Monthly Archives: November 2013

  • Equine Vaccine Tips and Strategies

    Written By: Dr. Tom Schell

    If you own a horse, one of the most important things you can do to maintain health is vaccinations, but it can also be a costly endeavor.  Everyone seems to have a strategy or recommendation, but the question is 'what is right for your horse?'.  Well, that depends on many factors including location, exposure to other horses as well as general risk factors.  Another thing to consider is that vaccines are not without harm and over administration of vaccines can prove to be harmful in some circumstances.  Let's explore the options and recommendations.

    When viewing vaccines and establishing a protocol, we must remember that each horse is an individual and that no one perfect protocol exists.  It is also not generally necessary to implement the same protocol in every horse just because they are in the same barn.

    Here are the main points we should consider when establishing a vaccine protocol:

    • Risk factors associated with the particular horse (including housing, exposure to other horses, environment, age and geographic location)
    • Impact of the particular disease we are targeting including mortality/morbidity rate and risk of spread to other animals and species (including humans)
    • Possible negative side effects of vaccine
    • Cost implications to the owner
    Some basic considerations that we always need to remember include:
    • No vaccine is 100% effective in preventing disease
    • Vaccines are designed or intended to reduce morbidity or clinical signs of disease
    • No vaccines is 100% safe and risk free
    • Vaccines are not generally protective until 10 days or greater post administration
    • Most vaccines require an initial booster series to build an antibody titer and establish protection
    • Many vaccines come combined with many antigens

    So, now let's start with the basics in terms of equine vaccines.  In most cases, we generally have the core or basic vaccines, as defined by the AAEP.
    1. Tetanus  (annual vaccine)
    2. Rabies     (annual vaccine)
    3. Eastern/ Western encephalomyelitis (annual vaccine in spring)
    4. West Nile  (annual vaccine in spring)
    After the core vaccines, we then have what is called 'risk based' vaccines which include:  (Based on AAEP Guidelines)
    1. Influenza  (annual to biannual vaccine)
    2. Rhinopneumonitis (EHV)  (not necessary, annual or biannual dependent on situation and in pregnant mares)
    3. Potomac Horse Fever  (not necessary, annual, biannual or more frequent dependent on situation)
    4. Strangles  (not necessary, annual or biannual dependent on situation)
    5. Rotavirus  (pregnant mares at 8,9,10 months gestation)
    6. Botulism  (annual and one month prior to foaling)
    7. Anthrax  (annual vaccine)
    8. Equine Viral Arteritis  (check with state guidelines)

    In most cases, the core vaccines are vital and given to every horse.  The big question comes as to what other risk factors are involved, which determines if other vaccines are necessary.  Such risk factors include exposure to other horses such as boarding facilities, traveling and competition, but also include issues concerned with breeding operations.  We always have to remember that not every horse responds appropriately to the vaccines, meaning that some develop protective titers while others do not.  In larger facilities, it is generally easy enough to keep most if not all of the horses on the same protocol due to ease of record keeping, but also by doing this we can hopefully minimize disease prevalence and thereby protecting those other horses that may not be responding to the vaccines appropriately.  We also have to take into consideration age of the animal at the time of vaccine as older horses tend to be less predisposed to various illnesses such as EHV, which according to the AAEP is less frequently seen in those horses over the age of 5, unless we have other known risk factors included such as a breeding operation or frequent movement of animals.

    How are vaccines administered and how often?

    In most instances, vaccines are administered by intra-muscular injection, usually in the neck region, pectorals or the thigh muscle.  Some vaccines, such as Strangles, Influenza and some EHV vaccines may be administered intra-nasally. In adult horses that are unvaccinated, it is generally recommended that they receive at least a 2 injection series, spaced apart by 4-6 weeks.  In foals, vaccines are generally started around 3 months of age and given as a series of 3 injections spaced 4 weeks apart.  Pregnant mares are generally advised to receive a full 'core' vaccine series about one month prior to foaling in order to help build passive transfer for the foal.  Other vaccines such as EHV are given at specific intervals during the second and third trimester.  Most of the core vaccines, once initiated, are administered on an annual basis.

