses based on the recommendations of your local vet
    3. Practice good hygiene when handling horses - washing hands between handling sick and well horses, for instance
    4. Control pests such as rodents, flies and stray animals

    It takes time and effort to keep up with a biosecurity program, but the benefits are substantial. Your farm and your horses will be healthier and safer for all your hard work.

    Registered 2011 Equestrian Collections; Author:  Sallie S. Hyman,  VMD, DACVIM, CVA 

    Information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for evaluation by an equine professional.  In particular, all horse owners should seek advice  and treatment from a licensed veterinarian for their horses' medical care.  

  • Thrush. What is it? How do I treat it?

    Equine Thrush or "Man Do Your Feet Stink!"

    What is Thrush?

    Thrush is caused by an anaerobic (without oxygen) bacterial infection of the frog of the foot; specifically, a moist exudative dermatitis of the central and lateral sulci (clefts) of the frog.  The most commonly cultured bacteria is Fusobacterium necrophorum.  This bacterium incites a strong tissue reaction and causes the characteristic black exudate associated with thrush.  The strong tissue reaction can be quite painful in some cases.

    Does My Horse Have Thrush?

    Now, not every horse with black discharge and smelly feet has thrush.  Horses live in unclean environments and are constantly walking through urine, manure, and mud.  These can pack into the frog and produce a foul smell and appear like black discharge.  Although the disease was once thought to be associated with these unclean conditions, this is not always the case.  Some horses live in the wettest, dirtiest conditions and never develop thrush, while others who live in the cleanest, driest stalls are plagued by thrush.

    So why the difference? 

    Some practitioners attribute it to the health of the hoof.  Good nutrition will produce a strong hoof and proper trimming/shoeing will aid in the normal self cleaning mechanism of the foot.  Veterinary podiatrist, Dr. Stephen O'Grady, describes this mechanism:

    The horse possesses a natural hoof cleaning mechanism.  in the normal foot, as weight is placed on the limb, the third phalanx (coffin bone) will descend, causing the sole to flatten.  Descent of the coffin joint occurs as the navicular bone gives in a distopalmar (downward) direction, pushing against the navicular bursa and the deep flexor tendon, and finally causes expansion of the frog as it approaches the ground surface.  This continuous change in the structure prevents the accumulation of material in the bottom of the foot.  Impairment of this hoof cleaning mechanism appears to the outstanding cause of thrush.

    Chronic lameness, improper trimming, and insufficient exercise can lead to impairment of the hoof cleaning mechanism.  When the foot is not properly cleaned, by both self mechanism, and proper grooming) manure, shavings and mud get packed into the clefts of the frog.  This traps moisture and decreases the oxygen in the area and promotes the growth of bacteria. 

    How do I treat thrush?

    Treatment must address both the bacterial infection and the underlying cause of the impairment of the self cleaning mechanism.  Topical anti-thrush medications will resolve the bacterial infection.  Proper trimming and balancing the foot will help to return it to its normal function.  Any chronic lameness should be diagnosed and treated by your veterinarian.  If your horse becomes lame from the thrush, you should contact your veterinarian for help.

    By addressing all the factors causing thrush, you will be able to treat and eliminate those stinky (and sore) feet!  

    Registered 2011 Equestrian Collections; Author:  Sallie S. Hyman,  VMD, DACVIM, CVA 

    Information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for evaluation by an equine professional.  In particular, all horse owners should seek advice  and treatment from a licensed veterinarian for their horses' medical care.  

  • Equine First Aid. What do I Need?

    Emergencies happen. Being prepared can help you get through them with less stress. Having an emergency kit in your barn and trailer is a good place to start. The kit should contain all of the basic items to get you through the most common emergencies until your veterinarian arrives, if he/she is needed.

    Keep your vet’s phone number on a laminated card in you emergency kit so that it is handy. Also keep some human emergency supplies on hand in case you don’t keep a separate human first aid kit. Your kit can be kept in a clean plastic storage box. If you don’t have a lot of room, you can even use a clean water/food bucket. Just use plastic wrap and duct tape to seal the top.

