Impaction colic, an accumulation of dehydrated fecal material in the large colon, is a common type of colic in the cold weather. This type of colic is caused by not drinking enough water and inactivity. To encourage your horse to drink enough water in winter, provide lukewarm water. A heated water bucket, adding hot water to warm up available drinking water or even dumping and re-filling water can increased the temperature of the water offered to your horse. Adding table salt to your horse's grain, a teaspoon twice a day, can also increase their water consumption.
Here are some more recommendations to prevent colic from the American Association of Equine Pracititoners:
10 Tips for Preventing Colic
The number one killer of horses is colic.Colic is not a disease, but rather a combination of signs that alert us to abdominal pain in the horse.Colic can range from mild to severe, but it should never be ignored.Many of the conditions that cause colic can become life threatening in a relatively short period of time.Only by quickly and accurately recognizing colic – and seeking qualified veterinary help – can the chance for recovery be maximized.
While horses seem predisposed to colic due to the anatomy and function of their digestive tracts, management can play a key role in prevention.Although not every case is avoidable, the following guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) can maximize the horse’s health and reduce the risk of colic:
Establish a daily routine – include feeding and exercise schedules – and stick to it.
Feed a high quality diet comprised primarily of roughage.
Avoid feeding excessive grain and energy-dense supplements. (At least half the horse’s energy should be supplied through hay or forage.A better guide is that twice as much energy should be supplied from a roughage source than from concentrates.)
Divide daily concentrate rations into two or more smaller feedings rather than one large one to avoid overloading the horse’s digestive tract.Hay is best fed free-choice.
Set up a regular parasite control program with the help of your equine practitioner.
Provide exercise and/or turnout on a daily basis.Change the intensity and duration of an exercise regimen gradually.
Provide fresh, clean water at all times.(The only exception is when the horse is excessively hot, and then it should be given small sips of luke-warm water until it has recovered.)
Avoid putting feed on the ground, especially in sandy soils.
Check hay, bedding, pasture, and environment for potentially toxic substances, such as blister beetles, noxious weeds, and other ingestible foreign matter.
Reduce stress.Horses experiencing changes in environment or workloads are at high risk of intestinal dysfunction.Pay special attention to horses when transporting them or changing their surroundings, such as at shows.
Virtually any horse is susceptible to colic.Age, sex, and breed differences in susceptibility seem to be relatively minor.The type of colic seen appears to relate to geographic or regional differences, probably due to environmental factors such as sandy soil or climatic stress.Importantly, what this tells us is that, with conscientious care and management, we have the potential to reduce and control colic, the number one killer of horses.
For more information about colic prevention and treatment, ask your equine veterinarian for the “Colic” brochure, provided by the American Association of Equine Practitioners in partnership with Educational Partner Bayer Animal Health.
Additional colic information is available by visiting the AAEP’s horse health web site, AAEP Horse Owners
Variations in each horse’s immune system and management situation should be reflected in its ndividual de-worming program.Many horses, especially if kept at an appropriate number of horses per acre, with good pasture maintenance, do not require de-worming every 2 months.Studies have shown that in most horse populations, 20% of the horses carry 80% of the parasite burden. These horses with high worm loads should be treated more frequently than those with a naturally high resistance to worms. To determine whether de-worming is necessary, fecal flotations should be performed 2 to 3 times a year. This test measures the number of parasite eggs being shed in the manure.
The appropriate time to take a fecal test is determined by the type of de-wormer last administered.Parasite eggs, which are being measured in the fecal flotation, are not shed for 4 - 6 weeks after de-worming with fenbendazole (Panacur) and pyrantals (Strongid), 8– 10 weeks after using an ivermectin product and 12 –16 weeks after moxidectin (Quest) administration.Samples should be taken 1 to 2 weeks after the horses are beginning to shed to determine the level of parasites still present.
By using the results of fecal flotations in the decision to de-worm, anti-parasite drugs can be used more effectively. This will result in less de-wormers being used, especially for those horses with a naturally high resistance to parasites. Horses that have a low parasite load should still be de-wormed with an ivermectin product at least twice a year – preferably in the fall (September/October). This de-wormer will be timed to kill strongyles they picked up in spring and to kill any bots they ingested.A second de-worming with ivermectin or moxidectin can be performed, again after a fecal sample is submitted 9-10 weeks after de-worming with ivermectin, in December/January.Winter is also the best time to de-worm for tapeworms.The combination products of ivermectin/praziquantel (Equimax or Zimectrin Gold) and moxidectin/praziquantel (Quest Plus) are ideal for the winter de-worming.As the grass begins to grow in the spring, a fecal sample should be taken. Horses appropriately de-wormed with a high resistance to worms may not need to be de-wormed before being turned out on pasture.Horses with a high fecal count should be de-wormed for their own health and to ensure they do not contaminate the pasture. Fecal samples can be collected by us during spring and fall vaccines, or can be submitted to the clinic.