    What are the side effects to the vaccines?

    No vaccines are completely safe nor void of any risk!  That being said, most vaccines are administered without any problems but the most common side effect seen is general malaise, body aches and a slight fever 24-48 hours after administration.  Dependent on where they were given, we will often see sore necks and even swollen injection sites.  In most of these cases, the signs resolve within a couple of days with no harm to the horse.  It is generally not advised to compete or even work the horse for a couple days post vaccine due to side effects noted.  Some vaccines are more prone to developing side effects than others and in my experience, the Tetanus and Rabies vaccine are the most common.  Vaccines that are administered by the intra-nasal route commonly produce a mild sneeze or even slight clear drainage for a couple days post administration.  In more severe cases, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication may be administered to help alleviate the clinical signs.
    More serious or adverse reactions have been noted included anaphylactic reactions (some life threatening), localized infection, scar tissue deposition generalized hypersensitivities.

    Why do some horses respond differently to the vaccines?

    We have to determine what is a favorable response to a vaccine?  Ideally, it would be one void of any side effect and one that establishes a protective antibody titer.  In most instances, the horses do respond well to the vaccines and without any side effects, but determining the proper antibody titer is difficult to do in most cases.  In the ideal world, we would perform antibody titers to determine who is and who is not responding well to the vaccines, which might help us to focus on more in need horses, but this is costly.

    Given, in my experience, that 9 out of 10 horses respond with no noted side effects, the question comes as to why that 10th horse reacted negatively.  Did they have a reaction to the vaccine?  What was that reaction?  A fever, general malaise or worse?  I really begin to question things when I have vaccinated a particular horse routinely year after year, using the same vaccine brand, and yet, this horse reacts negatively.  We can speculate, but really we don't have any pinpoint answers.
    In the world of small animal veterinary medicine, we almost always perform a basic physical exam prior to the administration of vaccines.  The purpose of the physical is to pinpoint any health problems and determine if there is any fever present, which may also indicate a health concern.  In the world of equine veterinary medicine, the individual physical exam is performed but not that often, especially on larger farms due to time constraints and cost.  Often, the vaccines are administered one horse at a time while working the way down a barn isle way.  The horses are often given a quick once over looking for the obvious, but sometimes details are missed.

    We have to remember that the purpose of a vaccine is to stimulate an immune response to a specific antigen.  If a horse is sick or not feeling well, then not only would it be possible that their immune system may not respond appropriately, but we may also actually do harm to that animal. It is generally not a good idea to vaccinate a sick animal for these reasons.  We are often better to wait, let them recover and then vaccinate when it is more appropriate.

    Other reasons that a horse may not respond appropriately include concurrent diseases that may be impacting the immune response which may include things like insulin resistance and Cushing's disease.  Age also plays a role in the immune response and many older horses fail to respond appropriately for this very reason due to a failing or debilitated immune system for various reasons.

    Now, one area of interest to me is those horses that tend to develop signs of laminitis within 2-3 days post vaccination.  We all see it as a veterinarian, but the reasoning as to why it happens has yet to be determined.  Personally, I tend to feel that these horses are more predisposed to metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and even Cushing's disease, but have yet to be diagnosed.  In reality, most of these 'laminitic reactors' are the easy keepers of the group, more likely to be overweight and often have a history of laminitis.  So, what causes them to be pushed over the edge?  Again, in my opinion, it is linked to an ongoing inflammatory cascade that is occurring within that particular animal.  The vaccine can be seen as fuel added to a glowing ember, soon igniting it into a flame.  I often view those horses as ticking time bombs of inflammation, waiting for the right situation to get flared up.  Vaccines are the perfect medium to achieve this.