    Emergency Kit Supplies:
    Ask your veterinarian if she would like you to keep the following supplies. These must be obtained through your veterinarian.
    • Silver Sulfadiazene ointment
    • Banamine®
    • Equioxx®
    • Phenylbutazone
    • ophthalmic ointment
    Registered 2011 Equestrian Collections; Author:  Sallie S. Hyman,  VMD, DACVIM, CVA

    Information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for evaluation by an equine professional.  In particular, all horse owners should seek advice  and treatment from a licensed veterinarian for their horses' medical care.  

  • Grazing Muzzles and Metabolic Syndrome

    Does My Horse or Pony Have Metabolic Syndrome?

    We've all seen them, the horse in the field looking like Hannibal Lector in a muzzle.  It's not keeping them from biting; it's keeping him from eating!  Grazing Muzzles have become an unfortunate necessity for many horses today.  Much like people, horses are suffering from the effects of overeating and obesity.  These horses seem to get fat on air and are often called "easy keepers."  There is likely a genetic predisposition that makes these horses very efficient at utilizing calories and, in turn, makes them require a lower plane of nutrition than their naturally thinner pasture mates.

    The term Equine Metabolic Syndrome has been used to describe this condition.  The four features of the syndrome are:
    • Obesity
    • Regional adiposity (fat deposits)
    • Insulin resistance
    • Laminitis
    The results of the syndrome in horses can be devastating if not managed properly.   

    Although Equine Metabolic Syndrome can affect any breed, pony breeds seem to be overrepresented.  Horses 5-15 years of age are most commonly affected, but again, almost all age groups have been affected.  Environmental conditions certainly are part of the picture, with problems occurring when the pasture is in growth or stress phases, but genetic predisposition comes into play, as not all horses out on the same pasture will be affected. 

    Diagnosis of Equine Metabolic Syndrome is based on the clinical presentation of the horse and blood tests.  Regional adiposity is easy to recognize as the cresty neck and fat pads on the barrel and croup.  Resting insulin concentrations can be measured after the horse has been fasted for 12 hours.  This is an easy and useful test, but can be affected by pain from laminitis or if the horse eats to close to the time the blood is drawn.  Have your veterinarian examine your horse immediately if you notice lameness.  Sensitivity to foot testers at the toes of the feet and rotation of te coffin bone on radiographs are diagnostic for laminitis.  Finally, it is important in the older horse to test the ACTH levels to make sure that they don't have Cushing's disease.

    How Do I Treat Equine Metabolic Syndrome?

    Dietary Management is the most important aspect in managing horses with Equine Metabolic Syndrome.  Obese horses should be placed on diets to promote weight loss.  Most of these horses can have limited hay or pasture (hence the grazing muzzle!) and access to salt and minerals.  These horses DO NOT need grain.  They should be fed hay at 1.5-2% of their body weight (about 15-20 lbs for a 1000 lbs horse).  You should weigh your hay to make sure you are not overfeeding.  Decrease the amount of hay if your horse has access to pasture.  Ask your veterinarian if your individual horse needs any vitamin or protein supplementation based on your situation.

    What about Exercise?

    Exercise is the second ingredient to managing Equine Metabolic Syndrome.  Obviously, laminitic horses should not exercised until their pain is gone, the rotation of the coffin bone is corrected, and the inflammation of the foot is stabilized.  Non-laminitic horses should receive daily exercise to promote weight loss.  Just like with people, the only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume.  There is only so far we can restrict calories, so that means we must exercise our horses.  This can include walking on a lead, lunging or riding.  Any type of exercise is better than none!

    How about Medications?

    Some medications can be used to help with weight loss such as levothyroxine sodium or meformin.  These are used in individual cases and can be discussed with your veterinarian. the grass continues to grow, watch your horse's weight.  Consider a grazing muzzle if he is gaining weight and is on pasture.  Consult with your veterinarian if you have questions as to whether or not your horse might have Equine Metabolic Syndrome or insulin resistance. 

    Registered 2011 Equestrian Collections; Author:  Sallie S. Hyman,  VMD, DACVIM, CVA  

    Information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for evaluation by an equine professional.  In particular, all horse owners should seek advice  and treatment from a licensed veterinarian for their horses' medical care.         