Spring Fecal Egg Count Reminder:
As we approach spring, it's time to start thinking about the importance of a parasite control program. Routine Fecal Egg Countsare a vital part of a well managed de-worming program. Fecals should be collected an appropriate amount of time after the last de-wormer has been administered. This period of time varies with the de-wormer used. Please see the table below to determine the appropriate time to take a sample.
Weeks to wait post-dewormer to take sample
There are many de-wormers out there with many different main ingredients. Here is a table that groups the brand names of common de-wormers by their main ingredient.
Common de-wormer brand name
Main ingredient name
Zimectrin, Rotectin 1.87, Ivercare
Equimax, Zimectrin Gold
Ivermectin + praziquantel
Moxidectin + praziquantel
5 day double dose of fenbendazole
Strongid, Rotectin P, Strongylecare Paste
Fall fecal egg count reminders
Fall is an good time to determine the fecal egg count of your horse. We do recommend de-worming in the fall for bots and tapeworms, even if the strongyle (the parasite measured in fecal egg counts) egg count is low on a fecal exam.
Guidelines for fecal collection:
Collect the fecal sample at the appropriate time post-deworming
Collect 1-2 fecal balls that are very fresh (less than 1 hour old) as samples
Store in a an airtight container (a ziplock bag works well).
Keep refrigerated until delivered to the clinic (ideally the same day as collection)
Please call the clinic with any questions about a parasite control program.
Fall Vaccine Reminder
Potomac Horse Fever and Influenza/Rhinopneuminitis ("Flu/Rhino") boosters will soon be due. Disease caused by Potomac Horse Fever is most often seen from August to December. For this reason, we recommend boosters in August/September to increase immunity when your horse needs it the most.
"Flu/Rhino" is the horse equivalent to the human "common cold". Due to the contagious nature of this disease, the flu/rhino vaccine is especially for horses that are in contact with many other horses, such as show horses.
Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy
Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) infection in horses can cause respiratory disease, abortion in mares, neonatal foal death and/or neurologic disease. The neurologic disease caused by the neurologic strain of EHV-1 is called Equine Herpes Virus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM).
While there are vaccines against the EHV-1 virus, the vaccines are ineffective against the neurologic strain. Even horses up to date on their EHV/EIV vaccines can be susceptible to this strain.
It is important to keep travelling horses up to date on their Flu/Rhino vaccine to give them the best protection against this infection all together and to keep it from spreading horse-to-horse. The Equine Disease Communications Center Biosecurity web pages has more information on best practices for disease prevention in horses:
Horse owners also may contact VDACS’ Office of Veterinary Services at 804.786.2483.
What you see:After eating, food material and saliva are coming from your horses nostrils. He/she is anxious and uncomfortable. This is shown by coughing, head shaking, stretching out the neck, chewing, pacing.
What it is: An obstruction of the esophagus, usually with feed material. This is different than a human choking which is an obstruction of the trachea. A horse with choke can still breathe. So while this is a an urgent situation, the airway is not blocked and the horse can still breathe.. There is no urgent, life-saving need to resolve the choke.
Causes:Eating too quickly, trying to swallow a large piece of feed - carrot, apple, corn cob, not enough chewing due to poor teeth, eating while sedated, malformation of the esophagus.
What to do:Remove all feed and water, do not allow the horse to graze. Encourage him to stand quietly with his head down. Call the clinic. Sedation may be recommend until a veterinarian can examine the horse. Monitor the amount of discharge coming from the horse's nostrils. If the discharge stops, he may have cleared the choke on his own.
Treatment:Most chokes are mild and may clear with time. Sedation can relieve the esophageal spasm that accompanies choke and allow food to pass from the esophagus to the stomach. If extra treatment is required, a veterinarian can pass a stomach tube into the esophagus and lavage the feed material with water.
After-care:The esophagus is often irritated and inflamed after a severe choke. Anti-inflammatories are often used to decrease the pain and resulting inflammation. Witholding food for 24 hours will help the esophagus heal and prevent re-choking. Pneumonia due to food being inhaled into the lungs can occur after a prolonged choke. Monitor for any signs of nasal discharge and monitor the temperature. A temperature greater than 101.5 can indicate a problem. Call the clinic if this occurs.
Poisonous snake bites occur in our practice area due to Copperhead Snakes (pictured to the left) and occasionally Timber Rattlesnakes.Most bites occur when snakes are most active in the spring and summer.Horses are normally bitten on the nose, head, neck and legs.
Signs of a snake bite are:
vRapid local swelling
vFang marks may be seen
Bites of the head or face can be risky due to swelling causing airway obstruction.Horses are obligate nasal breathers, meaning that they must breathe through their nostrils, they cannot breathe through their mouth.If their nose swells to the point that their airway is blocked, they require a tracheotomy, or an incision into their trachea to allow them to breathe.
Swollen muzzle due to a snake bite
Fang marks on muzzle
Anti-toxin isnít normally administered in equine snake bites. Treating the symptoms of the bite with anti-inflammatories and hydrotherapy (cold or warm hosing) are the initial treatment steps. Anti-biotics are very important to prevent a secondary bacterial infection of the damaged tissue.It is impossible to tell initially how much tissue injury will occur with a snake bite.The amount and strength of the venom injected in the snake bite determines the amount of tissue damage that will occur.Skin, tendons and muscles that are affected by the venom can die and need to be debrided or surgically removed.The degree of long term damage that results depends on the location of the snake bite and the strength of the venom injected. Most snake bites recover fully, especially if identified and treated as early as possible.