    General Recommendations:

    As a veterinarian and horse owner, I do believe in administering the core vaccines to every horse.  Does that mean that every horse in my practice gets those core vaccines?  The answer is 'NO'. Does that mean that I see more clinical sickness in those horses that have NOT been vaccinated?  The answer here is "NO" again.  I believe in vaccinating for those illnesses that have a high mortality rate, which includes tetanus, rabies and encephalitis.  Dependent on the situation and geographic location, these core diseases can be readily prevalent, very costly and difficult to treat and yet so easy to prevent. I also believe in risk based vaccines in the right situations, but not in all situations.

    As any horse owner can testify, there are many cases of equine infectious diseases ranging from Influenza to Rhinopneumonitis in horses that have been vaccinated properly.  Here again, we have to raise the question as to why this occurs?  First, as stated, no vaccine is 100% effective in preventing disease.  The goal with any vaccine should be to reduce clinical morbidity.  Second, we have to take into consideration the amount of stress that some of these horses are under at the time of vaccination as well as during competition.  Stress in the competitive horse has been discussed in another article, but sometimes their stress levels can impact the immune function, making them more prone to various diseases.  Sometimes, I think it is better to keep these particular horses healthy with immune supportive herbs as well as adaptogens to help counter the stress, than it is to overwhelm them with vaccines.

    If we have a horse that is turned out on pasture 24/7, they are often less prone to infectious disease development than those that are stalled constantly or in training/competition.  Again...we have to take into consideration the impact of stress.  I feel it is more important to address these horses through nutrition and herbal supplementation, keeping the immune system strong, trying to offset the impact of their current conditions.

    I believe that we really need to evaluate each horse as an individual, taking into consideration all of the factors mentioned above.  The AAEP recommends this approach to us, as veterinarians, but all too often we fail to follow these guidelines due to time constraints and other factors.  If I have a horse on a farm that never leaves and is never exposed to other horses, I am going to vaccinate them differently than one that is competing at different locations once monthly.  The risk factors are different and taking into consideration that no vaccine is completely without harm, we want to minimize risk.

    I also think we need to evaluate those horses that react negatively to vaccines more thoroughly.  If a horse has an allergic reaction to a vaccine, we need to question why.  Was it the brand of vaccine?  Was it the location where it was injected?  Was the horse sick at the time?  We need to figure out why and not just treat and move on to the next year.  We also need to investigate those horses that develop signs of lethargy or even laminitis, by looking a little deeper for underlying health concerns.  At the very least, we need to stagger vaccines by 2-3 weeks, instead of potentially overloading these particular horses with 4-5 antigens at one time.  Not only does this reduce the antigen load and immune challenge to the horse, but it may also allow us to pinpoint which vaccine is causing the reaction.

    In the end, vaccines are a vital part of maintaining equine health.  This being said, they are not without harm and consideration needs to be given to make sure they are administered appropriately, at the right time and at the right intervals, taking into consideration the many risk factors involved.  Be an astute horse owner!  Take into consideration the many variables when deciding what your horse should be vaccinated against!

    Dr. Tom Schell has over 18 years of equine medicine and surgery, as well as being head of research and development for Nouvelle Research, Inc.  Dr. Schell may be reached by email at tschelldvm@nouvelleresearch.com
    Nouvelle Research, Inc. is the developer and manufacturer of the Cur-OST line of equine anti-inflammatory products, the only equine supplement using Curcumin as the primary ingredient to reduce inflammation, enhance health and performance for over 7 years.  Our goal at Nouvelle Research, Inc. is to enhance the health of our equine companions naturally and effectively, while also providing a source of information for the horse owner.  These and other articles may be seen on our website at: http://nouvelleresearch.com/index.php/articles
    For more information about Nouvelle Research, Inc, please visit:  www.nouvelleresearch.com or call 1-800-476-4702

  • Baby, It's Cold Outside

    Written By: Walt Friedrich

    It’s a beautiful time of year, Autumn, with trees decked out in full color, warm days, chilly nights, and our horses enjoying it as much as we do. We’re also keeping an eye on the calendar, because before long we’ve got winter on our hands, when all that brisk comfort has changed to cold and wind. We’re getting ready for it; laying in firewood, making sure windows and doors seal properly, shutting off outside water supply, shaking out winter clothing, “winterizing” the stable…and, of course, preparing our horses for the cold season.