  • Shoo Fly! Horses vs. Flies ...

    Shoo Fly!

    Summer time brings warm weather, longer days, and FLIES.  Just when we are happy to spend more time with our horses, the flies and gnats come to ruin our good time!

    Are flies really a serious issue?

    While people find their buzzing to be a nuisance, flies and gnats can cause several medical problems in our horses.  Not only are fly and gnat bites very irritating to horses, just like people some horses are more sensitive to them than other horses.  Further, flies can cause disease directly, mostly due to their bite, or by spreading disease that they are carrying.  Flies are excellent vectors for many diseases.

    What irritations are associated with flies?

    Sweet Itch:  Culicoides hypersensitivity, commonly called Sweet Itch or Queensland Itch, is cause by the bite of the culicoides midge (no-see-ums!).  Horses develop an allergy to the saliva of the culicoides midge.  The mane, tail, and ventral midline areas of the horse are most commonly affected.  Horses develop severe pruritis (itching) and will often create further skin damage with excessive rubbing. 

    Deer Fly Hypersensitivity:  Deer fly hypersensitivity has also been seen in horses.  The allergens in the deer fly bite can cause severe hives to develop.

    Eye Irritation: Eye irritation is very commonly seen during fly season.  Flies feed off of tears and bite the conjunctiva of the eye in the process.  Inflammation can develop that can eventually lead to blockage of the nasolacrimal duct and result in excessive tearing.  This, of course, leads to more feeding by flies.  Should you suspect a blocked tear duct in your horse, contact your veterinarian.  Your vet will examine your horse to make sure there is nothing else wrong with the eye and flush the nasolacrimal duct to open it up.  You may also be given some eye drops or ointment with antibiotics and steroids to help with the inflammation.  It is important for your veterinarian to examine and stain the eye before starting any eye treatment with steroids to make sure that there are no ulcers on the eye.

    Corneal Ulcers: Corneal ulcers are common during fly season.  As horses try to rub away flies, they may accidentally scratch the corneal surface on fences or trees.  Any problem with the eye that includes tearing, cloudiness, holding the eye partially or fully shut, or swollen lids should be treated as an emergency.  Call your veterinarian to examine it. It is very important to get your horse on the correct medicine in order to treat possible bacterial and fungal infections.  Without correct treatment a simple ulcer can turn into a major problem.  As mentioned above, never use steroids in an ulcerated eye.  

    What about Diseases?
    In addition to irritations, flies also carry and transmit a host of diseases.  They can carry viruses, bacteria, and parasites. 

    Sarcoids:  Sarcoids are one of the most common skin tumors in the horse.  They can be flat roughened areas or protruding cauliflower like masses.  They are thought to be caused by a retrovirus or a papilloma virus.  Flies are suspected to be able to transfer the sarcoid cells from one horse to another by depositing them in traumatic skin wounds. 

    Ear Papillomas:  Ear papillomas are virally induced skin tumors that appears as warts in the ear.  They are transmitted by black flies.

    Summer Sores:  Habronemiasis, or summer sores, is casued by nemotode larve. Habronemia musca and Draschia microstoma are the species that affect horses.  The adults live in the horse's stomach.  The larvae are passed out into the feces where they are eaten by fly maggots.  The larvae stay within the developing fly and are then deposited on the lips, eyes, or wounds of the horse as the flies feed.  If the larvae are digested, they will develop into worms in the horse's stomach. However, if they are deposited in the eyes or traumatized skin, the larvae cannot develop and instead incite an inflammatory reaction.  The larvae become walled off in granulation tissue and a non-healing pink tissue mass ensues.  Yellow granules can be found within the mass.  These are dead and dying larvae.  As the flies like to feed in moist areas, Habronema lesions are commonly found on the lips, third eyelid, and penis.  The lesions are quite itchy, and the horse may cause secondary trauma from rubbing.