Botulism is a disease caused by the bacteriaClostriudium botulinum. This bacteria lives freely in the soil and is spore forming. Different strains have been identified with strains A, B and C causing the most disease. The neurologic toxin this bacteria produces is the most potent naturally produced toxin. Horses are very sensitive to this toxin, more so than many other animals. The toxin blocks nerve transmission resulting in severe weakness and muscle paralysis.
The types of disease caused by this bacterium include:
Forage poisoning – this is caused by the ingestion of the toxin from improperly fermented forage (haylage or silage) or hay containing decaying animals
Shaker foal syndrome – spores that are eaten become active in the gastrointestinal tract to cause this disease. This disease is normally seen in rapidly growing foals 1 to 2 months of age.
Signs of botulism include muscle tremors, muscle weakness (weakness may start with the tongue and mouth) which can progress to whole body weakness and recumbency. The central nervous system is not affected, so horses remain bright and alert.
This disease can be devastating without aggressive supportive treatment. An antitoxin is available that counter-acts the effects of the botulism toxin. However, often intravenous fluids, mechanical ventilation and intensive nursing care is necessary, even with antitoxin administration.
To prevent botulism, good management practices are important. These include:
examining hay to ensure no dead animals have been baled
ensure any haylage or silage is properly fermented.
A vaccine is available for botulism. As hay from round bales may not be inspected as closely as hay from square bales, we recommend vaccinating horses that eat out of round bales. The vaccine consists of a series of 3 vaccines administered at 4 week intervals.
Mares foaling in areas with a high risk of shaker foal syndrome, such as Kentucky, should be vaccinated for botulism. The antibodies produced by the mare will be passed in the colostrum to the foal. An initial series of 3 vaccines, administered 4 weeks apart should be administered. An annual booster, administered 4-6 weeks prior to foaling, is recommended.
To see a horse with facial weakness due to botulism, click on the following link:
Penicillin is an excellent antibiotic against certain bacterial infections. Procaine Penicillin G (“PPG”) is a type of penicillin administered intra-muscularly every 12 hours. Procaine is added as a local anesthetic to decrease pain at the injection site. PPG is an effective drug, however it does have some side effects. The most common side effect is pain and swelling at the injection sites. However, if this drug enters a blood vessel, a serious reaction can occur due to the procaine. As blood vessels are present in muscle tissue, vessels can be inadvertently entered during an intra-muscular injection. Seizures, trembling and possibly death can occur if a large amount of PPG is injected into a blood vessel. If a procaine reaction does occur confine the horse to a quiet, dark stall.
To minimize the possibility of a reaction follow these steps:
Ensure the penicillin is well mixed by shaking until there is no white layer left in the bottom of the bottle.
Draw up the prescribed dose of penicillin.
Separate the needle from the syringe and place the needle, all the way up to the hub, into the muscle.
Sites that can be used are:
The muscle of the neck: at the base of the neck, approximately 4” (the width of a hand) down from the crest and 4” from the bottom of the neck
The “hamstrings”: either side of the tail in the muscular part of the back of the hind legs.
Look at the hub of the needle. If blood is in the hub, remove the needle and place it in another site. If there is no blood in the hub, attach the syringe to the needle.
Before injecting, draw back on the plunger and observe for blood being drawn in to the syringe. If blood is observed in the syringe, which will be a pink tinge in the penicillin, remove the needle and start over. If no blood is seen, depress the plunger to inject.
Inject no more than 15 cc at one site. Pull back frequently (after every 5 cc is injected) to check for blood during the injection.
After 15 cc has been injected in one site, re-direct the needle. Do this by detaching the syringe from the needle. Pull the needle out of the muscle, leaving the tip under the skin. This is less painful for the horse, as most of the pain of injection is from pushing the needle through the skin. Re-direct the needle into another area of muscle. Again check for blood in the hub of the needle. Attach the syringe and continue injecting, checking frequently for blood.
Rotate injection sites. Ex. Left side of the neck in the morning then left hamstring in the evening.
Please call with any concerns (540)832-3030.
Reminders Have you scheduled your horse's oral examination? Spring is here and with it comes rich spring grasses. It is time to think about pulling horses that are predisposed to laminitis off of such pasture.Horses that have had laminitis, been diagnosed with Cushings disease, Equine Metabolic Syndrome, or are on thyroid supplementation and horses that are overweight and inactive are particularly at risk. If you are unsure if your horse is at risk for laminitis, please contact our clinic to arrange an examination and consultation with one of our veterinarians.
Spring Vaccinations... have you scheduled your barn?
PREGNANT MARES should receive a rhinopneumonitis vaccine at 5, 7 and 9 months of gestation. In addition, you should booster all of your broodmare vaccines one monthprior to foaling. This helps to boost antibodies in the colostrum for optimum immunity for the foal.