    For those of us in northern climes, it means the annual struggle with the question of whether or not to blanket. It’s odd, isn’t it, that we allow our horses to be just horses most of the time, but come cold weather, we feel the need to step in and overrule Mother Nature by blanketing them to make sure they can stay warm. Can’t blame us – we know the extent of discomfort that an icy cold wind brings in mid-January, and we bundle up for it bigtime, so let’s do the same for our beloved steeds. Right? Well, maybe -- but let me take a moment to tell you a true story about Wally. It is pertinent.

    Wally is not one to accept other people’s opinions without question. It has to make sense to Wally before he buys it, and he’s always researching one thing or another. And so he’s lived the skeptic’s life for some decades, making mostly good, well-thought-out decisions. Wally is also a horse-lover, and he keeps a few on his property. He calls them his “extended family”. Wally has always been strongly concerned over their welfare. Very early on in developing his horsekeeping methods, he agonized over whether or not to blanket, just as you and I have done. Blanketing seemed so logical because he knew well how the cold feels, and he wore a coat, so why shouldn’t his herd get the same protection? Yet highly respected horsepeople made strong arguments in favor of NOT blanketing – surely there must be something to it.

    So one winter, Wally crossed his fingers and kept the horse blankets stowed away. Their coats had come in long and thick, and if it got “bad” enough, he could still break them out. Things went well; he noticed those thick coats seemed even thicker on particularly cold days, and when he investigated, he found that all those long hairs were actually standing on end, sticking straight up! And his fingers actually felt warm when he ran them through that bristling coat. Things looked promising, so he stuck at it.

    And then one morning he woke to an outside temperature of -10 degrees F, quite cold for a northeast Pennsylvania winter morning. Wally headed to the stable, wondering if he had a herd of “horsickles” out there, waiting for some hay.

    Well, he didn’t. His herd appeared to be enjoying the “delightful” weather, and that did it for Wally – he was convinced that his gang did quite well au naturel. And then the icing on the cake: the following morning it was almost -20 F – almost unheard of in these parts – and his horses were still totally unfazed. And so the heavy blankets remain folded and stored away, haven’t been used in years, and the horses continue to enjoy the cold winters as only horses can – bareback and outside 24/7.

    What Wally discovered is the truth that it’s usually not the cold that’s their winter nemesis, it’s not even being wet – they love walking about looking like a snowman horse, and snow seems to actually help keep them warm. No, the problem is lack of shelter from the wind. Not all of us can prevent their being exposed to wind, but if we can’t, we must provide at least some respite. Anything will do – a stand of evergreens is ideal if there’s no stable or run-in shed available. We can even create a windbreak shelter by making a wall out of hay bales,  three or four bales high – they’ll have their shelter and eat it, too!

    But let’s be fair about this subject: horses are individuals, even as you and I, and some may not take winter weather as well as most others.

    Blanketing may be called for if your horse is shivering, or even just visibly uncomfortable in cold weather; older horses as well as ill horses and very young horses may appreciate a blanket despite their bodies’ natural coping abilities; if your horse is clipped, he has no protective coat, and can use all the help he can get; horses that don’t grow a sufficient winter coat are obvious candidates. Consider your options carefully, and remember that although you may need to override it, the best solution is usually the natural one.

    If you believe blanketing is truly justified and not simply the result of “humanizing” your horse, do your homework. Blanketing is not a “one size fits all” situation, and there are many specific considerations you need to evaluate. There are countless websites on the Internet, providing information to help you decide, well worth your time and your horses’ comfort for you to study.