    Pigeon Fever:  Pigeon fever, caused by the corynebacteria pseudotuberculosis, is also carried by flies.  The flies introduce the bacteria into the skin and underlying tissues.  it is then carried by the bloodstream to deeper tissues and lymph nodes.  Abscesses characterize the disease.  They are most commonly found in the pectoral (chest) region, causing the chest to look as if it is protruding, much like a pigeon's breast.  Your veterinarian should be consulted if you suspect your horse has pigeon fever.

    Rain Rot:  Dermatophilosis, or rain rot, can be spread by flies although it is more likely to be transmitted from horse to horse by shared tack, brushes, and blankets.  This bacterial infection, caused by dermatophilous congolensis, results from the bacteria being introduced to moist, injured skin.  The matted, crusty scabs that lift off easily to reveal moist lesions underneath are unmistakable.  Your veterinarian should be consulted if you suspect your horse has rain rot. 

    You've convinced me!  Flies are a serious problem.  Now what do I do about it?!

    The key to avoiding the myriad of fly vector diseases is to try to keep flies from reaching your horse.   Fly sheets and fly leg wraps will keep the majority of flies from reaching your horse.  Use fly repellents as an additional weapon.  Fly masks will keep the flies from irritating your horse's eyes.  Fans are a good way to help keep culicoides away.  They are dawn and dusk feeders.  If you can keep your horse in a stall with a fan at those times, you can literally blow the no-see-ums away.  Culicoides are not strong fliers.

    Be sure to check your horse carefully everyday to look for any signs of skin or eye problems that flies might bring.

  • Equine Vital Signs. What's Normal?

    Vital Signs

    Every horse owner should now what the normal temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate (TPR) for their horse and know how to obtain these numbers. In addition, you should also know some other basic "normal" such as borborygmi (gut sounds), mucus membrane color, and capillary refill time.  Knowing what is normal will help you when things aren't so normal.  This is important and useful information that you can convey to your veterinarian if you suspect your horse is having a problem. 

    Temperature (T)

    A horse's normal body temperature ranges from 99-101° F.  Your horse's normal body temperature can vary up to three degrees depending on environmental factors such as the weather, stress, and exercise.  It will be higher in warmer weather, if he is excited, if he has just exercised, and often times, in the early evening.  You should take your horse's temperature at different times of the day to get a baseline for what is normal for your horse.

    How to take your horse's temperature: 
    Currently, the most accurate way of taking a horse's temperature is rectally.  Today's plastic digital thermometers have made this much quicker and easier.  No matter what type of thermometer you use, digital or mercury, it is a good idea to tie a string with a clip onto it in order to keep from losing it if it should drop on the stall or, heaven forbid, get sucked in.  Lubricate the thermometer with Vaseline, KY jelly, or spit.  Stand next to your horse, not directly behind him, and gently insert the thermometer into the rectum.  Wait for a digital thermometer to beep or 2-3 minutes for a mercury one.  Clean your thermometer thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol after each use to prevent spreading disease.

    Any temperature about 102° F or higher should prompt a call to your veterinarian.  A fever does not always indicate an infection, but any condition that increases normal body temperature should be looked at. 

    Heart Rate (HR)

    The normal heart rate of an adult horse at rest is 30-40 beats per minute (bpm).  Foals have a higher resting heart rate that averages 70-120 bpm. Your horse's heart rate will be higher if he is excited, in pain, has certain diseases, or has just exercised.

    How to take your horse's heart rate:
    To take your horse's heart rate you can either use a stehoscope to listen to his heart or feel his pulse on his facial artery or digital artery.  These tow arteries are easy to find for most people.  The facial artery runs along the outside of the bottom of his jawbone.  The digital artery runs on the outside of his leg at the level of his fetlock.  Press down gently over the artery to feel the pulse.  to use a stethoscope, place it on your horse's chest just behind the elbow.  You can count the number of beats in fifteen seconds and multiply by four.

    Heart rates no associated with exercise, especially if combined with abnormal behavior should be taken seriously.  Any heart rate over 40 bpm warrants a call to your veterinarian.  A heart rate over 60 bpm indicates a severe condition and should be treated as an emergency.  

    Respiratory Rate (RR)

    A normal respiratory rate for an adult horse is 8-15 breaths per minute (bpm).  Respiration should consist of inhalation and exhalation, which should be of equal length.  Heat, humidity, exercise, fever, and pain can cause increase in the respiratory rate.