    Beyond blanketing, there are other considerations to consider as winter approaches. For example, in winter horses do not need a cozy stall bedded with shavings –  it’s a lot of work and it won’t help; likewise, there’s no need to heat the barn – presumably inside the barn is already dry and reasonably windproof; they do not need extra grain – if you must increase their food intake, increase forage; and limiting movement is unwise – adequate movement is always best for horses no matter the conditions.

    But what they do need is plenty of free choice grass hay, and adequate water (more on this in a moment). Be sure there is unlimited, free choice, loose, unrefined salt – preferably sea salt. And a horse that has trouble keeping weight on will need additional nutritional support, but not grain.

    The other major cold-weather threat is colic. Colic refers specifically to nothing more than a pain in the belly. But the devil is in the actual cause of the pain: gas bloating sometimes hurts, but it usually makes a noisy departure leaving no tracks except for a trailing scent. An impaction, on the other hand, doesn’t go away without some help, like walking the horse for half an hour to stimulate fecal movement within the intestinal tract (terminated by, we hope, the deposit of a brown pile behind the horse). Sometimes an impaction needs still more help, commonly a vet will perform a procedure known as “tubing”, that will help clear the blockage. The most serious form of colic is hard clogging within the intestine that requires immediate surgery to correct. No matter the cause, if prompt action is not taken at the first indication of pain, the situation can develop into a serious condition.

    Probably the primary cause of a winter colic attack has to do with water. As we head into the season, the horse’s digestive system continues to need a large volume of water, but his water intake drops along with the temperature, and the colder the water, the less he’ll drink. But he’s still got to digest his food and keep it moving down his intestinal tract, so lack of sufficient water can become a serious problem –potential intestinal upset and a colic attack. Complicating matters, with little or no water-rich grass to graze, only dry stubble, the need for water multiplies even further.

    It seems as though the deck is stacked against him, and it is, but you can help prevent a colic attack  just by ensuring that his digestive system is functional and efficient. Here are the simple rules of prevention: first, use in-tank heaters to keep his water at a constant 50 degrees F; keep a reliable supply of hay (and grain, if you’re feeding it) to keep his diet constant; make no sudden changes in his diet; maintain his deworming schedule; use a prebiotic product to keep his intestinal gut garden healthy and thriving, providing consistently efficient digestion; feeding a simple mash every day is a great idea – just soaking hay cubes, or maybe beet pulp in water, adding an ounce of salt, can give him a couple extra gallons a day of water;

    Finally, a few ideas and tips to make cold weather a little easier, especially on the senior citizens:

    Spend a little quality time with him as often as you can. You are important to him -- he knows you and he relies on you.

    Get him a little regular exercise; longe or ride him for 30 minutes or so every week – it’s not much, but it will help keep his digestive system healthy, and in cold weather he’ll especially enjoy the activity.

    Be patient with him; older horses especially may stress out in cold weather. New horses joining the herd, trailer rides, illness, vaccinations and deworming are all potential stressors. Avoid those that aren’t really needed.

    Keep drinking water at a comfortable temperature.

    Supplementing protein, calcium and phosphorus will help older horses through the cold season, as will a cup of oil per day for those hard keepers. Canola, flaxseed or rice bran oil would be good choices.

    Don’t forget that daily ration of salt. Free choice loose salt is probably best, but a white salt block that’s always available is effective and easy to do.

    Keep the farrier coming on schedule – their hooves keep growing regardless of the temperature.

  • Living With It and Rocking It Out

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    First, an update on how Bandit and Chase are doing.

    Chase completed 21 radiation therapy treatments for colonic adenocarcinoma on August 23rd. He had a stellar follow-up appointment two weeks later. On September 24th he returned to his volunteer mission at the local library, where kids read to him. On October 15th, he had a CT scan to show the status of the cancer cells. There was no evidence of cancer at the original site, for which I am very grateful! We will need to carefully watch some tiny spots in Chase’s lungs and a spot on his liver, to make sure the cancer has not metastasized. The oncology vets recommended another CT scan by the end of the year.

    Ironically, Bandit completed his therapy dog certification in August so he could substitute for Chase at the library if Chase didn’t feel up to it. But Bandit was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in September, just after Chase completed his follow-up appointment. Bandit and I had been training all summer for a fall tracking test. One day he just couldn’t work, for the first time in his life, and I knew something was terribly wrong. After Bandit was diagnosed and began daily chemo meds in September, he lost a lot of weight even though he was eating twice as much as before. We have been adjusting the meds in an effort to treat the disease while allowing him to maintain his weight. This requires regular blood and urine checks and the involvement of a veterinary nutritionist. Bandit is still losing about a pound per week, and I’m still trying to find the best way to help him maintain his weight. He will be 10 years old on November 13th. His father lived to be 16 and his mother is still going strong at 14, so 10 is not that old for an Australian Cattle Dog.

    Bandit and Chase, who are brothers by fate and heart, but not blood, carry on. If you saw them you wouldn’t know they were sick, except that Chase has two bald patches on his butt, and Bandit is too thin. They jump out of bed every morning and enthusiastically greet the day. They shower me with a tremendous round of barking when I come home at the end of the day. They run, play, wrestle, go all out, and make great acrobatic leaps to catch flying squirrel frisbees. They’ve shown me how to live with a disease, truly LIVE with it, even while they may be dying from it. Attitude is everything. They are definitely making the best of every day.

        

    I decided not to continue training with Bandit due to his rapid weight loss of mostly muscle mass. Now that the meds have him feeling better, he would probably still track, but I don’t want him to lose any more weight. I’m sad that we weren’t able to take the tracking test that we trained so hard for, but I’m very glad we spent that time together. And who knows, maybe he’ll feel up to it in the spring.

    I usually say that two of my dogs were diagnosed with cancer instead of “My dogs have cancer” because it could never define either dog entirely and, at least in Chase’s case, I don’t know whether he still has it. Each of my dogs is so much more than a being with cancer. In fact, if I weren’t struggling with taking them to all the vet appointments along with working a full-time job, helping Bandit maintain his weight, and losing sleep sometimes over how to pay such astounding vet bills for not one dog, but two, we would most often carry on as usual.

    We’re all going to die from something, and none of us knows how much time we have left. The dogs don’t know that the data says they’re ‘supposed to’ have a limited amount of time. They just know when they feel well and want to get out and play ball and enjoy the day. I don’t want to impose limits on them, and I’m happy to welcome any miracles that come our way. Dogs will be dogs, and my dogs are choosing to fully live with it, even possibly while dying from it.

    I suspect that dogs are not afraid of death the way many people are. To them, and all of us, it’s an inevitable part of life and they will probably see it coming before we catch on. I remember one day in August when Chase was not feeling well after an RT treatment. Bandit went over and just sat next to him and hung out, not the usual behavior for Bandit, but I could tell he was supporting his brother.

    I’ve never called my dogs “fur babies”, which oversimplifies the relationship if you ask me. While I provide for them and they may be like my children in some ways, they are truly my teachers and mentors. They have taught me so much that I’m aware of, and no doubt I have missed many of their messages. Thus I don’t think of them as babies in fur. I think of them as friends, companions, and teachers.

    A friend told me about a person who died four days after receiving a cancer diagnosis. The guy was devastated and thought he was going to die early anyway, and in his mind gave up. I guess that’s a difference between dogs and people. The dogs know that they’ve been ill, but they live in the moment and don’t overthink or worry about the future.

    I am worn out from all the appointments at different vet clinics, from trying to raise money to pay vet bills that cost about as much as a new car, and from resisting having to choose one dog’s care over the other’s. I’m starting to resent anything that takes time away from simply enjoying time with them. One of the benefits of being spread pretty thin over the past few months is that I’ve let go of things that don’t matter. I’m spending more time with the dogs doing the simple things that are good for us: staying home and spending time together, hanging out, running and playing outside, eating healthy whole foods (including Omega Nuggets and Canine Shine), and really enjoying each other. I wish I had even more time to relax at home and be in tune with them.