    How to take your horse's respiration rate: 
    Watch as your horse's chest moves in and out, or place your hand on his chest to feel it move in and out.  You can also use your stethoscope to listen to the breaths either on his lungs or on his trachea.  Again, count the number of breaths for fifteen seconds, and multiply by four.

    A high respiratory rate, increased effort when inhaling or exhaling, or noise when breathing should prompt a call to your veterinarian.

    Borborygmi (Gut Sounds)

    Horse's intestines are in almost constant motion and that results in constant noise from them.  Sometimes the sounds may be quieter than others, but they are always there.  Excessive sounds may indicate irritation or inflammation of the intestines, as in the case of diarrhea.  The absence of borborymi can indicate a serious problem, such as colic.

    How to listen for Gut Sounds:
    You can place your stethoscope on either side of your horse's flank and listen for gurgling, gassy, and "fluidy" sounds.  You should be able to hear these on both sides.  You can also place your ear to your horse's flank and listen if you don't have a stethoscope.  Most horse's have load enough gut sounds that you can hear them even without a stethoscope.

    If your horse has no borborygmi and any other signs such as loss of appetite, fever, pawing, or laying down, contact your veterinarian.  

    Capillary Refill Time (CRT)

    Capillary Refill Time (CRT) is the time it takes for blood to return to blanched tissues in the gums.  This is an indicator of blood circulation.  Normal refill time is one to two seconds.

    How to check your horse's capillary refill:
    To check your horse's CRT, lift his upper lip and press on his gums.  Count how long it takes for the normal pink to come back to the area you pressed.

    If your horse's CRT is three seconds or more it can indicate poor circulation, dehydration, or illness.  Contact your veterinarian.  

    Mucus Membrane Color

    Mucus membranes are th tissues that line the eyelids, lips, gums, nostrils, and vulva.  The color of the mucus membranes is another indicator of blood circulation.  Healthy mucus membranes are a moist pink.  They can sometimes have a pale yellow tinge to them as well.  Dry mucus membranes may signal dehydration.

    Color can indicate various conditions:
    • Very pale pink:  blood loss, anemia
    • White: severe blood loss anemia, shock
    • Bright red/red purple: toxicity, mild shock
    • Gray/Blue: severe shock, decreased oxygen
    • Bright yellow:  Liver disease

    If your horse's mucus membranes are any of the above, contact your veterinarian immediately

    Knowing what is normal for your horse will help you determine when thing are NOT normal, and provide a wealth of information for your veterinarian. 

    Registered 2011 Equestrian Collections; Author:  Sallie S. Hyman,  VMD, DACVIM, CVA  

    Information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for evaluation by an equine professional.  In particular, all horse owners should seek advice from a veterinarian for their horses medical needs. 

  • Sheath and Udder Cleaning

    Sheath and Udder Cleaning

    Any one who owns a gelding or a stall ion should be aware that they have some special hygiene requirements.  The equine penis secretes smegma to clean and lubricate the penis.  The origin of the secretions is still disputed.  However, it is know that smegma is composed of exfoliated skin cells, oils, and moisture.  The equine penis, when retracted is contained with the sheath.  Therefore, the inside of the sheath will also become coated with smegma.  A feature unique to the equine penis is the urethral diverticulum and fossa.  This cleft like area around the urethral opening becomes an ideal location for smegma to accumulate.  This accumulation is often referred to as a"bean" due to its oval shape.

    So if Smegma is naturally occurring, why do we have to clean it?!

    Some horses produce large amounts of smegma.  Over time, the accumulation can begin to coat the sheath and ventral abdomen, making the hair gummy.  This can become a minor grooming annoyance.  More significantly, the smegma can take on an extremely unpleasant odor.  It is one of those smells that once you have experienced it, you never forget it! Most significantly, an over-accumulation of smegma in the urethral diverticulum can put pressure on the urethra, causing pain or obstructing the flow of urine.  Some horses will manifest their discomfort by rubbing their tails, trying to scratch their sheath on whatever is convenient, such as shrubs
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