     

    On Chase's October library day, it was so inspiring to see the kids read to him. The regular readers improved tremendously over the summer. I love to see kids get excited about books. When many adults don't read books any more, it's good to see a younger generation being inspired by them. One little girl who is new to the program got very excited when she learned that after reading to Chase eight times, she will get to choose her very own book to take home. I heard her tell her mom that she’ll get to take the book home and won't even have to bring it back to the library! She was so excited.

    I'm very grateful to the librarian for getting this program going and continuing to promote it. It’s fun to see the kids’ confidence in their reading improve. Chase showed his appreciation for their reading by lying on his back with all four feet in the air! (Actually, Chase the herding dog listens best that way, with his eyes closed and no visual distractions.) He finds the most appropriate way to reach each child. If they're comfortable with him leaning in, he will. If they’re not, he’ll just put his paw on their leg, or touch the bottom of his foot to the bottom of their foot.

    While developing their reading skills, the kids are learning about dogs. One little girl said that Chase is the only dog she isn't afraid of. He must sense this because he bows in front of her instead of standing over her. She wants to get a dog, and she remarked that 'having a dog is a big responsibility', something she must have been told at home. She has been inspired by Chase to read and learn about different dog breeds, and I have no doubt that one day she will be well prepared to care for her very own dog.

    One middle-aged man stopped to pet Chase. He has stopped by on Chase's library day before. I don't know if this is coincidence or whether he comes specifically to see Chase, but Chase seeks him out now to say hi. He asked why Chase had bald patches and I told him about the cancer treatment. He then asked how recently it was and seemed genuinely concerned about Chase. And Chase seemed to genuinely care about him too.  I feel like I'm a student following along on this little dog's mission, learning from him along the way. I hope he has many good years left to continue this mission of sharing love.

    No matter how much time we have left, we’re going to truly live it and rock it out. That doesn’t mean pretending nothing is wrong. That means being in tune with how each dog feels, being sensitive to each one’s needs, and making the best of each day we have left together. It’s not like I’ve decided to rock it out. It’s just their approach to life, every day… something I’ve learned from my dogs, my teachers. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

    To help pay the veterinary bills, I’m selling the rest of my inventory of Not Without My Dog Resource & Record books at a steep discount. I have a limited number of these hard cover, journal-style books with photo pages, and do not plan to produce any more. They make great Christmas gifts for the dog lovers in your life, and are $15 each, plus shipping (or contact me for discounts on quantities of 10 or more). I will sign them personally if you wish. Learn more and order online at: http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?page_id=1542
    To donate towards cancer care: http://tinyurl.com/bentleys-aglow Thank you!

  • Equine Colic: Are You Prepared?

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Most horse owners at one time or another have experienced that dreaded sight of finding their horse rolling or kicking at their belly in their pasture or stall.  After all, almost 1 million horses colic in the United States each year, or about 11 in every 100 horses. It really is not a matter of if, but when a horse in your care will colic.  But now is not the time to panic, but to act logically and calmly.  The keys?  Be prepared, and have a plan.  This month we will discuss what symptoms you may see, what to do, and how to create a firm plan of action.  Next month we will discuss several important strategies you may implement to decrease the likelihood of your ever needing this plan.

    First of all, horses can colic for a variety of reasons. As colic just means a generic abdominal pain, any discomfort in the organs associated with the gastrointestinal tract can be described as colic.  Even other organs, such as the ovaries or uterus in mares, can causepain and thus may show symptoms of colic. So what may lead you to suspect your horse may be colicking?

    My first and strongest recommendation is to know your horse. Every horse has individual quirks of behavior, appearance etc.  The key to successful outcomes in colic, or in many cases of disease or injury, is catching a change quickly.  Any change in a horse’s normal behavior or appearance should immediately trigger a thorough investigation of the horse by the owner or manager.  So what might the horse be doing differently? Colic symptoms can range from the subtle to the severe and downright alarming.  Typically the severity of the colic will mirror the severity of the symptoms, but that is not always true.  Individual horses have a greater or lesser degree of pain tolerance. It is important to know if your horse is the stoic individual that works through an injury, or the type that becomes hysterical if they stubbed their hoof on a ground pole!  Subtle signs include horses which are off feed or water, but may not yet be completely refusing to eat or drink.  A change in behavior, being more depressed, less active or having a duller appearance may be signs of colic. Horses which are restless, or perhaps laying down more than normal, or laying in an unusual position may be colicking.  Pay close attention to foals, as foals can quickly develop abdominal discomfort related to disease, diarrhea ulcers etc.  A foal lying on its back is certain to be experiencing some sort of abdominal pain.  As pain becomes more severe horses may continually look at their belly or flank, kick at their abdomen, repeatedly get up or lay down.  They may begin to roll or thrash violently and can even injure themselves.  In severe pain, horses may break out into a sweat or grind their teeth together.

    Depending on the severity of the colic, your next step is to step in and gather some information.  Obviously, if your horse is in uncontrollable pain, call the veterinarian immediately.  Otherwise, if you can safely evaluate your horse, perform a physical exam on your horse.  That will help your veterinarian know how soon they may need to arrive.  Record your horse’s heart rate, respiration rate and temperature.  It is important that you practice these techniques before you need them!  A horse’s heart rate can be detected in a number of locations, near their eye, under their jaw, on their pastern etc.  Make sure that you have a working thermometer. Now is not the time to discover a dead battery in your thermometer.  Listen to your horse’s abdomen to hear if there is the normal gurgle of healthy gut movement.  An absence of sound indicated gut motility may have ceased.  If you horse is stalled, check his manure. Is there as much as there should be?  What consistency is it? Is it drier or harder than it should be?  How much feed has the horse eaten since his last feeding?  Is his water consumption normal?  Finally, check your horse’s gum color and capillary refill time.  Pale white or blueish gums may mean the horse is severely dehydrated, or may be going into shock.    This information may be critical in making decisions that may save your horse’s life.

    Now that you have some basic information, call your veterinarian.  It is important to have the veterinarian’s phone number readily available. Think about all cases of emergencies.  What if your cell phone has no reception or has a dead battery? Does your veterinarian make emergency farm calls? Will they be able to get here quickly enough to help you?  Discuss these issues with your veterinarian before colic strikes. They may offer some helpful advice on other colleagues they may trust when they may not be able to make the call.  Therefore you may want to post several numbers of veterinarians near your horse.
    You also need to do some hard thinking about the financial reality of colic cases. Some colics can only be resolved surgically.  Are you prepared for this?  Can you financially afford colic surgery?  Realize that is possible for colic surgeries to cost nearly $10,000.  Looking into an insurance plan for your horse can help cover major medical costs.  Do your research and see which plan may be best for you and your horses.  You may also need to at least consider that the outcome of surgery may not be positive.  Discussing these scenarios with family and your veterinarian before your horseever colics is critical.    It will make this emergency scenario much easier on you and allow you to make decisions more quickly.

    If you have made the decision that surgery is a viable option for you, add more details to your plan.  Do you have ready access to a truck and trailer? If you do not own your own, you need to have numbers of individuals absolutely willing to help, and located nearby, close at hand. The last thing you want at this point in time, is knowing your horse needs to get to a clinic, but you can’t find transportation.  Finally, know where the nearest veterinary hospital with surgical capabilities is located.  How long will it take to get the horse there?  This may affect your decision on when to load your horse on the trailer. Should you wait for your veterinarian to arrive at the farm, or should the horse immediately go to the clinic. Know where the clinic is located.  Now is not the time to be looking for directions or get lost in the middle of the night.  Practice!  The more that you have mentally and physically prepared yourself for these emergencies, the better the outcome for both you and your horse!
     

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